Harold "Red" Grange, 87, who as an elusive and lightning-quick halfback with the University of Illinois during the 1920s became known as the "Galloping Ghost" and one of the enduring legends of football, died yesterday at a hospital in Lake Wales, Fla.
He had pneumonia and Parkinson's disease.
Mr. Grange, who later played professional football for the Chicago Bears, is best remembered as one of the greatest collegiate running backs of all time. Starring in the Illinois backfield in 1923, 1924 and 1925, the 170-pound back wore an orange No. 77 on a classic blue Fighting Illini jersey.
Arguably the greatest football player of his time, he personifed America's love of sports. He and baseball's Babe Ruth are often mentioned as two men responsible for moving sports news onto the front pages of the nation's newspapers.
Or, as Mr. Grange once said, "Yes, I think I brought some attention to the game."
He was one of the charter members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. In 1969, when members of the Football Writers of America chose an all-time college football team, he was the only unanimous choice.
Legendary sportswriter Grantland Rice once wrote of him: "A streak of fire, a breath of flame, eluding all who reach the clutch; A gray ghost thrown into the game that rivals' hands may never touch."
A modest and personable young man, he seemingly never spoke to the press without calling attention to the tactical and strategic brilliance of his coach and the accomplishments of his blockers.
But he fairly exploded on the football field. Against the University of Michigan in 1924, he scored four touchdowns in 12 minutes. Against a powerful and undefeated University of Pennsylvania team in 1925, he scored three touchdowns in a 24-2 upset. During his 20-game career with Illinois, he scored 31 touchdowns, ran for 3,637 yards and was named an All-American all three years.
Mr. Grange was a native of Wheaton, Ill. Upset over the death of his mother, he almost did not enroll in high school, and later said he signed up for football only because he was smitten by the new uniforms. By his junior year, he was averaging five touchdowns a game. The methodical son of a Wheaton police chief and lumber dealer, he decided to attend Illinois because of his quiet admiration for the school's coach, Bob Zuppke.
Zuppke promptly illustrated that even the finest coaches have their off-days. After examining his freshmen football recruits, Zuppke placed Mr. Grange on the "seventh" team. Legend says that he reexamined this assignment after seeing the Wheaton redhead's first run from scrimmage against the Illini varsity, in which he went about 90 yards for a touchdown.
By the time Mr. Grange arrived on the varsity team as a sophomore, Zuppke was designing an Illinois offense that consisted of getting the ball to Red Grange. Although some speak of Mr. Grange as a great broken-field runner, his forte was not the blinding speed of some modern athletes or the brute power of a Bronko Nagurski, but a kind of cunning elusiveness. He would pick and thread his way into and through defensive lines in ways that were nearly impossible to follow. The defense always knew he was coming, but seldom could stop him.
In the 1924 Michigan game, against a team believed to be the best in what was then the Western Conference, Mr. Grange scored four times in the first half, returning the opening kickoff for a 95-yard touchdown and scoring from scrimmage on runs of 67, 56 and 44 yards. When he was taken out of the game in the second quarter, a thundering ovation from 70,000 fans delayed the game for five minutes. Upon his return in the third quarter, he scored a fifth touchdown on a 13-yard run and threw for another touchdown. He gained a total of 402 yards and Illinois won 39-14.
Yet some argue that his October 1925 Pennsylvania game was even more astounding. In the mid-1920s, it was widely believed that the eastern universities played a superior brand of football to that of the bumpkins of the Midwest. The unbeaten and untied Quakers already had handily beaten such football powers as Yale and Brown, and Illinois already had three losses.
Many thought Mr. Grange was set for a big fall. The game was played before a capacity crowd at Philadelphia's Franklin Field. The first time Mr. Grange carried the ball from scrimmage, he went off tackle for a 56-yard touchdown. He later scored touchdowns on runs of 13 and 20 yards, gaining a total of 363 yards, in Illinois's 24-2 upset win.
Mr. Grange had worked his way through college delivering 200-pound blocks of ice, earning a second nickname as the "Wheaton Ice Man." Those days were over upon graduation. He received $300,000 for a movie appearance, and another $100,000 from various other ventures. He also played professional football with the Chicago Bears as a receiver and defensive back. He also coached. In 1938, injuries forced him to leave the game.
After that, he made a comfortable living as a nightclub manager, soft drink sales executive and spokesman, and radio commentator. By the 1960s, he was living in Florida and devoting much of his attention to boating and golf.
However, he told reporters he played golf largely for exercise and could not take it as seriously as many in his neighborhood. He added wistfully that "it would be better if once in a while someone came up from behind and tackled you just as you were hitting the ball."
Survivors include his wife of a half-century, Margaret "Muggs" Grange of Lake Wales.
DAVID R. GROTH
Prince George's Official
David Reinhold Groth, 81, a retired official of the General Accounting Office who later worked for 20 years as the deputy treasurer of Prince George's County, died of cancer Jan. 28 at Winchester (Va.) Medical Center.
Mr. Groth was born in Lincoln, Neb. He moved to Washington in 1927. He was a graduate of Benjamin Franklin School of Accounting. He worked 25 years for the GAO, then in 1952 became deputy treasurer of Prince George's County. He retired in 1972.
On retirement he moved from Takoma Park to Winchester.
Survivors include his wife, the former Dorothy Baxter Kidd of Winchester; and three children, David A. Groth of Chicago, John Groth of Bethesda and Christina Murow of Potomac.
WILLIAM 'TOON' BENSON
Navy Admiral and Arlington Teacher
William Lewis "Toon" Benson, 89, a retired Navy rear admiral who had been an area teacher from 1956 to 1970, died of pneumonia Jan. 23 at his home in Alexandria.
Adm. Benson was an engineering officer on the battleship Oklahoma when that ship was attacked at Pearl Harbor by Japanese forces on Dec. 7, 1941. He helped direct the rescue of sailors trapped below decks. Later during World War II, while serving aboard the light cruiser Brooklyn in the Pacific, he helped rescue troops from a sinking transport.
He also commanded a destroyer division that provided shore bombardment of Normandy during the D-Day invasion of northern France, and a destroyer unit that acted as a carrier screen during the invasion of southern France. He also served on Atlantic convoy duty and commanded a destroyer squadron in the Pacific during the war.
His postwar assignments included command of the cruiser Fresno and service as an assistant chief of staff of the Pacific Fleet. His last post was as commander of the naval station at Green Cove Springs, Fla. He retired from active duty in 1955.
He then settled here. He taught mathematics and science at Wakefield High School in Arlington from 1956 to 1967, then at the Congressional School of Virginia in Falls Church in 1967 and 1968. He taught mechanical engineering and drawing at the Bullis School in Potomac from 1968 to 1970, when he again retired.
Adm. Benson was born in Sweden to American parents and grew up in New York state. He was a 1925 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis and received a master's degree in education from George Washington University. He also was a graduate of the Naval War College and the Industrial College of the Armed Forces. During the 1930s, he had taught English at the Naval Academy and served in the Navy's war plans division.
His decorations included two awards of the Legion of Merit. He was a member of the Army Navy Country Club.
Survivors include his wife of 56 years, the former Gertrude Douglas "Petsie" Perry of Alexandria; two sons, William Benson Jr. of Huntsville, Ala., and Perry Southall Benson of Lynn Haven, Fla.; two grandsons; and a great-grandchild.
MARION K. HUMPHRIES JR.
Ophthalmologist and Professor
Marion Kemper Humphries Jr., 79, a professor emeritus of the University of Virginia medical school, where he had chaired the ophthalmology department in the 1970s, died Jan. 26 at the University of Virginia Hospital in Charlottesville.
He died of transfusion-induced hepatitis. He had been infected several years ago during blood transfusions for heart surgery.
Dr. Humphries taught at the university medical school from the 1940s until being named professor emeritus of ophthalmology in 1982. He engaged in the private practice of ophthalmology from 1949 until retiring in December.
He had served as president of the Virginia Society of Otolaryngology and Ophthalmology, and was due to receive its Service Award. He had served on the boards of the Virginia Commission for the Visually Handicapped, the Virginia Society for the Prevention of Blindness and the National Society for the Prevention of Blindness.
The University of Virginia had established an annual ophthalmology symposium in his honor. He was a member of the Alpha Omega Alpha medical honor society. He was a resident of Charlottesville, where he served as a deacon of Westminster Presbyterian Church, was a bank director, and belonged to the Rotary.
Dr. Humphries was born in Washington and grew up in Farmville, Va. He was a 1933 graduate of Hampden-Sydney College and a 1937 graduate of the University of Virginia medical school. He completed internship and residencies in ophthalmolgy and otolaryngology at the university in 1941. He then went into private practice. He had specialized in ophthalmology since 1949.
Survivors include his wife of 51 years, Zaida Thomas Humphries of Charlottesville; five children, Marion Humphries III and Catharine Thomas Humphries Martin, both of Roanoke, Betty Forbes Humphries Williams of Richmond, Zaida Meade Humphries Gilwee of Sacramento, Calif., and Mary Nicholas Humphries of Baltimore; two sisters, Charlotte Humphries Pauley of Virginia Beach and Margaret Davidson Bruce of Farmville.