Former Redskin quarterback Sonny Jurgensen will be inducted into the Touchdown Club of Washington's Hall of Fame at a formal dinner Sept. 7.
While Jurgensen, the 19th person to be so honored by the prestigious 1,200 member Touchdown Club, will join such distinguished athletes as Bronco Magurski, Knute Rockne, Sammy Baugh and Jim Thorpe, this hall of fame is unique in that none of its members is black.
Among criteria for membership in the hall is a requirement that, in addition to skills as a player or a coach, the candidate must have some "connection" with the Touchdown Club - either through membership or be working with Touchdown Club charities.
The club, which has a predominantly white membership has had a "connection" clasue for potential hall of fame members for about 10 years. Prior to that, men such as Rockne, Thorpe, Nagurski, Walter Camp, Red Grange and Don Hutson, all without Washigtnon backgrounds, were voted into the hall.
Others members of the hall are Bill Dudley, Rip Miller, Wayne Milner, Cliff Battles, Tuffy Leemans, Tommy Whelan, Bill Guckeson. Al Blozis, George Preston Byron White and Arthur J. (Dutch) Bergman, founder of the club in 1935.
"It bothers us very much that none of the members of the hall are blace," said Robert Johnson, president of the Touchdown Club. "I didn't even realize until recently that we didn't have any black members. I don't knwo why I didn't notice with those pictures hanging right there.
"Several members of the board brought it up and we all said, "Howcome we don't have any blacks?"
"Nobody seemed to know the answer."
Johnson mentioned Jim Brown, Gale Sayers and Bobby Mitchell, the firs black to play prominently for the Redskins, as men "who would certainly come to mind immediately as likely candidates.
Mitchell, director of pro scouting for the Redskins, said he felt that when he was a player for the Redskins he did not feel welcome at the Touchdwon Club.
"There was a time when you were lucky to get a seat over there," he said. "Things have definitely improved. I just recently have come to know a lot of the guys a the club and some of them are damn good guys.
"But I still have mixed emotions about the place. There are still some problems. I'm not exactly sure what their criteria are for election to the hall and I'm not going to embarrass myself by saying I belong or pushing for it.
"But I think if you look at the stats of a Bobby Mitchell, he belongs.If you look at my record as a member of the community, I belong. I'm not saying I should definitely be elected, but I think I should be considered."
John Gourley vice president of the club and chairman of the hall of fame committee, admitted that "Bobby Mitchell certainly deserves consideration."
"Bobby was never really involved with the Touchdown Club when he was a player," he said. But he added, "It was touch for Bobby. He was kind of like Jackie Robinson when he was with the Dodgers."
Johnson said the he did not think it would be long before a black was voted into the hall of fame. "I think the next time we vote, several black players will be seriously. I didn't even know that people outside the club were aware that we didn't have any black members."
The hall of fame selection committee consists of three members of the club's baord of directors. The committee recommends one or more condidates to the full board, which then selects one inductee.
Jurgensen's name was the only name brought before the full board this year.
"I try to be fair and lenient because I know in the past I've been bitter," Mitchell said. "I don't think I can be rated down on the criteria they have. If players from outside Washington can be inducted, I don't see how you can possibly leave out Sayers or Brown. I think Larry Brown and Charley Taylor will be automatics.
"They say they want blacks in and I'm prepared to believe them, but if they dont' get one in there pretty soon it's going to be obvious they still don't want anay. They better get someone in the very near future. There are just too may good candidates to ignore."
Ironically, Mitchell is an "honorary" member of the club because he received the club's "Timmie" award and because he is amember of the Redskins' staff. Jurgensen also is a past recipient of the "Timmie" award.