Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren Announces George and Viola Taliaferro Fellowship

George Taliaferro was a pioneer for diversity and inclusion as a player at Indiana University. he was the first Black player to be drafted to the NFL, and the Big Ten honored his family's legacy with the creation of the George and Viola Taliaferro Fellowship.
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INDIANAPOLIS — During his opening statement of the 2021 Big Ten Football Media Days at Lucas Oil Stadium on Thursday, commissioner Kevin Warren announced the creation of the George and Viola Taliaferro Fellowship. 

The fellowship will promote further diversity and inclusion in the Big Ten Conference by providing individuals who have not historically had opportunities in leadership positions to work in the Office of the Commissioner. 

“George and Viola Taliaferro had an incredibly profound impact on the United States Justice System, the State of Indiana, Indiana University, and all of college football," Warren said. "We are elated to have a fellowship position in the office of the commissioner that honors the legacies of both George and Viola, and it is our intention to hire qualified individuals who embody hard work, dedication, integrity, and perseverance.”

George and Viola's daughters were in attendance at Lucas Oil Stadium for the first Big Ten Football Media Day. Indiana dedicated a statue to George outside of Memorial Stadium in 2019. 

"I keep your dad's trophy on my credenza, because I always want George to have my back," Warren said. "And one of my proudest moments was when I attended Indiana University last year, when I had an opportunity to go touch that statue." 

George Taliaferro was the leading rusher for Indiana's 1945 championship football team that earned a 9-0-1 overall record, the only undefeated team in school history. In four years with the program, he was an All-American selection three times and led the Hoosiers in rushing twice and passing once. 

After his collegiate career, George was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1981. 

George became the first Black player to ever be drafted into the NFL. He was taken by the Chicago Bears in the 13th round of the 1949 NFL Draft. He was the first Black player to play quarterback, and he was the only player to play seven different positions during his professional career. 

During his seven seasons at the professional level, George played for the New York Yanks, the Dallas Texans, the Baltimore Colts and the Philadelphia Eagles. He earned Pro Bowl honors from 1951 through 1953.

George later went on to earn his master's degree from Howard University, taught at the University of Maryland and served as Dean of Students at Morgan State University. 

He also spent two decades at his alma mater in numerous capacities, including as a special assistant to the president, IUPUI chancellor and Dean of the School of Social Work. George was also active in helping the Children’s Organ Transplant Association.

Judge Viola "Vi" Taliaferro moved to Indiana and graduated from law school in 1977. Even before she furthered her education, Viola built a successful career in academia, social work and administration. 

After 12 years of practicing law, Vi became the first African American to serve as a magistrate and then judge in the Circuit Court of Monroe County, Indiana. Her responsibilities included handling all county juvenile, paternity, probate, and mental health commitment cases.

Vi served as a consultant to U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno and was on the National Research Council on Juvenile Crime. She was elected to the American Law Institute and participated in various professional organizations. 

As a retired judge, she continues to do special projects for the Indiana Supreme Court.

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