546 Bowman St., Stibbs Street entrance – Wooster In 2020, Board Member, David Broehl passionately lead the fundraising initiative for Follis Monument. The original headstone is on permanent display here.
Wayne County Historical Society ~ an integral part of the story
In 2017 a group of local citizens, David Broehl, Michael Franks, Lawrence Walker, Cheryl A. Goff, Lydia Thompson (Hon. Chair), and Jim Stoner, were disappointed at the condition of the headstone of Charles Follis, the first black professional football player in America. They initially determined that they would get the approvals of the Follis family and the local administrator of the Wooster Cemetery. Their plan was to erect a more suitable reminder of everything Charles Follis (“The Black Cyclone”) had accomplished. The committee formed “The Charles Follis Memorial Committee”, raised money, and planned the erection of this new headstone commemorating Charles and his family, as well as this “Black Cyclone Trail” and a Charles Follis Scholarship. His original headstone is on permanent display in the Wayne County Historical Society.
Charles excelled in baseball and track and field and in 1898 became the captain of the first Wooster High School football team. As Captain, Charles lead the team to two undefeated seasons and earned the nickname “The Black Cyclone”. Charles was paid $10.00 per game to move to Shelby, Ohio and star for the Shelby Blues Football Club until 1906, when he retired from football due to injuries. While in Shelby, Charles’ ability and character impressed his teammate Branch Rickey. Charles Follis finished his pro sports career as a standout catcher and slugger for The Cuban Giants Negro League from Trenton, New Jersey, and sadly passed in 1910 after contracting pneumonia at the age of 30. He is buried in the Wooster Cemetery with his family. In 1947, as fan interest in Major League Baseball was waning, Branch Rickey (remembering his old teammate Charles Follis’ character and ability) signed Jackie Robinson to the Brooklyn Dodgers. This signing broke the race barrier, bringing an end to segregation in professional baseball.