SSHF marks Black History Month with new educational program

February is Black History Month and this year the Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame is pleased to launch a new educational outreach program History of Black Athletes and Their Impact on Saskatchewan Sport.

The new program is being offered to schools across the province year-round as part of the SSHF’s educational programming.

History of Black Athletes shares the stories of pioneers like Robert Ellis “Stonewall” Jackson who became the first black player to suit up for the Roughriders on October 25, 1930, against the Moose Jaw Maroons. Jackson had a 45-yard run and recovered a fumble for a Riders touchdown in an auspicious debut. Jackson became the first black player to play in Grey Cup when the Riders faced Balmy Beach in Toronto in 1930. Jackson worked his day job as a railway porter on the trip from Regina to Toronto before playing the game and working on the trip back home.

The 1930 Regina Roughriders.

Players like Gabe Patterson in 1947, Chester “Cookie” Gilchrist in 1958, and Ed Buchanan and George Reed in 1963 came north to play football with the Riders and continued to break down barriers as they battled discrimination. Reed has related that he lived in a hotel for his first two years in Regina because he couldn’t find a landlord who would rent an apartment to him.

The History of Black Athletes program also highlights the stories of two recent inductees.

Harry Winston Jerome, OC had an incredible athletic career that was even more remarkable considering the adversity he faced.

Jerome was born in Prince Albert and when he was 12, the family settled in North Vancouver, B.C. There, locals tried to block the sale of a house to the Jerome family because of their race. The Jerome siblings had rocks thrown at them on their first day of school.

At the age of 19, Jerome burst into the global spotlight when he matched the world record time in the 100-metre sprint at the Canadian Olympic trials in Saskatoon. At the 1960 Rome Olympics, Jerome pulled up with a hamstring injury in the 100m semifinal. Several newspapers in Canada questioned his character with one even labelling him as a “quitter.”

At the 1962 British Empire and Commonwealth Games, Jerome tore his quadriceps tendon and pulled up lame to finish last in the 100-yard final. The injury was so severe that he missed an entire year of competition. Even today an injury of that nature would be difficult to return from, but in 1962 it was unheard of and it was feared that Jerome’s career was over.

Harry Jerome receives the Order of Canada. photo courtesy of the BC Sports Hall of Fame

Instead, he returned to competition and silenced any critics he had with an incredible comeback that spoke to his character. He won an Olympic bronze medal at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics and won the 100m gold at the British Commonwealth Games in 1966.

In total Jerome owned seven different world records over his career. He also completed his master’s degree in Education at the University of Oregon (where he was also a decorated sprinter) and after retiring in 1969, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau asked him to help create Canada’s new Ministry of Sport.

He was made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1970 and was named British Columbia’s Athlete of the Century. Today a statue of Jerome is prominently displayed in Stanley Park in Vancouver.

The National Film Board of Canada has an excellent documentary about Harry Jerome entitled Mighty Jerome by Ileana Pietrobruno. She also made a short film for the NFB, titled Harry Jerome: The Fastest Man on Earth which is available below:

Harry Jerome : The Fastest Man on Earth, Ileana Pietrobruno, provided by the National Film Board of Canada

Rueben Mayes’ family history is a fascinating chapter in the story of the province. A group of black families – some of whom were freed slaves – left Oklahoma in 1910 with the promise of affordable land and the hope of finding a more accepting place to call home. The group named themselves the Shiloh people, named after the Biblical town where the once-enslaved Israelites rested on their search for the Promised Land after fleeing Egypt. They settled just north of Maidstone between Lloydminster and North Battleford.

Mayes’ great-grandfather Joe Mayes was the minister of Shiloh Baptist Church which was built by the settlers and is now a heritage site. Rueben’s great-grandmother Mattie Mayes was a midwife, an educator and a spiritual leader in the community. Approximately 1,000 African-Americans came to Saskatchewan as part of the migration, but in 1912, the Canadian government began discouraging black immigration. They went so far as to send emissaries to black communities in America to dissuade them from coming to Saskatchewan.

Rueben Mayes would be born in North Battleford in 1963 and would go on to become one of the greatest football players ever produced in Canada. He became the first Canadian to be a finalist for the Heisman Trophy representing the best college football players in America. He was a consensus All-American in 1984 and broke the NCAA’s single-game rushing record that same year for Washington State.

Rueben Mayes runs to daylight with Washington State. photo courtesy Washington State University

Mayes would go on to play six seasons in the National Football League. He was the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year and was named to the Pro Bowl team twice while playing for the New Orleans Saints.

Like Jerome, Mayes would go on to complete his Master’s degree, completing an MBA after retiring.

The Black Business and Professional Association created the Harry Jerome Awards in 1983 shortly after Jerome died. For more than 40 years the Harry Jerome Awards have celebrated black achievement in Canada in a dozen categories from business and entrepreneurship to sports and the arts. Mayes himself was honoured with a Harry Jerome Award.


SSHF announces 2022 Hall of Fame Class

The Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame (SSHF) is pleased to announce the five (5) newest members of the SSHF. The Class of 2022 features three athletes and two builders. The 2022 Class will join the 2021 Class that was announced in May of 2021 and be installed together at the 54th Induction Ceremony on Saturday, September 24, 2022 at the Conexus Arts Centre.

The 2022 inductees are:


Kelsie Hendry (Saskatoon) – Athletics

Harry Jerome (Prince Albert) – Athletics

Rueben Mayes (North Battleford) – Football


Antonia “Toni” Beerling (Rosthern) – Athletics

Bill Brownridge (Vawn) – Hockey


After a standout career as a pole vaulter at the University of Saskatchewan, Kelsie Hendry won two national titles and went to two Commonwealth Games where she won a bronze medal in 2010. She also competed at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Harry Jerome was born in Prince Albert and set seven world records as a sprinter. He was a three-time Olympian, winning a bronze medal in the 100 metres in Tokyo in 1964. At 19, Harry ran a world-record time in the 100 metres at the Olympic trials in Saskatoon.

Rueben Mayes had an incredible football career. He was the National Football League’s Offensive Rookie of the Year and he was a two-time Pro Bowler. He is the only Canadian-born player in the College Football Hall of Fame after setting 15 records at Washington State. He was the first Canadian to be nominated for the Heisman Trophy as the best player in NCAA Division I football.

Toni Beerling is a Level 5 international athletics official, the highest level attainable. She has officiated for 45 years first from her home in Saskatoon and then provincially, nationally and internationally. She has officiated at a world track and field championship, as well as Pan Am Games and Commonwealth Games.

Growing up in the 1930s with spina bifida, Bill Brownridge channeled his love of sport, particularly hockey, into areas where he could excel, as an author and a painter. For more than 70 years Bill has captured the spirit of hockey in those two mediums. He has written five children’s picture books and is an internationally recognized artist. He designed the logo of the Calgary Centennials junior hockey team, one iteration of the Calgary Flames uniforms and was the official artist of the 1988 Calgary Olympic bid. His paintings were a catalyst for the creation of Hockey Day in Canada.

The previously announced 2021 class features athletes Justin Abdou (Moose Jaw – Wrestling), Rod Boll (Fillmore – Trapshooting), Colette Bourgonje (Porcupine Plain – Athletics and Cross-Country Skiing), Kaylyn Kyle (Saskatoon – Soccer), and Lyndon Rush (Humboldt – Bobsleigh). Shannon Miller (Tisdale – Hockey) joins the 2021 class as a builder and the 2000-01 University of Regina Cougars Women’s Basketball Team and the 2013 Saskatchewan Roughriders Football Club are being inducted as teams.