A while back I noticed a large, mysterious scrapbook back by the vault on the bottom of the oversize shelves. Last week I had time to pull it out and take a good look. It was full of pages from a 1950 Houston Press section about the opening of the new stadium, and it included lots of stories about the high points of Rice football over the years. The thing that really caught my attention was a photograph, taken at the moment the Owls scored their first touchdown against the University of Texas, at Clark Field, in a game we won 13-0. After being shut out by the Longhorns in both 1915 and 1916, this victory was hailed by the student body as the end of the “UT Jinx.”
Here’s the image:
(This was a great season, by the way. Rice went 7-1, losing only the last game of the season to the hated Aggies.)
I knew I’d seen game photos with the October 27 date on them and I even knew where they were, so things were moving along pretty smoothly. There are a lot of these pictures, all dated and numbered, like this:
Only one was missing–number 10–which I take to be the touchdown shot. The same image is reproduced in the 1918 Campanile so I suspect that somehow in that process the original was lost.
Next I wanted a picture of Le Roy Bell, who ran the ball in, which should also be easy. It wasn’t, though. Here’s an image of the 1917 football team, completely unlabeled, so I can’t tell which one he is:
Then I found an envelope stuffed full of solo shots of the team members, also frustratingly unlabeled. I had no choice but to go to the Campanile, where I found his picture, which, like many yearbook photos, wasn’t super helpful but was at least a place to start. (Oddly enough, it’s often their ears that help most with identifications.)
The result–here’s Le Roy Bell, ’19:
Bell was not only our star running back, he was also a star baseball player and captain of both teams in 1918-19. He lettered in basketball and track too, and was president of the student body his senior year as well as Honor Council president in 1918. He was inducted into the Rice Hall of Fame in 1970.
He’s the guy holding the football in the team photo.
Here’s a link to the 1970 Rice Athletics Hall of Fame program, which contains a short biography of each member of this inaugural class of inductees.
Bell’s noted that he was a “four-sport star” who “did it all with blazing speed and quickness.”
His 1981 obituary said Bell was born in Piedmont, Okla., and before coming to Rice, he attended Central State College in Edmond, Okla. (then known as Central State Normal School, now University of Central Oklahoma). A civil engineer, Bell worked 38 years for the Texas & New Orleans Railroad, which later became part of the Southern Pacific system.
Correction: Bell’s obituary was in 1975. He was 81 years old when he died.
Your Rice research is amazing, and I love that you share your process.
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