In partnership with the Wayne County Convention and Visitors Bureau, Wooster City School District is excited to announce the establishment of an Ohio Historical Marker, which will be dedicated to Wooster alumnus Charles Follis at Follis Field.
The Ohio History Connection (OHC), formerly the Ohio Historical Society, is a statewide history organization with the mission to spark discovery of Ohio’s stories. One of the OHC’s initiatives is the Ohio Historical Markers program, which began in the 1950s and encompasses over 1,600 unique markers that tell the state’s history as written by its communities.
Markers are erected by local community sponsors in partnership with the OHC and describe the people, places, things and events of Ohio's past. Approximately 50 new markers are completed each year.
Martha Starkey, the executive director of the Wayne County Convention and Visitors Bureau, and her colleague Jacki Chamberlain thought it would be a great idea to honor Charles Follis with a marker, as he encompasses a unique history in Wooster.
Follis, a.k.a. “The Black Cyclone,” was the first black professional American football player. He was also the first black catcher to move from college baseball onto a black professional baseball team.
“We have felt for a long time that he really hadn’t gotten his deserved recognition, especially in Wayne County where he grew up, went to high school and attended Wooster College,” said Starkey. “He’s even buried in Wooster Cemetery with his parents. So we thought he should be acknowledged in our community so people recognize his accomplishments.”
Currently, the football field at Wooster High School is named Follis Field; however, Starkey said she doesn’t believe many people know who the field is named after.
After receiving approval from Superintendent Michael Tefs, Starkey submitted a thorough application to the marker program, in addition to requesting funding from the OHC’s Local History Services Department and the William G. Pomeroy Foundation.
Upon receiving confirmation that the application for a Charles Follis marker was accepted on Sept. 28, the OHC confirmed that Wooster will also receive a grant that will fund the cost of a standard Ohio Historical Marker (up to $3,040).
“The grants were limited to certain counties, and while there are over 1,600 markers, Wayne County only has seven markers at present,” said Starkey. “Once we have the text finalized, we are also hoping to include a picture of Charles Follis on the marker so that he is properly recognized.”
Earlier this year, Governor John Kasich signed legislation designating Feb. 3 as “Charles Follis Day” and he was honored with a placard at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton.
Starkey and Wooster City School District plans to invite Follis’s relatives to a ceremony once the marker is placed near Follis Field, which will likely occur sometime next summer.
“We are so grateful that the Ohio History Connection approved this marker,” said Superintendent Dr. Michael Tefs. “Thank you to Martha Starkey for leading the application process and to the Local History Services Department and the William G. Pomeroy Foundation for funding this marker. We are extremely excited to see the finished product.”