Bobby Mitchell, who in 1962 became the first player to integrate the Washington Redskins, passed away this past weekend at the age of 84. A civil rights hero in this region long after his retirement from the NFL in 1969, Mitchell worked in the Redskins’ front office until the beginning of the 21st Century and was an active leader in the area’s philanthropic community until his death.
A cornerstone of Mitchell’s charitable endeavors was the annual Bobby Mitchell Hall of Fame Golf Classic, of which WANADA was a title sponsor for several years beginning in 2002. WANADA’s involvement was spearheaded by the encouragement of dealer members Bob Rosenthal and Richard Patterson, who were long-standing supporters of the event. In the decade that WANADA was involved in the event, which ran through its concluding year in 2012, the golf outing raised nearly $500,000 annually for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.
Every summer at the Lansdowne Golf Resort in Ashburn, the Bobby Mitchell Classic gathered dozens of icons from across the sporting world, including Bill Russell, Darrell Green, Oscar Robertson, Sonny Jurgensen, and dozens of others who were legends in their sport of choice. WANADA member dealers and Kindred-Line members routinely donated hundreds of thousands of dollars annually in cash and raffle items to help support the LLS’ fight against blood cancers, and for several years the event was known as the Bobby Mitchell Auto Dealer Classic.
Each year, the tournament also highlighted young leukemia survivors, who were “living proof” of the power that advancements in blood cancer research and treatment had in improving outcomes for those stricken with the rare diseases. Survival rates for blood cancer patients in the United States have continued to improve over the years thanks to improved medicines, transplant procedures, and other treatment regimens that were found through public investment and philanthropic ventures like the Bobby Mitchell Classic.
In terms of memorial contributions for Bobby Mitchell, it would seem altogether fitting to support the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society as he, together with WANADA dealers, did for so many years. You can donate to the LLS National Capital Area Chapter at this link.
Born in segregationist Arkansas, Bobby Mitchell overcame immense structural obstacles to break the Redskins’ color barrier, make the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and devote his later years to serving vulnerable people across the D.C. area and the United States. Bobby Mitchell was a sports celebrity for sure, but he was also a wonderful human being and friend to Washington area dealers who WANADA will never forget.Download Bulletin PDF