On field and screen, his strength brought us together.
At UCLA he was a track star, a football phenomenon and a performer on the Royce stage. Woodrow Wilson Strode, known as Woody, was a big man on campus. Strode and teammate Kenny Washington were among the best-known college football players in the nation. But no pro team would draft African Americans. Not until 1946 did the two suit up for the Los Angeles Rams, re-integrating the NFL after 13 years of segregation. With an ethnic heritage including Blackfoot/Creek and Cherokee, Strode came in for an extra measure of racial abuse because he was married to a Hawaiian. After one year, he bid football goodbye to focus on a film career. He brought his strength and dignity to scores of screen roles, including the African gladiator in Spartacus and the Apache-trained scout in The Professionals. He was especially proud of his roles in John Ford Westerns, notably the title role in Sergeant Rutledge. Toy Story’s Woody was named in the big man’s honor.