CANTON, Ohio -- The National Football Hall of Fame became a reality today as a host of dignitaries and football greats gathered here in the birthplace of professional football to dedicate the shrine.
A huge parade composed of 89 units left downtown Canton this morning, headed for Fawcett Stadium where the hall was to be officially dedicated and the first 17 members inducted.
The actual dedication was to be made by U.S. Sen. Frank J. Lausche of Ohio, with National Football League (NFL) Commissioner Pete Rozelle accepting for the league, climaxing four years of work by the citizens of this industrial city of 125,000.
Eleven of the 17 inductees were here for the enshrinement. They were:
Sammy Baugh, Washington Redskins quarterback, 1937-52; Duck Clark, Portsmouth Spartans and Detroit Lions quarterback, 1931-38; Red Grange, Chicago Bears halfback, 1925-37; George Halas, founder and coach, Chicago Bears; Mel Hein, New York Giants center, 1931-45; Don Hutson, Green Bay end, 1935-45.
Curly Lambeau, Green Bay player, founder and coach, 1919-49; Cal Hubbard, New York Giants, Green Bay and Pittsburgh tackle and end, 1927-36; John (Blood) McNally, halfback with five teams, 1925;39; Bronko Nagurski, Chicago Bears fullback and tackle, 1930-37; and Ernie Nevers, Duluth Eskimos and Chicago Cardinals fullback, 1926-37.
The five deceased inductees are Joe Carr, league president, 1921 39; Tim Mara, founder of the New York Giants, 1925-59: Bert Bell, NFL commissioner, 1946-59; Pete (Fats) Henry, tackle for five clubs, 1927-36; and the immortal Jim Thorpe, halfback with Cleveland, Canton, Oorang, Rock Island, Toledo and New York, 1915-26.
George Preston Marshall, founder of the Washington Redskins, was unable to got to Canton due to illness.
The list of those Introducing the inductees included U. S. Supreme Court Justice Byron (Whizzer) White, U.S. Sen. Philip A. Hart of Michigan and former Pennsylvania governor David Lawrence.
The idea of a Wall of Fame in Canton originated in 1956 with Germane Swanson, then a sports-writer and now city editor of the Canton Repository. After a huge community fund-raising drive ground was broken last year.
Canton was considered the logical site for the shrine since the NFL grew out of a little-noticed meeting of representatives of 11 pro teams held here 43 years ago this month. The Canton Bulldogs, led by Jim Thorpe, were the first pro team in this country.
The dedication weekend will conclude Sunday with the second annual Hall of Fame game between the Cleveland Browns and the Pittsburgh Steelers. Gov. James A. Rhodes of Ohio will toss, the coin and act as honorary referee for the contest.