WASHINGTON — Bobby Mitchell, the speedy Hall of Famer who became the Washington Redskins’ first black player, has died. He was 84.
Mitchell split his career with the Cleveland Browns and Redskins and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1983. The Hall of Fame said Sunday night that Mitchell’s family said he died in the afternoon but didn’t provide any other details.
“The game lost a true legend today,” Hall of Fame President & CEO David Baker said in a statement. “Bobby was an incredible player, a talented executive and a real gentleman to everyone with whom he worked or competed against.”
When Mitchell joined the Redskins in 1962, they became the last NFL team to integrate. After playing his first four seasons in Cleveland, he spent seven more with Washington and retired with the second-most combined offensive yards.
Mitchell became a Redskins scout and later served as assistant general manager.
“His passion for the game of football was unmatched by anyone I have ever met,” Redskins owner Daniel Snyder said. “Not only was he one of the most influential individuals in franchise history, but he was also one of the greatest men I have ever known. He was a true class act and will be sorely missed.”
Retired NFL running back Brian Mitchell, who has no relation to Bobby but became friends with him, said he learned from the Hall of Famer, “Tough times don’t remain, tough people do, and you don’t let what you go through change who you are unless it’s for the better.”
“I’m sure there was people saying stuff to him and doing things that (ticked) him off, but he wasn’t bitter,” Brian Mitchell said. “When you look at him when he was working for the Redskins early on, many people felt Bobby should’ve been the general manager of the Washington Redskins. He didn’t get bitter. He kept doing the things he can do.”