Harry Clifton Byrd was a very gifted athlete. While he was a student at the Maryland Agricultural College, he lettered in football, baseball, and track and captained the football team in his senior year. His accomplishments on the field of competition were legendary, and the 1908 Reveille yearbook featured extensive commentary on Byrd’s athletic achievements and abilities. Following his graduation from M.A.C., he continued his studies in law and journalism at Georgetown University, Western Maryland College, and George Washington University. He participated in sports in some capacity at all three institutions, even winning a letter in football at Georgetown. Byrd eventually tried his hand at semi-professional baseball and played with several teams on the east and west coasts. Until his death, he never lost his interest in athletics and always claimed he learned many valuable life-lessons in athletic competition, particularly on the football field.
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Byrd lettered in three sports, baseball, track, and football, while a student at the Maryland Agricultural College. His prowess as a runner won him membership on the M Club’s All-Star Athletic Team and a medal at the June 11, 1906, Field Day in the 220-yard dash, among other awards. Byrd also won a medal for the pole vault at the 1906 Field Day. From the Sterling Byrd Collection, the personal papers of Harry Clifton Byrd, and the University Publications Collection.
Byrd was a star pitcher and prolific hitter on the Maryland Agricultural College baseball team, and the 1908 Reveille reported that “long will the memory of ‘Curly’ and his black-ash ‘Maria’ remain with the M.A.C.” Elsewhere, the yearbook staff regaled their readers with a brief account of Byrd’s pitching exploits:
Did you ever enjoy the thrilling sensation of seeing “Curly” pull himself out of a hole in the pitcher’s box? No! then look with me. With three men on bases, three balls, none out, and the opposing rooters wild with excitement, “Curly” is in his element. Caressingly he pets the dusty sphere, shows his teeth to the spectators, grins amiably at his victim and—batter out sings the umpire. The grin widens, the frenzied rooters cool down and then, with feline grace, “Curly” puts on the finishing touches, while his opponents wake up to the fact that he has been playing with them again.
From the personal papers of Harry Clifton Byrd.
It was on the football field at Maryland Agricultural College that Byrd won his greatest acclaim. Originally judged too scrawny to play, denied a uniform, and dismissed from the field by Coach Fred Neilsen, Byrd returned to practice the following day in his own gear, determined to make the team. He overcame the coach’s doubts and ultimately led the M.A.C. squad to two league championships. Byrd played several different positions, including end and quarterback, and captained the team in his senior year. Byrd is shown here with one of the championship teams, at left in the second row. From the personal papers of Harry Clifton Byrd.
Following his graduation from M.A.C., Byrd completed additional coursework at Western Maryland College and continued his outstanding track career. He is shown here with fellow WMC runners Stultz, Marcus, and Turner on the 1908/1909 team. From the Sterling Byrd Collection.
Byrd continued his athletic exploits during his post-graduate studies at Georgetown and George Washington Universities and Western Maryland College. He lettered in football at Georgetown and received a medal for the relay race at the annual indoor games in 1909 at George Washington. From the Sterling Byrd Collection and the personal papers of Harry Clifton Byrd.
Following his graduation from the Maryland Agricultural College in 1908, Byrd returned to the Eastern Shore of Maryland for a brief stint with a semi-professional baseball team in Cambridge. In this image, he is seated at the right in the first row and appears to have moved his head just as the photograph was taken. Photo by C. E. Finley, from the personal papers of Harry Clifton Byrd.
Byrd played semi-professional baseball on the Harmony and Cambridge, Maryland, teams. Byrd with the Harmony baseball team, back row, second from right. From the Sterling Byrd Collection.
In 1910, Byrd played a season for the San Francisco Seals, a farm team in the Chicago White Sox organization, in the Pacific Coast League. While in San Francisco, he met the famous promoter Tex Rickard who encouraged Byrd to return to the academic life, knowing how short one’s athletic career could be. From the Sterling Byrd Collection.
Reproduction of Byrd’s plaque in the Maryland Athletic Hall of Fame. The State of Maryland recognized Byrd’s athletic prowess with his induction into the Hall in 1957. From the Sterling Byrd Collection.
The University Archives serves as the collective memory of the University of Maryland, from the granting of the charter for the Maryland Agricultural College on March 6, 1856, to the present day. Established by the University of Maryland Libraries in 1972, the Archives is the official repository for all of the university's permanent records and actively gathers administrative files, university publications, photographs, audiovisual materials, faculty papers, theses and dissertations, and memorabilia that document all aspects of campus life.
Among the Archives’ holdings is extensive documentation of Harry Clifton Byrd’s personal and professional life, consisting of over 200 linear feet of documents, photographs, realia, and audiovisual material. This exhibit includes a sampling of those materials that illustrate important accomplishments and turning points in Byrd’s life.
University Archivist Anne Turkos created this exhibit, with extensive assistance from Kerri Sheehan, Laura Cleary, and Jennifer Paul.
The University of Maryland Archives are located in the R. Lee Hornbake Library on the University of Maryland’s College Park campus. This library is home to the Exhibit Gallery, Special Collections and University Archives, and Library Media Services.
For general information about the University Archives and other Special Collections, email us.