The role a La Crosse family played in Olympian George Poage’s life will be the subject of a performance at the Holmen Area Historical Society’s March meeting.
The Lucian and Mary Losey Easton family were a positive influence in the life of the first African-American to medal in the Olympic Games.
A portrayal of the Eastons will be presented by Richard Frost and his wife, Teri Wachuta, at the Wednesday, March 7 meeting. The meeting will begin at 7 p.m. in the Holmen Village Hall. The village hall is located at 421 S. Main St. in Holmen.
In addition to the skit about the Eastons, Frost and Wachuta will present a slide program about Poage’s achievements with photos and articles about the La Crosse athlete. The program is free and open to the public.
“Poage was the greatest scholar athlete ever in this area,” said Frost. “He was a remarkable, remarkable man. He was a man before his time, a man of reason and not a rebel. His name should be on every school kid’s tongue.”
Poage was born in Hannibal, Mo. in 1880. Four years later, his family moved to La Crosse where his mother became the Eastons’ maid.
“They were black residents in La Crosse who did great things,” said Frost.
The Eastons encouraged Poage in his athletics as well as his academic endeavors at La Crosse High School. He excelled in both disciplines, graduating in 1899 as the class salutatorian and the school’s first black graduate.
After high school graduation, he enrolled at UW-Madison where he was the first black athlete to run for the university, specializing in short sprints and hurdles. In June 1904, he was the first black Big Ten track champion in the conference’s history, taking first place in the 440-yard dash and the 220-yard hurdles. He was inducted into the Wisconsin Athletic Hall of Fame in 1988.
Sponsored by the Milwaukee Athletic Club, he competed in 1904 Summer Olympics in St. Louis, Mo., where he received bronze medals in the two hurdle events.
“In those days, athletes were sponsored by clubs or groups,” said Frost. “They didn’t represent a country.”
Following the Olympics, Poage stayed in Missouri taking a job as a school principal for a year and then a teaching position at the Charles Sumner High School, serving in that position for almost 10 years.
Moving to Chicago in 1920, Poage worked in a restaurant for four years before taking a job as a postal clerk with the United States Postal Service keeping that job for nearly 30 years. After his retirement in the 1950s, he remained in Chicago until his death in 1962.
In 2013, the La Crosse City Council renamed Hood Park to George C. Poage Park, honoring the former city resident.
For more information about HAHS or the February program, email HAHS President Hannah Scholze at firstname.lastname@example.org.