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NFL Hall of Famer And Civil Rights Activist Bobby Mitchell Died At 84

Bobby Mitchell, the quick-footed receiver who became the Washington Redskins’ first black football player, died on Sunday at 84 years old. His cause of death was not disclosed.

Mitchell spent the first half of his career with the Cleveland Browns after being selected in the seventh round of the 1958 NFL Draft from the University of Illinois. He went on to play 11 seasons in the NFL as a halfback for the Browns, teaming up with the legendary Jim Brown, and then as a wide receiver for the Redskins. During his 11-year career, he played 148 games and was good for a total of 10,689 yards from scrimmage, according to Pro Football Reference. He was named to the First Team All Pro in 1962, his first year with the Redskins, and selected to the Pro Bowl four times in his career.

“His passion for the game of football was unmatched by anyone I have ever met,” Redskins owner Dan 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.”

When Mitchell joined the Redskins in 1962, the team became the last in the league to integrate. He spent seven seasons in Washington and led the league in receiving yards in 1962 and 1963. He still ranks in the top 10 in Redskins’ history in receiving yards (6,492; fifth), touchdowns (49; sixth) and catches (393; eighth), according to the team’s website.

After retiring in 1968, Mitchell worked for the Redskins for 30 more years as a scout and later, as the franchise’s assistant general manager during all three of the team’s Super Bowl wins. Mitchell was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on July 30, 1983.

“The entire Pro Football Hall of Fame family mourns the passing of Bobby Mitchell,” Hall of Fame President & CEO David Baker said in a statement on Sunday. “The Game lost a true legend today. Bobby was an incredible player, a talented executive and a real gentleman to everyone with whom he worked or competed against. His wife Gwen and their entire family remain in our thoughts and prayers. The Hall of Fame will forever keep his legacy alive to serve as inspiration to future generations.”

A stellar athlete, Mitchell also worked tirelessly as a civil rights activist off the field, assisting organizations like the NAACP, UNCF, National Urban League and Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. He also famously stood with Muhammad Ali and many other black athletes in 1967, supporting Ali’s refusal to enlist in the U.S. army during the Vietnam War.