Jerry Kramer’s Foreword

Foreword

On August 4th, 2018, I had the honor of being inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, over 50 years since I last played for the legendary Vince Lombardi and the Green Bay Packers. If it were not for my daughter Alicia, I probably would not have made it into the HOF. I was selected as a finalist, ten times, yet each time until now, and I wasn’t chosen. Alicia’s commitment to helping me be inducted is quite a remarkable story in itself. As a member of this exclusive HOF community, I am thrilled to share this great accolade and milestone with my late friend Emlen Tunnell, whom I had the opportunity to play with when he came to resurrect our losing team with his friend Vince Lombardi. “Em” was inducted into the HOF in 1967, his first year of eligibility and the first solely defensive player to win the honor. Em was a phenomenal player, a pioneer and the first African-American to be inducted into the HOF. Sadly, my friend Em, has long been a forgotten legend since the night he died in 1975 at the New York Giants summer camp. David Lyons’s biography helps frame Em’s life in a critical historical context that highlights his exceptional courage for the times he lived. Tunnell’s amazing life story is a gift for future generations to appreciate his hard-fought life lessons, like how spirit and attitude can overcome anything.

You don’t need to be a sports enthusiast to enjoy this book, definitive biography of a forgotten legend, an American pioneer, a war hero, and a dear friend. It is a beautiful story about a kid who followed his dreams and eventually achieved his dream despite the cards being stacked against him. However, Em shared the fruits of his success with those he met, regardless of their background or their socio-economic class. He shared his heart and his passion for life with people. Then for the rest of Em’s career, he assisted many more dreamers in reaching their dreams to play in the NFL. Most people would have given up on many of the obstacles that Em was confronted with; however, Em just looked at hindrances as challenges, and he would put his problem-solving skills to work. Tunnell proved that talent and decency could overcome prejudice and ignorance. He was instrumental in helping integrate the New York Giants, only one year after Jackie Robinson integrated the Brooklyn Dodgers. Em helped to assimilate the team, first by himself, and then by mentoring the black players who eventually joined the Giants.

After Em came to the Green Bay Packers in 1959 with Lombardi, he was influential in integrating our team, too. Willie Wood, Herb Adderley, Willie Davis, and several others, all learned how to succeed in the NFL, due in no small part to Em’s valuable and incredibly insightful guidance. Willie Wood took Lombardi’s advice and followed Em around consistently and learned everything he could from him. It paid off, as Wood’s eventually became one of the best safety’s in the NFL, and followed Tunnell into the Pro Football HOF. Vince Lombardi wanted to build a football dynasty, and Em was a critical part of rebuilding the Green Bay Packers. He was mainly a player-coach who was there to help rebuild and integrate our team. The players respected him because Emlen was the guy who had walked the walk and was still doing it. He radiated a winning attitude, and he always carried himself with a touch of class, a level of professionalism that we all needed to learn at that time. During his first year with the Green Bay Packers, Em was once again nominated for the NFL Pro Bowl for the 9th time. However, Em modeled how a united team was more important than any handful of outstanding players. Team unity was critical to having a championship team. If one of us had a problem or concern, we would speak with Em first. Most of the players were intimidated by Mr. Lombardi, rightfully so, and I was too. This is what Lombardi wanted. It was like a good cop/bad cop scenario. Em was the only one I knew who called him Vinny. Mr. Lombardi would often consult with Em in front of the players, and it was clear that Lombardi respected his decision-making skills, his gifted communication skills, his positive attitude, as well as his style of play. He would tell the defensive backs to learn everything they could from Em. His sense of commitment to being the best player on the field is precisely what Lombardi attempted to do with each of his players. He wanted each player to have as high an expectation as he did. Lombardi believed in knowing and understanding every step you needed take to make a play work. It was hard work, with loads of repetitive practice. While Lombardi preached his principles of preparation, commitment, consistency, discipline, character, pride, tenacity and perseverance; Tunnell practiced these principles byregularly putting them into action. He was the perfect role-model.

This intimate book accurately describes the chemistry between Lombardi and Tunnell. Furthermore, Lyons shows us how these two champions shared many common traits and characteristics. These two great men possessed utterly contrasting personalities, yet both were filled with an equal passion for winning. In addition, Lombardi and Em were brothers-in-arms as soldiers on the playing field by fighting against prejudice by helping integrate the Packers and rebuilding our team into an NFL dynasty. Lombardi told his players if he heard any disparaging racial remark, that player would be instantly kicked off the team. No discussion. With Tunnell’s help, Lombardi acted out his plan and recruited the best players available, regardless of their skin color, to build an NFL dynasty. They both were committed to being the best at what they did on and off the field, and they both were the most passionate people I was fortunate to have met in my life. As I shared in my HOF induction speech, “Success in life is not much a matter of chance as it is a matter of choice. We choose to do the right thing, or we choose not to do the right thing.” Em’s life exemplifies how making the right choice consistently over time can lead to amazing results.

David Lyons examines Em’s upbringing in Garrett Hill, his time in the Coast Guard, and playing football at Iowa. After reading his life story, I am amazed at the incredible journey he traveled, because it certainly highlights his perseverance. Future generations will revere Em’s legacy. Em was humble; he enjoyed making others, like me, feel special on many occasions. It was the human touch of Emlen that was just beautiful. He connected with you on a one-to-one level, and he made you feel special because he would not judge you. Em accepted you for who you were and as long as you were respectful to him and everyone else, you were “golden.” If there were an award for being a terrific human being, I would nominate Em. Whenever I was invited to go out with him, it was an instant thrill, filled with excitement, knowing that I was going to have a night of adventure. Em, had a magnetic personality. He had this unique quiet self-confidence that created a refreshing warmth. He was a genuine, authentic guy that you could relate with instantly and laugh with constantly.

Em knew so many people wherever we went, and it did not matter what city. We were playing a night game in Milwaukee, and Ray Charles was in town at one of the hotels. We walked in for a late show, and there are 4 or 5 of us. We were looking for a table, and we were headed to the back of the room looking for a spot. We didn’t notice that Em goes right up on to the stage and talks to Ray. He comes back and says: “Come follow me, guys.” We followed him, and we didn’t know where he was going. It was a common thing when you went out with Em; you would trust him and follow him along to see what was the next exciting surprise. He takes us up to the stage with Ray Charles and his piano. Em spoke to a maitre’d to put some stools around the piano. So, we set our drinks on the piano, right across from Ray Charles and listened to the show. Yeah. Unbelievable! Ray Charles does a wide variety of songs, but “Born to lose one of my favorites,” and he did that song for us. It was just a magical, magical night.

I remember another time I was chatting with Em at some restaurant and this hard-ass guy wanted to rile up Em for no apparent reason. He yelled out a demeaning racial remark at Em. However, Em just continued with his conversation with me and softly told me: “Don’t listen to that fool; just leave him alone.” Em just totally ignored the guy, as if he did not exist. He handled it so gracefully that I still remember this fifty years later because it made a lasting impression. Em had such terrific restraint that I sure did not have. I thought to myself, ‘damn, I need to be able to compose myself like Em,’ because at that moment I was ready to respond to this jerk by belittling him and by physically putting him in his place. Seriously, it was painful to hear someone insult my close friend and not react. I was stunned by Em’s, Zen-like demeanor, to a guy who mainly tried to pick a fight with him for no other reason than his skin color. Not with Em. He kept his composure, stayed serene and poised.In contrast to that incident, I remember another time we went out one night in Oakland to a Black bar. My teammate Fuzzy Thurston and I went with Em, and we were the only two white guys in the joint. There were a couple of African-American guys who were annoyed with our presence, and they started saying some things were creating tension in the air. This was in the 1960s when the Black Power movement was emerging. Em got up and went over and talked to these guys and whatever he said, did the trick.Em straightened things out, and the tension left the room, and we were magic. This was after a game, so we stayed until the wee hours and damn we had a great time. Eddie Machen, a terrific heavyweight boxer at that time was sitting and talking to Em. Eddie got up in a playful mood and shadow boxed us, and we had a lot oflaughs. Machen was playing around, and we were enjoying ourselves. We did these kinds of things with Em all the time. I mean each time you went with Em you had no idea whom you would meet, what you were going to do or where you were going to go, but you did know that we were going to have a fun, exciting time. I have to say that Em was an unusual guy. He loved to show others a way to love life, too. Em was the kind of guy who wanted his friends to enjoy life’s magical moments as much as he did. We also went out to Hank Aaron’s house one night. Hank wasn’t home, but his wife was home, and she knew Emlen. So, she invited us in, and we had some drinks. We enjoyed ourselves and had a pleasant visit.

He was very, very, special and Em created magical moments. He had that perennial smile on his face, and he had the confidence to know where he was, who he was, and he was very comfortable in his shoes and very comfortable being Emlen. Reading this biography was a real treat. The most important thing to know about Em was how he made the people he was with feel even more special than himself. He had a gift. By patiently researching and uncovering so many gold nuggets of Emlen’s life, and writing this insightful biography, David Lyons is giving you a gift to learn about how Em created his magic!

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My Emlen Tunnell Story

I grew up listening to stories told by my father, Bill Lyons, about his friend Emlen Tunnell, and we were both always amazed that no biography had ever been written about him. After considerable reflection and a push from my dad, I decided that I would take that journey and write about our local legend’s life so that more people would know about his remarkable life story. The American public knows plenty about sports heroes like Jackie Robinson and Hank Aaron, but few remember or have even heard of Emlen Tunnell. He is a forgotten star who pioneered his way into the NFL in an uncharacteristic way at the time; he went to the New York Giants office and asked for a tryout. There are dozens of books about Jackie Robinson and Vince Lombardi, but none have ever been written about the great Emlen “the Gremlin” Tunnell, whom most friends called “Em.”

Emlen Tunnell wasn’t merely a legendary football player; he was a highly charismatic real person who was kind to his family and friends. He became a part of my childhood because my dad would share delightful stories around our dinner table with my six brothers and me. Dad was a neighbor and friend of Emlen’s. One of the stories Dad shared with us was how Emlen was moved to tears when a group of homeless guys took up a collection for him when the New York Giants held an Emlen Tunnell Day in 1958. The money collected was less than $30, but Emlen said, “These guys probably gave me all the money they had, and who can ever be more generous than that?”

Emlen was a compassionate and sentimental guy who wore his heart on his sleeve and would tear up rather quickly when he felt moved. In hearing stories about him, I learned how a person built a reputation over time by the way they treated others. Emlen was unique, and he made my Dad feel special, too. Emlen’s genius was not just football; he had amazing people skills. He knew how to make friends and cultivate friendships.

The life and times of this forgotten legend make up a warm-hearted story about a person who loved to play sports as much as he loved to have lifelong friendships. The reader learns many life lessons by seeing first-hand how Emlen approached life, created opportunities, and saw challenges as problem-solving exercises. He was proactive and would go after things other people would not, from asking the New York Giants for a tryout to seeking the most adventurous way to spend a night in New York City or any town. From the most famous celebrity down to the cab drivers, he was known for how effortlessly he generated a good time.

“He could create magic anywhere he went,” Jerry Kramer of the Green Bay Packers fame told me. Jerry explained how his friend “Em” as many of his friends called him, helped him enjoy a Ray Charles concert by sitting with his football pal and a couple of other friends, next to Ray’s piano on stage. Ray Charles even played some of Jerry’s song choices during his concert.

Emlen interacted with people from all walks of life and enjoyed whomever he was in his presence. He lived in the moment with passion and humility. As L.A. Rams great Rosey Grier told me, Emlen would always say to him, “I’m going to live fast and die young. Em did live life fast, and he knew how to enjoy life and people. He always put a smile on my face. Emlen was a beautiful human being.”

The overwhelming majority of people I interviewed told me how special Emlen made them feel. I was moved by how much love people expressed for Emlen and how so many people easily remember him fondly many years after he passed. Their admiration was essentially his legacy.  “Wow, Em Tunnell!” person after person would say.

“Just talking about him after all the years makes me smile from ear to ear,” said Bob Lurtsema, who played for the New York Giants when Emlen was an assistant coach. “Believe me, people who know me know I would not hold back with my criticism, but Em Tunnell was a special, special person who I really loved. He was a great person.”

The small idyllic town of Garrett Hill where Emlen grew up was an exceptional place, a unique town that was integrated going back to the 1930s. Garrett Hill had ethnicities from many backgrounds who got along as well as human beings could. As Emlen’s sister “Goodie” said, “We had to stick together and help each other, we were too poor in a sense to have racial problems because we had to survive. The way we interacted helped us to thrive during the tough economic times after the Depression and during World War II,” she told me. “We were very united.”

Fortunately, I was able to interview Emlen’s family and some childhood friends over many years, and this helped me discover the themes and patterns of Emlen’s life and gave me a unique ability to describe his hometown life. Most writers and journalists only get a quick snapshot of a person or a place, but since I grew up in the same small town, it gave me an insider’s perspective and presented me with an opportunity to listen to people who wanted to talk about Emlen. They were not self-conscious talking to me since I spoke to them many times over the years. Thank goodness, my patience paid off, and I accumulated a library of audio recordings of many interviews with people from all walks of life who knew him well. Also, I interviewed his friends from high school, shipmates from the Coast Guard, teammates and friends from the University of Iowa, and teammates and friends from both the New York Giants and the Green Bay Packers.

By the summer of 2016, I had been working on my Emlen Tunnell biography for over four years, and in that time, several friends of Emlen’s that I had been interviewing and gotten to know had sadly passed away. Then, all of a sudden, Emlen’s sister Vivian, whom the family and friends called “Goodie,” had a tragic setback, because up until then she had excellent health and vitality. Goodie had a delightful personality.  Even at 94, she carried herself with a sense of elegance and sophistication, yet would not shy away from sharing her toughness and would enliven the room when sharing some of her recollections with great details. Goodie was a charming storyteller with a sharp wit, and she had plenty of stories to share. Unfortunately, she passed away suddenly, within three months of becoming ill. Goodie’s daughter Catherine had been living with her mother for several years and was in ill health. She has an ailment that makes it difficult to get around. She debated paying nurses for twenty-four-hour home care or moving to an assisted living facility. Homecare sounded like too much work and responsibility, so she decided to sell their home, because she was not able to live on her own, without her mother, who assisted her by cooking and driving her around town, even when Goodie was 94 years of age. After Catherine moved into Presbyterian Village, an assisted living residence in Rosemont, she put her house up for sale. Her new home is located on the old Cassatt Estate, a place where her Uncle Emlen had played, swam in their swimming pool with many of his Garrett Hill buddies, picked pillowcase loads of fruits from the orchards, and enjoyed many moments of high adventure, fun, and belly laughter. Ironically, his niece Catherine is now living on the same estate where they both had fond childhood memories of exploration and fun. Over the years and many, many interviews, I became close friends with Catherine and her mother.  After her move, she was dealing with lots of sadness due to her mother’s passing, selling the home where she had so many memories with her mother, and now adjusting to a new type of living in an assisted living facility. Catherine is strong, and she has a winning spirit like her Uncle Em. Weeks after she moved into the Presbyterian Village, I visited Catherine. To help brighten her mood, I brought along my nine-year-old son Ethan, who wore his top hat and brought along his magic case. Ethan enjoyed entertaining her with magic tricks, and then we had a sweet talk. When we said our goodbyes, Catherine informed me that she told the movers to leave one box for her friend in California – that was me. She said she asked her church friend Andre Williams to meet me at the house the next day to give me the box.

“What’s in the box?” I asked

“Some books and things of my Uncle Emlen, that my mother and I thought you would like.”

“That is quite an honor, Catherine,” I said.

“My mom and I agreed on this some time ago,” Catherine replied.

“Thank you, so much.”

The next day, my dad, my son and I went and met Andre at Goodie and Catherine’s home nearby in Haverford. He let us into the dining room where there was the big box that Catherine wanted me to have. We talked a little then thanked Andre and left.

We went back to my dad’s house, in Garrett Hill. My six brothers and I grew up in this house that he purchased in the early 1950s. It was a very short distance from the house where my father grew up on Eachus Avenue, very close to Emlen’s childhood home on Garrett Avenue. When I started to look through the box that Catherine had given me, I could not believe what I saw. There was Emlen’s silver life-saving medal presented to him posthumously in 2011 at Coast Guard Island, plus other breathtaking memorabilia he had achieved from the University of Iowa, and the Coast Guard. I set each piece up in my dad’s living room; I was speechless and moved with the honor I had been bestowed. I had been entrusted with the most sentimental memories of a forgotten legend, Catherine’s “Uncle Emlen,” the one who helped her mother when she was giving birth. I felt blessed to have been considered a friend and to have had many great conversations with Emlen’s beloved relatives. I believe that I was gifted these items because both Goodie and Catherine understood and respected how much I wanted Emlen’s memory to stay alive.

After reviewing Emlen’s memorabilia with my father that afternoon, we both thought that it would be best to have them displayed at the Sports Legends of Delaware County Museum, at the Radnor Township building, which had recently had their grand opening. My Dad had gotten to know the curator, Jim Vankoski after he participated in a Comcast documentary for Black History Month titled, “The Garrett Hill Pioneer,” about Emlen Tunnell and his childhood in Garrett Hill. My dad and I were incredibly moved by Catherine’s generosity and trust in me and my dad, and I wanted to make sure that the items stayed together at their museum, allowing the public to remember Emlen as a war hero and an outstanding athlete.  Consequently, I felt a load of responsibility, and as a good steward of the collection, it was my responsibility to make sure that Emlen’s collection stayed intact.

Time was of the essence since I was returning to California the next day.  The following day, I called Jim Vankoski, the curator of the Sports Legends, and told him that I had some Emlen Tunnell items that I thought he would be very interested in for the museum.

“No way!” Jim exclaimed. “I have been trying to get some of his memorabilia from over ten years.”

“Well Jim, you are going to like what you see, like how he was a war hero.”

“David that would be unbelievable because we are talking to the Radnor Township Board of Commissioners about raising money for a seven-foot bronze statue of Emlen.”

“Oh, Jim, I think I have some items that should impress the Board of Commissioners,” I said. “I’ll see you at noon.”

We met around lunch time. I got to meet Jim as well as Phil Damiani, the vice-president of the Museum, and they gave me a tour of their awe-inspiring and extensive collection of sports memorabilia from the great athletes of Delaware County: those who won medals in the Olympics; major league baseball superstars like Mickey Vernon; and NFL stars like Emlen Tunnell. The showcases and the items were very impressive, and I was delighted to see how the memories of the highly accomplished sports legends were kept alive, making a lasting imprint on all the Radnor Township youngsters who visited. Unfortunately, I had to shorten the tour, because I had a flight to catch within hours. I brought in the big box from my dad’s car, and we set up in a conference room. As we looked at each Emlen Tunnell item, Jim and Phil were astounded at what they were seeing.

They admitted that they were blown away with the items that highlighted Emlen’s achievements in the U.S. Coast Guard and on the football field. They told my dad and me about the idea of the Emlen Tunnell Bronze Statue Project, and we knew that this was the perfect museum to house and display our forgotten legend’s memory.  When I learned that Jim Vankoski, Phil Damiani, and Rich Pagano were the co-chairs for the Emlen Tunnell Statue Committee, I was ecstatic to hear this news that they were doing their very best to keep his legacy alive by starting a fundraising campaign and commissioning a great local sculptor to create a bigger than life representation Emlen. I was inspired even more to continue on my journey of writing about our friend and local legend.

On the airplane ride home, I reflected on what had happened over the last 48 hours. I felt very blessed to have been entrusted with Emlen’s memorabilia. I left these items in Jim’s care with the sense that serendipity was in play, and I felt Emlen’s spirit and good fortune was helping us along on this legacy project. I was thrilled that there were people like Jim and Phil dedicating so much of their time to help keep the memories of these great local legends alive. I hoped the items would help convince the Board of Commissioners to vote on building the bronze statue of Emlen. I told Jim that bronze statue idea was a fantastic idea, because it would help the citizens of Radnor Township the museum, understand what a heroic human being “Em” was, a hero on and off the football field, a hero when his shipmates needed him, and a hero who always remained loyal to his hometown friends of Garrett Hill despite his stardom.  I thanked Jim and Phil for helping people learn about terrific human beings who were such nice people, not just athletic stars. When I spoke with MM1c Fred Shaver, who is 94 and still in good health, regarding the Emlen Tunnell bronze statue, he said, “Oh, that is wonderful. That is great!” Mr. Shaver is the shipmate whom Emlen rescued after their ship was torpedoed and the engine room exploded.

The reason I have spent so many years writing a biography on Emlen Tunnell is, unfortunately, because he has been forgotten, and I had to contact as many people who knew Emlen who were still alive, because I needed to hear from as many first-hand accounts that I could find to write the most accurate account of his life.  My hope and intention are to keep his memory alive for future generations, and I want to highlight the fact that Emlen Tunnell was both a champion on the football field and the field of life.

Amazingly, two major Emlen Tunnell legacy events have begun since I started working on his biography. The first is Sports Legends of Delaware County Museum’s, brainstorming and promoting a project to get a seven-foot bronze statue of Emlen Tunnell. The second event is the United States Coast Guard announcing that a new Sentinel-Class Fast Response Cutter, a beautiful state of the art new ship is being named in Emlen Tunnell’s honor and is scheduled to be delivered in 2021. The Emlen Tunnell, Statue Dedication Ceremony, is scheduled for Saturday, June 2 at 2:00 at the Radnor Township Municipal Building. It is expected to be crowded so parking will be off-site at 555 Lancaster Avenue and a shuttle will be provided to the Emlen Tunnell Dedication. Please come by and celebrate the memory of a beautiful local legend.

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U.S. Coast Guard

 On November 17, 2017, over seventy-six years after the United States declared war and entered into World War II, the United States Coast Guard announced that Emlen Tunnell’s legacy is not going to be forgotten, thanks to the Guard’s decision to name one of their Sentinel-class Fast Response Cutter ships (FRC) after him. The news came in Coast Guard Commandant’s communication announcing the NEW FAST RESPONSE CUTTERS NAMED FOR COAST GUARD HEROES. In 1830, the Revenue Cutter Service, the predecessor to the modern Coast Guard, launched its first standardized multi-ship class of cutters. The Morris-class was named for the first ship in the class, the USS Morris, which drew its name from Robert Morris, an American politician and signer of the Declaration of Independence. Designed with a topsail-schooner rig, the Morris had a length of 78 feet. The Morris-class cutters carried six 9-pound cannons and a crew of 24 officers and men. These thirteen ships fought pirates, interdicted smugglers, enforced federal maritime laws, and operated with American naval forces in time of war.

In the years leading up to the American Civil War, the USS Morris and her sister ships formed the backbone of the revenue cutter fleet. Following this tradition, the Coast Guard is building a class of cutters designed to serve a multi-mission role. The 154-foot Sentinel-class Fast Response Cutters (FRC) perform drug and migrant interdiction; provide a port, waterway, and coastal security; do fishery patrols; perform search and rescue, and provide national defense. In the next few years, the Coast Guard will deliver 32 additional cutters, bringing service numbers up to 58 FRCs intended to replace the fleet of 1980s-era 110-foot Island-class patrol boats. The FRCs feature advanced command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance equipment; over-the-horizon cutter boat deployment to reach vessels of interest; and improved habitability and seakeeping characteristics. Twenty-six FRCs are currently in service, with six stationed in Miami Beach, Florida; six in Key West, Florida; six in San Juan, Puerto Rico; two in Ketchikan, Alaska; two in Cape May, New Jersey; two in Pascagoula, Mississippi; and two in Honolulu, Hawaii. As with their FRC sister cutters, the next flight of 19 FRCs will bear the names of enlisted leaders, trailblazers, and heroes of the Coast Guard and its predecessor services of the U.S. Revenue Cutter Service, U.S. Lifesaving Service, and U.S. Lighthouse Service. These new cutters will be named for enlisted namesakes who were recipients of the Navy Cross Medal, Silver Star Medal, Bronze Star Medal, Gold Lifesaving Medal, Silver Lifesaving Medal, Navy & Marine Corps Medal and Purple Heart Medal, with one of these 19 FRCs named after Steward Mate Emlen Tunnell.

The Coast Guard Commandant appointed a standing board to make recommendations and review all nominations to the Commandant for final approval. The Commandant’s Naming Board utilized eight committees to work through a list of impressive Coast Guard candidates with various achievements to have a new ship christened with their name. Each committee had a diverse group of professionals on its team. The Naming Board committees located at various Coast Guard bases throughout the country working to narrow down the possible candidates were charged first with sifting through potential candidates that they then discussed, reviewed, vetted, and finally selected. No individual was considered without meeting the following criteria: (a) The actions of the individual must reflect Honor, Respect, Devotion to Duty, and must be in keeping with the highest traditions of the Coast Guard; (b) The individual must be considered a distinguished Coast Guard person or someone who had a significant influence on Coast Guard history; and (c) The individual must be deceased with sufficient time elapsed to ensure that the name would withstand the “test of time.”

When the Naming Board committee members read Emlen Tunnell’s file, they learned of his notable achievements when serving in the Coast Guard during World War II. Steward’s Mate First Class Tunnell was on board the USS Etamin when the Empire of Japan attacked it on April 27, 1944, by a torpedo which left a 27′ by 27′ diameter hole in the ship. During the attack, a shipmate, MM1c Fred Shaver, was engulfed in a fire caused by a fuel spill when the engine room that exploded. Tunnell came to the aid of his shipmate and extinguished the flames with his own hands while personally suffering burns. Tunnell’s actions saved Shaver’s life. Then on March 17, 1946, as a crew member of the Coast Guard Cutter Tampa, Tunnell rescued his shipmate StM1c Alfred Givens, who had accidentally fallen from the dock into icy, 32-degree waters. The rescue was observed by the commanding officer of the Tampa, who nominated Tunnell for the Silver Lifesaving Medal, one of the Coast Guard’s highest awards.

“This is especially noteworthy given the racial climate of this era in U.S. history,” said Peter W. Gautier, a spokesman for the Coast Guard. “African-Americans were typically not provided such recognition “The award was given to Tunnell posthumously in 2011.

After serving in battle, Tunnell played sports stateside at a Coast Guard station in San Francisco. As a member of the Coast Guard Pilots, he played football, baseball, and basketball. He also distinguished himself by serving as the team captain of the Coast Guard Pilots football team, which was made up of Coast Guardsmen serving in the San Francisco Bay area. Under Tunnell’s leadership, the team won a West Coast championship in 1944, and Tunnell became a member of the First Team of the All-West Coast Service Stars in that year.

After the Naming Board committee members read the Tunnell file in its entirety, the facts spoke – Emlen Tunnell was a terrific and honorable Coast Guardsman who deserves to be remembered.  Not only did Tunnell exhibit heroics and athletic prowess in the Coast Guard, risking his own life to save another on two occasions, in addition to being a Coast Guard sports champion, but he also became a legendary NFL player with the New York Giants and was the first black inducted in the NFL Hall of Fame. These additional distinctions helped persuade committee members to advance his name as a finalist. Another criterion Tunnell had to pass with the Naming Board Committee was for his name to show that it withstood the “test of time” after his death. Forty-three years after he passed away, the Emlen Tunnell name is golden to anyone who knew him or knew about him., although he has been forgotten for the vast majority of Americans. Accordingly, the Coast Guard’s Naming Board Committee should be applauded for choosing to honor such a worthy Coast Guardsman. 

 Coast Guard missions do not stop at the shoreline. Guardsmen provide humanitarian assistance and disaster relief ashore as well as at sea. After Emlen began playing football in the NFL and finally had spare money in his pocket, he would give to homeless people other and people who needed it, but he did not stop there. He also shared his heart with them, by sitting down and listening to friends who were on the down and out. Emlen had the rare ability to sincerely accept people for who they were, without judgment or pity whatsoever. He knew that everybody has a story to tell and he would hang out and listen, smile, laugh, and share stories of his own whenever he had the time. Like a great Coast Guardsmen, he lived a life providing humanitarian assistance and relief to those in need on land and at sea throughout his entire life.

Help the people who give service,” is something people learn about when they attend a church service of many religious denominations. Emlen practiced “being of service” daily. Besides modeling this practice, he preached this philosophy subtly to his friends: “Always give extra tips to the restaurant workers, taxi drivers, all those types of people who are working hard to make a living helping others,” he would say nonchalantly in his soft voice. Emlen was a man of his word because if he had money in his pocket, he generously shared it, and Emlen would share whatever money he had.

In 1958, an “Emlen Tunnell Day” baseball Roy “Campy” Campanella legend headed the committee Roy as honorary chairman. It was set up to present the gifts and purse that Tunnell’s friends and New York Giant fans had raised. Monte Irvine, former New York Giants baseball star, was co-chairman with Campanella on a committee that included virtually every field of endeavor. Boxing great Sugar Ray Robinson was another committee member. Stage and screen personalities, bandleaders, singers, and leaders of business and Industry participated. The New York Giants celebrated Emlen’s 11-year career with “Emlen Tunnell Day,” and at the game, he was honored, given lots of presents, and presented with a huge plague with all the New York Giants players pictures on it and a fitting tribute to Emlen engraved in the middle.

Emlen appreciated the gesture from the Mara family and the New York Giant players, but he was moved to tears when a homeless friend said hello and approached him with a brown paper bag that had money in it. “Hey Em, us homeless guys took up a collection for you,” the man said.  “We wanted to show you our thanks for being such a swell guy.”

Emlen accepted the brown bag with tears running down his face. He told his homeless friend, “You know, this is the greatest gift I ever received. Thank you and tell them I said thanks.” He recalled this scene years later, stating that it was the best gift he ever received because his homeless friends gave to him when they had almost nothing. 

Now Emlen Tunnell’s legacy will be remembered throughout the United States, and in the oceans as well wherever the new 21st cutting edge Fast Response Cutter bearing his name is needed the most. Hopefully, Emlen’s name will be remembered as a lifesaving American war hero, an NFL Hall of Fame legend, and most of all, as a loving peacemaker who treasured people and had friendships all over the world. After the U.S. Coast Guard christens the EMLEN TUNNELL, future generations will discuss him, students will study his life and achievements, and more books will be written about him, fostering his legacy even more. The EMLEN TUNNELL Coast Guard ship will keep his memory alive as a Coast Guardsman who lived a life of Honor, Respect, and Devotion to Duty. Emlen Tunnell was an American Patriot, a distinguished Coast Guardsman and a fearless lifesaver, a trailblazing pioneer who helped break the color barrier in the NFL, and went on to have a legendary NFL career, topped off by being the first African-American to be inducted in the Hall of Fame. Even better, he was considered a “beautiful human being” by most of his friends.

It is also fitting that Emlen’s legacy will be remembered in a mobile vehicle since throughout his life he was usually on the move. He moved swiftly and with precision on the football field, but \off the playing fields, he was always in motion. While he was an NFL scout and assistant coach, it has been estimated that Emlen traveled over 80,000 miles in a single year, going from game to game, college to college, over and over again all across the United States. To accomplish this, was adaptive and resourceful because, incredibly, he suffered from a fear of driving since he was young, and he never obtained a driver’s license his entire life. He would coordinate his travel plans by leafing through his little book that had the hundreds of names of all his friends, and once he made his calls, he was “always ready” to make something happen.

Emlen was “always ready for action whenever and from wherever it comes.” The Coast Guard motto Semper Paratus means, “always ready.”

Emlen’s niece, Catherine, is extremely honored to have a ship named after her beloved uncle, Em. On the night, she was born at home, Emlen had to carry his pregnant sister Goodie up a staircase to her bed because she started contracting and her water sac broke. He ran across the street to notify the midwife and a couple of helpful neighbors. It was just another lifesaving venture for Emlen Tunnell because he was “always ready” to help out: Semper Paratus.

An idea born out of frustration that their great local hero Emlen Tunnell was a forgotten legend was the impetus that inspired the idea of commissioning a life-size bronze statue. Sports Legends director Jim Vankowski, Phil Damiani vice-president, and board member Rich Pagano have been a driving force in helping the Emlen Project raise a goal of $75,000 to cover the cost of creating the 7’ statue of the Coast Guard and NFL star. They helped commission an accomplished sculptor, Jennifer Frudakis-Petry, who has experience sculpting greater than life-size bronze statues, and these three men actively contacted those who knew Emlen to see if they could help donate to the project. Fortunately, they received an overwhelming response from almost everyone who was contacted. Emlen’s boyhood community has been another driving force with their support.

Tammy Cohen, director of recreation and community programming for Radnor Township, said the statue project would be “good for the community.” Emlen Tunnell was “a resident who was an icon. He’s not a household name; however, Tunnell’s a symbol of our freedom,” Cohen said. Perhaps, Tunnell is less well-known than he deserves because he died young at 50, she said. “Our goal is to bring recognition to him. He deserves the national recognition of being a household name, just like Jackie Robinson or Bill Russell. He should be more revered than he is. It’s an exciting project for the Sports Museum, and Radnor is happy to be a part of it.”

When MM1c Fred Shaver was informed that a Coast Guard FRC was going to be named in Emlen Tunnell’s honor, who rescued him on the USS Etamin, he exclaimed, “Oh, that is wonderful. That is wonderful. You know that is great news.” Then Shaver paused for a couple of seconds, choking up, and added, “I am so thankful to the U.S. Coast Guard.”  

The Fast Response Cutter to be named for Emlen Tunnell is anticipated to be delivered by the shipbuilder to the Coast Guard in the second half of 2021 and commissioned into service before the end of 2021, said Peter W. Gautier, a spokesman for the Coast Guard. Between delivery and commissioning, the crew will conduct training and prepare the cutter for operations. It will be the 45th of 58 cutters to be acquired by the Coast Guard, a fitting tribute to Emlen Tunnell’s jersey number 45 that he wore when he played with the New York Giants. The Coast Guard provides our nation with the ability to perform its missions with versatile, highly adaptive, multi-mission strategies. Fittingly, Emlen Tunnell, as a New York Giant, was of great value for the team because of his versatile, highly adaptive, multi-mission strategic style of play on the football field. While being a star player for the University of Iowa football team, he was known as “Emlen the Gremlin,” because he often surprised fans with his game-changing interceptions This ability also delighted New York Giant fans. The Gremlin was recognized as an offense on defense and was an Emathletic acrobatic entertainer. Fans would stand up and watch whenever he was about to receive a kickoff or punt return because he often created anxious and thrilling anticipation of wonder on the football run back. He delighted crowds with his ability to evade defenders racing and gunning to run him down as he maneuvered around players in an artistic, strategic dance that unfolded magically, and the entire stadium would erupt with screams of joy. 

Because of the Coast Guard naming a ship after Emlen Tunnell in 2021, future generations will learn about his life. The Emlen Tunnell ship news is a gift that brought tears to the eyes of Emlen’s family and friends who are as thankful to the United States Coast Guard as Emlen was when he received the precious gesture-filled gift from his homeless friends. Helping people know about Emlen Tunnell will help keep his memory and legacy alive, and his family, friends, and the people of his Garrett Hill neighborhood in Radnor Township are deeply appreciative to the United States Coast Guard. Just as the United States Coast Guard has saved so many, it now rescues the memory of the remarkable and beautiful loving human being known as Emlen Tunnell.

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