Cumberland Willis Posey Jr.
5’9”, 140 lbs.
Batted and threw righthanded
Cum Posey was born on June 20, 1890 in Homestead, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Pittsburgh in Allegheny County. At the time of his birth the area was known as Harding Station.
Cumberland Sr., born in August 1858 in Maryland (died June 1925)
Angelina (Anna) S., born in November 1862 in Ohio
Beatrice, born in April 1884 in Pennsylvania
Seward (See) Hayes, born in October 1887 in Pennsylvania
The Posey family was among the richest black families in western Pennsylvania. All family members were also very light-skinned.
Angelina died in 1917. Cum Sr. married Bessie D. Page, the widow of William nelson Page, in 1919. She brought a son into the marriage, William Clyde.
Cumberland and Angelina were married circa 1883.
Cumberland Sr. was born in Charles County, Maryland (near Post Tobacco) to born slaves Alexander (born circa 1816) and Margaret (born circa 1817), nee Willis, Posey. His parents moved to Winchester, Virginia, near D.C., after receiving their freedom after the Civil War. Alexander became a local preacher.
As a young man, Cumberland Sr. drifted to western Pennsylvania and took a job as a deck sweeper on a ferry which ran up and down the Ohio and Little Kanawha Rivers. He eventually studied the mechanics of the ship’s engines; it led him to become a riverboat pilot and engineer on the Ohio, the first black man licensed as such.
He eventually moved to Harding Station and began constructing barges, becoming the proprietor of a large fleet via the Posey Steamboat Company. He expanded his financial portfolio by investing in various coal and coal-related companies and was one of the original investors in the Pittsburgh Courier. Eventually, Cumberland Sr. became general manager of the Delta Coal Company and later owned the Preston Coal Company and the Diamond Coal and Coke Company. The latter became the largest black-owned business in Pittsburgh. He also invested in banking and real estate ventures.
Cum Sr. became a leading member of the black community in Pittsburgh. He served as president of the Pittsburgh Courier and a like position with the prestigious Loendi Social and Literary Club, an exclusive all-black Pittsburgh-based club and the Warren Methodist Episcopal Church.
Anna, nee Stevens, was the daughter of an Ohio Civil War veteran. She became the first African-American to graduate from Ohio State University and was the first to teach there as well. She was also an artist who decorated her family’s walls with her paintings.
See Posey, about three years older than Cum, was an organizer with the Monticello basketball team; he also played with the squad for years. In baseball he also worked as a business manager, traveling secretary and booking agent for the Homestead Grays. After Rufus Jackson’s death, See took over control of the club. He was associated with the Grays through much of the period 1920-1951. For a time, See was also a booking agent for Gus Greenlee’s Pittsburgh Crawfords.
Posey attended local schools. Like many in western Pennsylvania, he played sandlot football, basketball and baseball.
In 1909 Posey went to Pennsylvania State University to study chemistry and pharmacy. He spent two years there but his grades tanked due to lack of attention. Basketball dominated his thought while at Penn State, as he was recognized as one of the best players in the country. In 1913 (school year 1912-13) he briefly attended the University of Pittsburgh and in 1915 enrolled at Holy Ghost College, now known as Duquesne University. Each college Posey attended was a white school.
Posey played for a local amateur football club called the Collins Tigers as a fullback as a teenager. In 1923 he formed and coached the Homestead Grays football team; it played against local clubs. Posey may have taken the field for the team as it was thought before the season that he would act as quarterback (didn’t find any actual playing references though).
Posey, an extremely quick guard (and a right forward), was one of the top black basketball players of his time. He was one of only a couple black players who played prior to 1915 that achieved lasting fame. There has been talk in recent years, especially after the spotlight placed on the man with his induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2006, of reviewing Posey’s career for induction into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.
Posey copied the style of a local white player named Harry Hough, who was similarly a small (5’8”), agile and quick athlete. Posey believed him to be the greatest of all basketball players. Many today still view him as the best of the first decade of the twentieth century. Hough was the head coach at Pitt, 1907-08, and Princeton, 1911-12.
In high school Posey gained a great deal of attention for his basketball skills. He also started coaching such. He led Homestead High to the city championship in 1908.
At Penn State Posey played basketball for two seasons beginning in 1909(he did not play basketball at Pitt). He made the varsity squad as a sophomore. In 1909 as well Posey with his brother See and some friends helped organize the Monticello Athletic Association (also known as the Monticello-Delany Rifles) basketball club which played in and around Homestead. The club’s name stemmed from a street where a couple members lived. The club gained a name for itself outside Homestead when it defeated Howard University in 1911.
They won the colored basketball world championship in 1912. In 1913 the club changed its name to the Loendi Big Five in recognition of its sponsor, the Loendi Social and Literary Club. By this time, it was a professional squad. Posey was the star player and operator (which included managing, booking and promoting) of the club; it played through 1925. Loendi won the Colored Basketball World Championship four years in a row from 1920-23.
Posey also played basketball at Holy Ghost in 1915, leading the team in scoring. He performed under the name Charles W. Cumbert to preserve his athletic eligibility. He was also captain of the golf team at Holy Ghost.
Posey retired from basketball in 1925 to concentrate on baseball; he did however form a Grays basketball squad in 1927. It defeated the New York Celtics, a club that would win the ABL championship in 1928.
FAMILY AND PROFESSIONAL CAREER
Besides his responsibilities with his baseball and basketball teams, Posey worked full-time (from about 1916-20) in a U.S. government position for the Railway Mail Service at Penn Station. Posey quit the mail job in 1920 to devote himself to basketball and baseball.
Posey served as athletic director for Homestead High. Through his Homestead Grays Athletic Club, Posey sponsored baseball, football, basketball and boxing events.
Posey was a member of the Homestead Board of Education from 1931 until his death. Ethel completed her husband’s term after his death.
Posey wrote column for the Pittsburgh Courier, his father’s paper. The column was called “Pointed Paragraphs” from December 1931 to April 1936 and “Posey’s Points” from May 1936 until June 1945. He also contributed numerous other articles stemming as far back as his early basketball career.
Posey married Ethel Truman, a Pennsylvania-native, in 1913.
Ethel T., born circa 1893
Ethel A., born circa 1914 (married Ray Brown)
Mary E., born circa 1915 (married a man named Palmer)
Anna S., born circa 1917 (died between 1930 and '46)
Beatrice, born circa 1922
Some references cite the Poseys as having five daughters. If so the fifth wasn’t born before 1930 and she didn’t survive to see her father’s death in 1946.
Grays’ player Ray Brown married Posey’s daughter Ethel at a home plate ceremony on July 4, 1935.
Pictures of See, Cum, Ethel (mother), Mary and Ann Posey and of Rufus Jackson can be found here:http://books.google.com/books?id=8Ep...posey#PPA72,M1
The Homestead Grays originally formed in 1900 as the Blue Ribbons when a group a teenagers, some of whom worked in local factories and mills, decided to organized to play local white clubs and other company-based clubs. They played primarily on the weekends. The name changed to the Murdock Grays in 1910. The club eventually became semi-pro. At times the Grays were an integrated squad. Future white pros Ziggy Walsh and Johnny Pearson played for the team.
In 1912 the club was renamed the Homestead Grays. Posey joined the club in 1911. His quickness made him a natural centerfielder. He became captain in 1916.
In 1917 Posey became the field manager of the Grays. Stemming from his experience with his basketball club, he started booking contests for the Grays’ by 1918; he was also named secretary. In 1920 Posey and local businessman Charlie Walker, a former Grays’ batboy, purchased the club. At this point Posey quit his postal job to focus on his two sports teams.
The club continued as a semi-pro one until 1922 when they were forced to rework the salary structure with the influx of Dizzy Dismukes’ Pittsburgh Keystones. The Keystones proved to be the Grays first real competition in Homestead. Dismuke paid his men as professionals, so Posey approached Grays’ president Charlie Walker about doing the same. As one of the Grays’ players would describe their relationship during the 1920s – Walker was the money behind the club and Posey was the brains of the outfit.
The Grays were quickly converted to a professional club with the influx of Oscar Owens, Bobby Williams and Sam Skeeter. In 1922 Posey also secured for the first time use of Forbes Field.
Over the winter of 1922-23, the Eastern Colored League was formed. It was east coast’s answer to the predominantly Midwestern Negro National league formed by Rube Foster in 1920. Posey and Walker chose not to participate in the ECL because it would seriously distract from their lucrative barnstorming schedule. Posey claimed that he spent much of the 1920s being courted by the NNL and ECL to join their ranks. The Grays, located in Pittsburgh, were hotly contested because geographically they fell in between the two leagues.
By the mid 1920s, the Grays were regularly defeating opponents which included clubs from black pro leagues, white semi-pro and professional outfits, Ohio-Pennsylvania League clubs and post season barnstorming clubs which at times contained major leaguers. Posey would rightfully beef up his lineup against clubs which contained major leaguers. The Grays would attracted clubs from outside their traditional base for games at Forbes Field.
The Grays were dominating opponents by 1926, posting a 140-13 record, at one point winning 43 consecutive contests. They won 31 straight in 1927.
The Grays did join the American Negro League (replacement of the failed ECL formed by Ed Bolden) during its only year in existence in 1929. Posey also made his last active appearance that year. On June 25, 1929 Posey ran one of the club’s new Buicks off the road in Lewsitown, Pennsylvania while the club was en route to Atlantic City. Walter Cannady, Oscar Owens and Graham all sustained broken bones.
The club soon then grew exponentially in stature, signing such elites as Oscar Charleston, Josh Gibson and Judy Johnson. Posey capitalized on the unsteady atmosphere at the folding of the ANL to sign Johnson. In 1930 See Posey was able to lure Gibson from the Pittsburgh Crawfords.
The 1931 Grays are often identified as the top black team of all-time, notching a 163-23 record. In 1932 Posey founded and the Grays joined the East-West League in 1932, another one-season venture (which collapsed in June that year). The EWL was the first league to merge the eastern and western clubs. When the league failed, he began a tirade against eastern booking agents, blaming them for the downfall.
Posey took a hard stance against the Pittsburgh Crawfords in relation to his EWL. Posey naturally wanted the Grays to dominate the Pittsburgh area, but the Crawfords were verged to develop a stronghold. If the Crawfords wanted to join the EWL, Posey insisted on – 1) A five-year contract that allowed Posey to control the Crawfords’ local schedule and their roster, and 2) That See Posey be named the Crawfords manager. Rightfully, Gus Greenless rejected the ridiculous terms. The tables would be turned the following year as Greenlee spearheaded the new Negro National League, a league which actually survived past the initial season.
At this point the Grays were in a precarious financial plight. The cross town rival Pittsbugh Crawfords were thus able to lure some of the club’s top talent including Charleston, Gibson and Johnson. In 1934 Posey brought Rufus ‘Sonny Man’ Jackson (born in Columbus, Georgia in 1900), the reputed king of the numbers racket in Homestead. Jackson also owned and leased many of the area’s jukeboxes. Jackson served as the club’s president and treasurer, but Posey ran the day-to-day operation.
With Jackson aboard the Grays joined the NNL in 1934, a league that was rife with gambling-based capital. In 1935 Posey permanently relinquished his field manager responsibilities to Vic Harris after luring him back from the Pittsburgh Crawfords. In 1937 Posey was named secretary of the Negro National League.
The Grays remained in the NNL through 1948, becoming the premier club in the game. They were able to regain Josh Gibson, who teamed with Buck Leonard to solidify the lineup. They won nine consecutive pennants from 1937-45. This clearly marks the leading dynasty in the black pro leagues.
Posy died at the start of the 1946 season, leaving half the club to his widow. Jackson then ran the club. The club also copped the pennant in 1948. In 1940 the club moved into Griffith Stadium in D.C.
After the 1948 season the Grays once again became an independent club. Jackson died on March 6, 1949 from complications after a brain tumor operation. Ethel Posey and Helen Jackson took over administration of the club for a short time. It was then turned over to See Posey. See disbanded the club on May 22, 1951, citing “financial setbacks and the egress of the best Negro talent into organized baseball” as the reason.
Posey died at Mercy Hospital from lung cancer on March 28, 1946 at age 55. He had suffered from the disease for over a year. Posey was confined to a hospital bed for the last three weeks of his life. He was buried at Homestead Cemetery on April 1.
A great deal of biographical information was attained from the work of Rob Ruck and from African-American Business Leaders by John N. Ingham and Lynne B. Feldman. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1994.