First American Indian to Be Admitted to University of North Carolina Receives Posthumous Athletic Honor
Lenoir-Rhyne University in Hickory, North Carolina will add five members to its Sports Hall Of Fame, including the late Henry Owl, Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. The Hall of Fame induction ceremony will be part of Lenoir-Rhyne’s Homecoming Weekend and will take place in the P.E. Monroe Auditorium on campus at 11:15 a.m., on Saturday, October 13, 2012. Owl and the others will also be honored at halftime of Lenoir-Rhyne’s football game with Tusculum, which begins at 2:00 p.m., at Moretz Stadium.
Henry Owl, class of 1928, was the first Cherokee to graduate from a North Carolina college and the first-ever Native American to be admitted to Lenoir-Rhyne and represent the school in athletics. An outstanding all-around athlete, Owl played three years on both the football (1925-27) and baseball (1926-28) squads and still holds the record for longest fumble return for a touchdown (1927 vs. Milligan). Owl was also the first American Indian to be admitted to the University of North Carolina in 1928 and earned his master’s degree in history in 1929 from UNC. Owl testified before the United States Senate advocating for American Indian voting rights and was instrumental in the passage of a law granting citizenship rights to members of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians, the last Indian tribe in the country to be guaranteed the right to vote. Owl, who passed away in 1980, was an educator and coach for the Bureau of Indian Affairs and worked for Boeing Aeronautical in Seattle, Washington.