From Ohio History Central
Charles Follis and the Wooster High School Football Team Photograph. Courtesy of Wayne County Public Library
Charles W. Follis was the first African American to receive pay as a professional football player. He was born on February 3, 1879, in Cloverdale, Virginia. In 1901, he enrolled at the College of Wooster. Follis played football for a local amateur club, and in 1902, he began playing football for the Shelby Blues, a professional team in Shelby, Ohio. It is unclear if Follis received pay during the 1902 and 1903 seasons, but he clearly signed a contract for the 1904 season. He remained with the Shelby Blues through the 1906 season.
Charles Follis went on to a brief successful career as a professional baseball player. He died of pneumonia on April 5, 1910. He was thirty-one years old.