Radnor’s Emlen Tunnell, a Football Legend, Has an Even Bigger Story

Emlen Lewis Tunnell
Image via CBS News
Emlen Lewis Tunnell

New York Giants’ all-time great Emlen Lewis Tunnell, a Radnor High School graduate, became the first African-American to play for the football Giants in 1948.

That should be enough for any one man, but Tunnell’s story goes much deeper, writes Otis Livingston for CBS News.

During World War II, Tunnell was in the Coast Guard, the only branch of the military that would accept him.

He saved the life of a man who went overboard, jumping into frigid waters after him.

Then, another time, when his ship was torpedoed and on fire, Tunnell ran into the flames, picked up a man named Fred Shavers who was on fire, put out the flames and saved his life.

He never spoke about it, said Phil Damiani, curator of the Sports Legends of Delaware County museum.

Tunnell was posthumously awarded the silver LIfesaviing Medal in 2011 and in 2017, a Coast Guard cutter was commissioned as the USCGC Emlen Tunnell.

Tunnell died at age 51 of a heart attack. Forty-three years after his death, a statue of Tunnell was proudly unveiled at the Sports Legends of Delaware County Museum in his hometown of Radnor.

Read more about Emlen Lewis Tunnell at CBS News.

Here’s a tribute to Emlen Tunnell by Radnor Township.

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