James Simrall
Date of birth: (1909-11-16)November 16, 1909
Place of birth: Lexington, Kentucky
Date of death: September 8, 1982(1982-09-08) (aged 72)
Place of death: Lexington, Kentucky
Career information
Position(s): Halfback, quarterback
College: Michigan
Career highlights and awards
Honors: Michigan Wolverines Most Valuable Player, 1929

James Orlando Harrison Simrall, Jr.[1] (November 16, 1909 – September 8, 1982) was an American football player and medical doctor. A native of Lexington, Kentucky, Simrall enrolled at the University of Michigan where he played quarterback and halfback for the Michigan Wolverines football teams from 1928 to 1930. He was selected as the Most Valuable Player on the 1929 team and the captain of the 1930 team. He later attended Harvard Medical School, served as an instructor in obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Michigan, and later became a medical doctor in Lexington, Kentucky.

Early years[edit | edit source]

Simrall was born in Lexington, Kentucky, in November 1909. His father, James O. Harrison Simrall, Sr. (1877–1934), was a Kentucky native who worked as the secretary of the city school board, personnel director and business manager of the public schools, and also operated an insurance agency under the name, J. O. H. Insurance Agency.[2][3][4] His mother, Kitty C. (Chenault) Simrall, was also a Kentucky native. At the time of the 1910 United States Census, Simrall was living in Lexington with his parents and an older sister, Florence D. Simrall.[2] At the time of the 1930 United States Census, his family continued to reside in Lexington, and he also had a younger sister, Kitty C. Simrall.[4] In high school, Simrall played football and basketball and competed in track.[5]

University of Michigan[edit | edit source]

Simrall enrolled at the University of Michigan in 1927. He played on the freshman football team in 1927.[6] As a sophomore in 1928, he started five games at the halfback position for the Michigan team coached by Tad Wieman.[7] Prior to the 1929 season, expectations were high for Simrall. A profile of the Michigan football team in the International News Service (predecessor to the UPI) noted:

The big 'if' is a youngster named Harrison Simrall of Lexington, Ky., who is looked upon as the man due to lead the maize and blue cohorts into the promised land. In practice -- at least the one we saw -- he looks like the answer to the coaches' prayer. He can kick, forward pass and direct play in a manner that leaves little to be desired, and the experience gained last season seems to have ironed out the rough edges of his style.[8]

Following spring practice in 1929, the Detroit Free Press reported that Simrall was "head and shoulders above all other football candidates at Michigan."[9] Simrall started eight games as quarterback in 1929 and another as halfback in Harry Kipke's first season as Michigan's head football coach.[10] He also handled punting for the 1929 team and set an "iron man" record by playing in 488 minutes during the 1929 season.[11] At the end of the 1929 season, Simrall was elected by his teammates as both the Most Valuable Player on the 1929 team and captain of the 1930 team.[12][13][14] The International News Service wrote at the time: "James O. Simrall of Lexington, Ky., is to lead the University of Michigan football team next year. He was elected yesterday to the captaincy. Only 19 years old and weighing 160 pounds, Simrall has played a brilliant game in Michigan's backfield for the last two years."[15] A syndicated newspaper profile on Simrall reported that "Ducky" Simrall was the youngest Michigan captain in many years and added:

Simrall has established a reputation of 'taking the gaff' at Michigan that has been equaled by few men of his size. Although he weighs but 162 pounds the Wolverines has had time taken out for him but once in two seasons, established a record for minutes played. He participated in every minute during the last seven games with Michigan State, Purdue, Ohio State, Illinois, Harvard, Minnesota and Iowa as opponents.[16][17]

Another newspaper called him a "genial, quiet blonde ... well liked by all" and praised his work as a safety man: "Defensively Simrall is almost beyond reproach -- a deadly tackler and a good analyst of plays."[5]

For the 1930 season, Harry Newman took over the quarterback position, and Simrall started eight games at the halfback position. Newman and Simrall led the 1930 Wolverines to an undefeated season and a tie for the Big Ten Conference championship.[18] In a 13–0 victory over Ohio State, Newman completed a pass to Simrall from Michigan's 46-yard line with a minute remaining in the game. Simrall took the ball to the one-yard line to set up the first score of the game.[19] In the final game of the 1930 season, and Simrall's last appearance for Michigan, he threw a touchdown pass to Roy Hudson from midfield for Michigan's first points against the Chicago Maroons.[20] At the end of the 1930 season, Coach Kipke told the press that he considered Simrall to be the most valuable player and the key to the success of the 1930 team.[21]

While at Michigan, Simrall was also a member of the Phi Delta Theta fraternity.[22][23] In February 1931, Simrall received national publicity when he was one of 70 University of Michigan students arrested in "rum raids" at five leading fraternities on the campus.[24][25][26]

Medical career and later years[edit | edit source]

After graduating from Michigan, Simrall attended Harvard Medical School.[27] He returned to the University of Michigan in 1935 to perform his residency at the University Hospital. He was also a teaching assistant in pathology.[28][29] By 1940, he was an instructor in obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Michigan.[30] He co-authored a paper in 1940 entitled, "The Effects of Vaginal Mucosa of the Sponge and Foam Powder Method Used in Contraception," which was published by the Planned Parenthood Federation of America in the journal, "Human Fertility."[31]

He later relocated to Louisville, Kentucky, where he established a medical practice. He was married to Irene Simrall. In 1949, he maintained his office at 332 W. Broadway in Louisville and lived at 316 Stilz Avenue in Louisville.[32] Simrall died at Louisville in 1982 at age 72.[33] In March 1931, Simrall was voted as the class athlete and the most popular man in the University of Michigan's Class of 1931.[34]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. In the 1910 and 1920 Censuses, Simrall and his father were identified by the first name Harrison. At the time of the 1930 Census, James was listed as the first name. Simrall was identified in the Michiganensian yearbook at the University of Michigan variously as James O. H. Simrall, J. O. H. Simrall, James O. Simrall, and J. Harrison Simrall.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Census entry for Harrison Simarall and family. Ancestry.com. 1910 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Census Place: Lexington Ward 4, Fayette, Kentucky; Roll: T624_474; Page: 7A; Enumeration District: 0026; Image: 504; FHL Number: 1374487.
  3. Census entry for Harrison Simarall and family. Ancestry.com. 1920 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Census Place: Lexington Ward 2, Fayette, Kentucky; Roll: T625_568; Page: 13A; Enumeration District: 54; Image: 830.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Census entry for James O.H. Simrall and family. Ancestry.com. 1930 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Census Place: Lexington, Fayette, Kentucky; Roll: 743; Page: 20A; Enumeration District: 5; Image: 181.0.
  5. 5.0 5.1 ""Ducky" Simrall Named Captain: Wolverine Punter and Safety Man Honored By Michigan Team; IS Youngest Man Ever Elected; New Pilot Has Proven One of the Most Valuable Men on the Team". Telegraph-Herald and Times-Journal, Dubuque, Iowa. November 29, 1929. https://news.google.com/newspapers?id=VZ1FAAAAIBAJ&sjid=C70MAAAAIBAJ&pg=3845,7044595&dq=simrall&hl=en.
  6. 1928 Michiganensian, p. 202.
  7. "1928 Football Team". University of Michigan, Bentley Historical Library. http://bentley.umich.edu/athdept/football/fbteam/1928fbt.htm.
  8. "Michigan Seems To Be "If" Team: Simrall, Kentuckian, Looms As New Triple Threat In Big Ten". Telegraph-Herald and Times-Journal, Dubuque, Iowa (INS story). September 29, 1929. https://news.google.com/newspapers?id=sotFAAAAIBAJ&sjid=8bwMAAAAIBAJ&pg=3883,5009795&dq=harrison+simrall+harvard+medical&hl=en.
  9. "Simrall Head and Shoulders Above All Other Football Candidates at Michigan". Detroit Free Press: p. 16. March 21, 1929. https://freep.newspapers.com/clip/3675995/simrall_head_and_shulders/.
  10. "1929 Football Team". University of Michigan, Bentley Historical Library. http://bentley.umich.edu/athdept/football/fbteam/1929fbt.htm.
  11. "Simrall Is Captain". Ironwood Daily Globe. November 27, 1929.
  12. "Simrall Named Michigan Grid Captain". Detroit Free Press: p. 19. November 27, 1929. https://freep.newspapers.com/clip/3675912/simrall_named_michigan_grid_captain/.
  13. "Simrall Named Michigan Grid Captain, part 2". Detroit Free Press: p. 21. November 27, 1929. https://freep.newspapers.com/clip/3675933/youthful_back_is_made_pilot/.
  14. "James Simrall Will Captain Michigan". Oakland Tribune, Oakland, California (AP story). November 27, 1929.
  15. "Football Briefs". Lima News. November 27, 1929.
  16. "Michigan Captain Young But Plucky". Sheboygan Press. December 16, 1929.
  17. "New Wolverine Leader Rugged Despite Size, Age". Dunkirk Evening Observer, Dunkirk, NY. December 9, 1929.
  18. "1930 Football Team". University of Michigan, Bentley Historical Library. http://bentley.umich.edu/athdept/football/fbteam/1930fbt.htm.
  19. "Ohio State Is Given Beating: Michigan Scores 13-to-0 in Over Grid Foes". Los Angeles Times. October 19, 1930.
  20. "Chicago Loses To Wolverines: Staggmen Show Strength But Finally Bow to Michigan, 16-0". The Pittsburgh Press. November 23, 1930. https://news.google.com/newspapers?id=fb8aAAAAIBAJ&sjid=QksEAAAAIBAJ&pg=5632,6478397&dq=simrall&hl=en.
  21. "Kipke Terms Simrall Most Valuable Player". Ludington Daily News. 1930-12-12. https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=110&dat=19301212&id=ITYJAAAAIBAJ&sjid=hDsDAAAAIBAJ&pg=3067,3650671.
  22. 1928 Michiganensian, p. 345.
  23. 1931 Michiganensian, p. 191.
  24. "Seventy Ann Arbor Students Nabbed in Rum Raids". Hamilton Evening Journal, Hamilton, Ohio. February 11, 1931.
  25. "Arrest 79 Students In Rum Raids: Police Seize Quantity of Whiskey and Beer at Fraternity Houses; James O. H. Simrall, Jr., Captain of 1930 Football Team Among Those Booked a Headquarters Following Roundup at Michigan University". The Kokomo Dispatch. February 11, 1931.
  26. "FRATERNITY HOUSES RAIDED AT MICHIGAN; Ann Arbor Police Seize 84 Students in Bed and Large Quantities of Liquor; FIVE SOCIETIES INVOLVED Students Face Penalties In Court and Disciplinary Action by the University Authorities; Raids Timed Ahead of Dance". The New York Times. February 12, 1931. https://www.nytimes.com/1931/02/12/archives/fraternity-houses-raided-at-michigan-ann-arbor-police-seize-84.html.
  27. The Michigan Alumnus, vol. 41, 1935, p. 382.
  28. 1941 Polk's Ann Arbor City Directory, p. 316. The directory lists J. O. Harrison Simrall and his wife Irene living at 812 McKinley Avenue in Ann Arbor.
  29. Annual Announcement, University of Michigan Homeopathic Medical School, 1933, p. 16.
  30. University of Michigan official publication, Volume 42, 1940, p. 118 ("James Orlando Harrison Simrall, A.B., M.D., Instructor in Obstetrics and Gynecology.")
  31. Harrison Simrall and Earl Hall (1940). Human Fertility, vols. 5-6. p. 39.
  32. Caron's Louisville City Directory, 1949, p. 859.
  33. Ancestry.com. Kentucky Death Index, 1911-2000 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2000. Original data: Commonwealth of Kentucky, Health Data Branch, Division of Epidemiology and Health Planning. Kentucky Death Index, 1911-present. Frankfort, KY, USA: Kentucky Department of Information Systems.
  34. "Mich. Seniors 'Honored' By Classmates: Esteem and Interest Shown in Annual Mock Elections". The News-Palladium, Benton Harbor, Michigan (AP story). March 27, 1931.
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