James McCrary

1985 Greater Flint Afro-American Hall of Fame Inductee


Wife: Juanita S. Stafford
Daughter: Edna

James McCrary, better known as “Big Jim” McCrary, was a hard taskmaster with a no-nonsense approach to both sports and life. He, nevertheless, did possess a fine sense of humor.

While at Flint Northern (Eskimos) he played football on the1929-30 teams and played baseball one year, leading his team in hits and batting with a .611 average. He was a bone crushing fullback despite his size of 170 pounds. McCrary was on the first undefeated State Championship football team at Flint Northern in 1930.

He was the first black at Northern to make the All-State team in 1930. “Big Jim” was one of the most consistent ground gainers in the state, piling up 400 yards from scrimmage in nine games. He had a knack for keeping his feet when hit by one tackler and carrying him for extra yards. When the City football team was selected, Northern claimed seven positions which included Jim McCrary at fullback.

On the baseball team he was a catcher. He proved to be very mobile behind the plate defensively and was one of the heaviest hitters on the team. After graduation he carried his talents to college at Michigan State, at that time known as the “Cow College,” because it was an agricultural school.

When he went to Michigan State he was dissuaded from playing baseball, (it is believed that no black had ever played on the baseball team) so he concentrated on football.

He was acclaimed as one of outstanding “colored” athletes ever produced in a Flint High school. He was called by coaches of the opposing team: “That bone crushing, flashy bronzed fullback of Michigan State.” Old timers at Carnegie Tech still talk about the splendid offensive and defensive play of Jim McCrary. A quote from one of the coaches to a sports writer was: “When opponents admit you’re good and you are a Negro, you’re usually very good.” Many such remarks followed throughout his career. As a football player he also kicked off, kicked field goals and extra points. Jim’s football career was cut short after a severe injury while at Michigan State.

After graduating from Michigan State in 1935 McCrary turned to coaching. He assisted in an unofficial capacity, coaching two years under Coach Charley Bauchman at Michigan State and also under Frank Leahy. From that experience he landed coaching jobs as head coach at Arkansas A&M and Wilburforce University of Ohio, where he coached for five years. He was assistant to Will Robinson in the mid-forties at Miller High School of Detroit. He taught at Arkansas A&M, and for several years at Moore School for Boys in Detroit, where he was also the band director. McCrary retired in 1973. In November of 1974 he was honored when the Michigan House of Representatives adopted a resolution of tribute to him because of his many humanitarian achievements. McCrary died in October, 1975.