Jack Lummus: WWII hero, athlete, Baylor Bear
A Baylor student-athlete turned Marine, Jack Lummus made the ultimate sacrifice on this date in 1945 after leading a daring charge into enemy fire on the island of Iwo Jima. His short but remarkable life saw him rise from humble beginnings to attend Baylor, play in the NFL and give his life for his country, posthumously receiving our nation’s highest military honor.
Before joining the military and fighting in World War II, Lummus made his mark on the Baylor campus as a stellar athlete — but even that almost didn’t happen. In the midst of the Great Depression, Lummus dropped out of high school to help support his family when their cotton farm in Ennis (70 miles north of Waco) struggled. But he eventually returned to finish high school and earn an athletic scholarship to Baylor, where he distinguished himself as a versatile athlete. Lummus played football, baseball and basketball for the Bears, earning recognition as both an All-Southwest Conference defensive end and as a three-time All-SWC center fielder.
After his time at Baylor, he played both minor league baseball and then professional football, signing with the NFL’s New York Giants in 1941. He played in nine games as a rookie, but that year would prove to be his last. On Dec. 7, after a game against the Brooklyn Football Dodgers, Lummus and his teammates learned of the attack on Pearl Harbor. Just over a month later, Lummus enlisted in the Marine Corps, where he eventually rose to the level of First Lieutenant.
On March 8, 1945, First Lt. Jack Lummus led his rifle platoon in a daring charge on Japanese fortifications on the island of Iwo Jima. He ignored grenade blasts and a shoulder injury to lead his platoon into enemy fire, but was mortally injured by a land mine. Despite suffering gruesome injuries, he continued to exhort his men to keep going in a victorious day for the Marines. Lummus succumbed to his injuries later that day and was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. His citation proclaimed his “outstanding valor, skilled tactics and tenacious perseverance in the face of overwhelming odds … He gallantly gave his life in service of his country.”
Lummus and fellow Bear John “Killer” Kane, BA ’28, are believed to be the only pair of athletes at any university in the nation to have been awarded the Medal of Honor. Lummus, Kane and former Air Force Chief of Chaplains Robert Taylor are honored on Founders Mall in Baylor’s Ring of Honor, and Lummus and Kane were honored with statues outside McLane Stadium in 2020.
Sic ’em, First Lieutenant Lummus!
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* Texas school district names new campus for Baylor WWII hero (Jan. 2009)