For more than a century, Omaha was a deeply segregated place. Jim Crow was found throughout the culture of the city, including amateur and semiprofessional sports. One of the many instances of African Americans rallying against white supremacy took the form of a short-lived, self-organized organization for Black athletes to compete against white people. This is a history of the Red Dot Athletic Club, a North Omaha sports association for Black youth and Black adults in North Omaha from 1924 to 1926.
Without a grandiose announcement or anything, the first mention of the Red Dot Club in the Omaha World-Herald came in November 1924. That month the Red Dot Athletic Club won the “colored football championship” against the Jewell Indians. Their 28 to 0 win was captained by a quarterback Martin Thomas (1903-1963). The Red Dot “Cubs” basketball team was started that year too, and sought games against teams “averaging 125 pounds” per player.
Also called Marty Thomas or Mart Thomas, Martin was apparently the organizer of the Red Dot Athletic Club. A football star at Central High School, his address and phone number regularly placed newspaper articles about the teams fielded by the club. His address was 2630 Patrick Avenue, and his phone number was Webster 4646. Later in the 1920s, Martin was a football star at Omaha University.
Appearing again in the paper the next month, the Red Dots won against the North Omaha Wildcats 68 to 8. Searching for a game on Christmas Day, quarterback Thomas put out his contact info again, with no particular follow up in the newspapers saying whether the game happened.
Then in June 1925, the Red Dot Athletic Club hosted a track meet for Black athletes at the Creighton University field. Divided into lightweight, junior, and senior categories, the newspaper announced there would be “about a hundred” competitors. No news of the event was provided afterwards though. The junior basketball team played by interesting standards. For instance, in 1925 they were playing the Christ Child Junior team when Thomas got four personal fouls in a row. Rather than continue, Thomas and his players quit the game. Earlier that season the team got into a fight with Creighton Prep’s team and left that game early, too.
In March 1926, the Red Dot Athletic Club scrimmaged against basketball teams from Central High and Creighton Prep. Referring to the Red Dots with racial epithets, the newspaper remarked that the athletes gave the high school teams “plenty of competition.” The high school teams apparently did not have any students of color on their teams.
In December 1926, the newspaper ran another story about the Red Dots after they’d organized an older youth basketball team that was seeking competitors. Composed of former school champions from Long School, it was captained by a former Black student star of Central High’s team.
After this point, news of the Red Dot Athletic Club didn’t appear again in the newspaper. In 1932, Thomas was attached as the coach of the Senior Bacchanites basketball team. Looking to book local and out-of-town competitors, there was little other mention of the team that season or at any point afterwards. It was in 1933 when Martin Thomas’ name appeared again. Trying to organize a kids’ baseball league that year, the newspaper ran a few columns about his efforts. In the early 1930s, he became the leader of the Omaha Urban League, beefing up the boys division of the organization. It was around that time when he became the director of the Mid-City Community Center, which was started by the Urban League. He also served through the Works Progress Administration. In the late 1930s, Thomas went back to the University of Omaha to complete his bachelors degree. Staying in his role through WWII, Thomas became the director of the North Side YMCA in 1946. After a career as a recreation worker, in April 1963, Thomas was found dead of natural causes at the Logan Fontenelle Recreation Center.
Today, there’s apparently no memory of the Red Dot Athletic Team. Please leave any knowledge YOU have in the comments section.
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