If you want to know about manliness, perseverance, hard work and grit, look no further than Alpha Phi Alpha’s very own, Woody Strode.
Strode was a college track and football star at UCLA, one of the first Blacks to integrate the NFL, a professional wrestler, a Golden Globe nominated actor, and a WWII veteran. This man was the definition of a renaissance man, keep reading this article and you will understand exactly why.
Strode was born in Los Angeles on July 25, 1914, the son of a Creek-Blackfoot-African-American father and a Cherokee-African-American mother. He grew up in South Central and became so good at sports(track and field/football) that he made it to UCLA and played alongside Jackie Robinson and Kenny Washington, both who broke the color barriers of baseball and football in the 1940s. His world-class decathlon capabilities were spearheaded by a 50 ft (15 m) plus shot put (when the world record was 57 ft (17 m)) and a 6 ft 4 in (1.93 m) high jump (the world record at time was 6 ft 10 in (2.08 m)). While in college, Strode joined UCLA’s Alpha Phi Alpha chapter. Strode’s athletic physique was so appealing that a nude portrait of him was featured in Hubert Stowitts’s acclaimed exhibition of athletic portraits shown at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. The exhibit was closed because the Nazis did not agree with the inclusion of black and Jewish athletes being show in such a powerful light.
When World War II broke out, Strode was playing for the Hollywood Bears Football team but quit to join the United States Army Air Corps and spent the war unloading bombs in Guam and the Marianas, as well as playing on the Army football team at March Field in Riverside, California.
In 1941, Strode married a real life princess. Strode’s first wife was Princess Luukialuana Kalaeloa (a.k.a. Luana Strode), a distant relative of Liliuokalani, the last queen of Hawaii. That same year he began his career as a professional wrestler and made his film debut in the movie “Sundown.”
Woody then went on to play professional football for the LA Rams from 1946-1948 and then the Calgary Stampeders, eventually retiring in 1949 to focus on acting. Between 1941 and 1962, Strode was billed as the Pacific Coast Heavyweight Wrestling Champion and the Pacific Coast Negro Heavyweight Wrestling Champion.
Strode’s exercise regimen was that of a superhero and nothing more than epic. He performed 1000 free squats, 1000 sit-ups, and 1000 pushups every day until he turned 40, at which point he reduced the numbers to 500.
Strode was noted for film roles that contrasted with the stereotypes of his time. He is probably best remembered for his brief Golden Globe-nominated role in Spartacus (1960) as the Ethiopian gladiator Draba, in which he fights Kirk Douglas to the death. By the time he died on New Year’s Eve, 1994, he had worked with such legendary directors as Cecil B. Demille (The Ten Commandments), Lewis Milestone (Pork Chop Hill), Stanley Kubrick (Spartacus), Sergio Leone (Once Upon A Time in the West), and John Ford (Sergeant Rutledge, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance).
Strode died of lung cancer on December 31, 1994, in Glendora, California, aged 80. He is buried at Riverside National Cemetery in Riverside, California.
Strode was an Alpha Man and an Alpha male. Nothing could stop him and he did whatever he put his mind to. Please share this piece of history with your networks on Facebook and remind them that Alpha Phi Alpha does not play when it comes to influential members.
Click on the arrow below to see our gallery of VERY VERY badass photos of Strode throughout the years.