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First Name: Wilmeth

Last Name: Sidat-Singh

Birthplace: Washington, DC, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: U.S. Army Air Forces (1941 - 1947)

Date of Birth: 13 February 1918

Date of Death: 09 May 1943

Rank: First Lieutenant

Years Served:
Wilmeth Sidat-Singh

•  World War II (1941 - 1945)


Wilmeth Sidat-Singh
First Lieutenant, U.S. Army Air Forces

Wilmeth Sidat-Singh was born on 13 February 1918 in Washington, DC. His parents were both African-American, but after the death of his father, Elias Webb (a pharmacist), his mother, Pauline, married Samuel Sidat-Singh, a medical student from India who adopted Wilmeth, giving him his family name. After his graduation from Howard University, Dr. Sidat-Singh moved the family to Harlem and set up a family medical practice.

Wilmeth showed great talent as an athlete and became a basketball star, leading DeWitt Clinton High School to the New York Public High School Athletic League championship in 1934. He received an offer of a basketball scholarship from Syracuse University and enrolled in 1935. While playing an intramural football game, an assistant football coach noticed his talent and asked him to join the football team. Sidat-Singh starred for Syracuse, playing a position equivalent to modern-day quarterback and starred for the basketball team as well.

Syracuse University and nearby Cornell University were among the first collegiate football teams to include African-American players as starting backfield players. But when games were played in Southern segregation states, African-American players from Northern schools were banned from the field. Because of his light complexion and name, Sidat-Singh was sometimes assumed to be a "Hindu" (as people from India were often called by Americans during this time). However, shortly before a game against the University of Maryland, a black sportswriter Sam Lacy wrote an article in The Baltimore Afro American, revealing Sidat-Singh's true racial identity. Wilmeth Sidat-Singh was held out of the game, which Syracuse lost. In a rematch the following year at Syracuse, Sidat-Singh led the Orange to a lopsided victory over Maryland.

With unofficial bans on black players enacted in both the NBL and NFL, Sidat-Singh played briefly for a professional barnstorming basketball team in Syracuse and then joined the Washington, DC, Police Department.

After the U.S. entry into World War II, he applied and was accepted as a member of the Tuskegee Airmen, the only African-American unit in the U.S. Army Air Forces, and won his wings as a pilot. Sidat-Singh died in 1943 during a training mission when the engine of his airplane failed. He drowned in Lake Huron.

In 2005, Syracuse University honored Wilmeth Sidat-Singh, retiring his number and hanging his basketball jersey in the rafters of the Carrier Dome.

Death and Burial

First Lieutenant Wilmeth Sidat-Singh died on 9 May 1943 in Lake Huron, MI. He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, VA.

Honoree ID: 3080   Created by: MHOH




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