by Yanek Mieczkowski
Ernie Davis could not believe it. The Syracuse University football star had just won the Heisman Trophy, college football’s most coveted award, when suddenly, he heard that President John Kennedy had telephoned, relaying word that he wanted to meet Davis in Manhattan, where he was visiting. Kennedy was the country’s most celebrated football fan, a former junior varsity player at Harvard whose competitive touch football games with his brothers, Robert and Edward, and other Kennedy family members had become national lore.
Davis was special, too. It was December 1961, and he had just made history by becoming the first African American to win the Heisman, given to the nation’s outstanding college football player. Meeting the president would only add to the honor.
Davis and the Syracuse University sports publicity director grabbed a taxi and rushed from the Downtown Athletic Club to meet with Kennedy at the Hotel Carlyle. Traffic snarls delayed their trip uptown, and an over-zealous security detail at first dismissed Davis’s story and denied him access to the president. “By the time they started to believe us, we saw the President driving off,” Davis said. It seemed like his chance to meet Kennedy was gone, and he returned to the Downtown Athletic Club.
But just before he began eating lunch, Davis learned that Kennedy was calling again, asking to meet him at the Waldorf-Astoria. He hurried to the hotel, going with his Heisman Trophy in hand to prove to policemen that he was genuine. This time, he got to meet the president, and they chatted briefly. “Imagine that?” Davis said. “The president of the United States wanting to meet me. I got to shake hands with him. That was almost as big a thrill as winning the Heisman.”
Photographs immortalized the encounter between two men who blazed historic paths. Kennedy was the first Catholic and youngest elected president, just 43 at the time he won the office, a representative of young Americans’ grand dreams and aspirations. Davis’s athletic feats came during the burgeoning civil rights movement, reminding African Americans of what they could achieve.
Within two years, both men were dead. While Kennedy’s assassination in Dallas is an event well known to Americans, Davis’s struggle with illness—and the exemplary behavior he showed on and off the gridiron—is one of history’s hidden yet courageous stories.
Ernie Davis seemed to lead a charmed life. Born December 14, 1939, in New Salem, Pennsylvania, he was raised by his grandparents in Uniontown, a city outside Pittsburgh best known as the birthplace of General George C. Marshall. At age eleven, he moved to Elmira, New York, to join his mother, who had remarried. Nestled near the Finger Lakes of Central New York, Elmira was a quiet city that had once been the site of a notorious Civil War prisoners-of-war camp for Confederate soldiers. Almost three thousand Rebels perished in what they dubbed “Hellmira,” often freezing to death in brutal winters. The city had also been home to author Mark Twain, who cloistered himself in an unusual octagonal-shaped study on a farm to write many of his literary masterpieces, including The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
In Elmira, Davis flourished. As an only child and newcomer to town, he strived to fit in, making friends quickly with his warm smile and easy-going personality. He also showed a natural athletic grace that instantly won admirers. A three-sport star in high school, he dazzled crowds in football, basketball, and baseball, becoming a hometown hero. He co-captained the Elmira Free Academy basketball team, and roundball seemed his marquee sport. For four years, he started as a forward, and during his final three seasons the basketball team went 66-1, an amazing record that included a 52-game winning streak. Davis knew how lucky he was. “From the time I started in sports,” he recalled, “I always was the player who got the limelight, who had the nice stories written about him.”
As an athlete, Davis also had a remarkable ability to overcome pain and injury. While a high school freshman, he broke his wrist playing on the junior varsity football team, but when the basketball season began and he started on the varsity squad, he scored twenty-two points in his first game, playing with his wrist still in a splint. As a senior, he was hit by an Asian flu strain that almost wiped out the entire football team, but he still earned all-league honors.
Yet there was much more to Davis than his raw athletic talent. To this day, before friends discuss the athletic prowess for which he became so famous, they always mention Davis’s personal qualities—an innate kindness, a thoughtfulness and modesty that left a deep impression on those who knew him. “If you talk about Ernie Davis to somebody, and that person says that they knew Ernie Davis, if they’re talking about his athletic exploits, in my opinion, they didn’t know Ernie Davis,” said Jack Moore, Davis’s co-captain on the high school basketball team. “He was obviously a marvelous athlete, but he was an even better person.”
From the time he was a small boy, Davis showed a special human side, an unselfishness that all too often seemed missing from gifted athletes. He gave special consideration to athletes who lacked his size or skill. During Small-Fry football games, rather than tackle opposing players, the towering Davis held them in the air until the whistle blew and he could mercifully let them down.
Davis also was quick to put a stop to taunting, one of the painful rituals of youth that many students endure. His high school football coach, Marty Harrigan, recalled a young boy who tried out for the football team but was so unfamiliar with the equipment that he put the shoulder pads on backward. Other players teased the struggling boy. Rather than add to the boy’s embarrassment, Davis went over to him, introduced himself, and helped him put his pads on straight.
It was as if one of Davis’s missions in life was to help youngsters avoid cruel traumas that he had the size and reputation to ease. One former Elmira resident remembered playing a summer basketball game as a youth during the mid-1950s. But the contest erupted in a confrontation. “Soon I was challenged to a fight by a big, muscular player. Being new to the area, very small of stature, and a pampered epileptic, I prepared for a humiliating experience,” he said. “As the bully moved in for the kill, a good Samaritan, equally big and muscular, moved between us and saved me. . . . The good Samaritan was Ernie Davis. Thereafter, Ernie had my undying respect.”
Davis’ high school classmates had similar experiences. The student scorekeeper for the Elmira Free Academy basketball team, Bob Hill, tutored Davis in math. One night, at a school dance, a drunken student swaggered over to Hill. Hill, who weighed only 120 pounds, recalled, “He started to pick a fight with me. Ernie saw it, and he came over and quietly pushed the guy off to the side and said, ‘Let’s not have any of that, because he’s a friend of mine.'”
Hill called Davis “the most unselfish person I’ve ever known.” He remembered how the star athlete would pass the basketball to second-stringers rather than score himself, how he hesitated to run up the score against badly outclassed opponents. “He made everybody look better. And he wouldn’t take credit for it,” Moore agreed. “He always moved the credit over to somebody else.” In forging friendships, Davis gravitated toward second stringers rather than fellow starters, trying to make less talented athletes feel welcome.
Davis showed the same behavior on the gridiron, where “he was always ready to help the younger, less experienced and less gifted teammates,” Harrigan recalled. “He often went out of his way to show them the correct way of doing the little things that could make a difference in their play.” Describing Davis as “a connecting link between groups of guys,” one football player commented, “With Ernie around there were no cliques.”
Basketball might have seemed Davis’s best sport, but football made him a star. By the time he was a high school senior, the halfback stood a strapping six-feet, two-inches tall and weighed 205 pounds. He could run a hundred yards in ten seconds flat, and he combined that blazing speed with locomotive-like strength. Al Mallette, a sportswriter for the Elmira StarGazette, later called Davis “The Elmira Express” as he watched the halfback power down the field during a 1959 college game against Penn State.
While he was a high school senior, more than thirty schools recruited the future Express, including powerhouses like Notre Dame, Penn State, and Michigan. Syracuse University football coach Ben Schwartzwalder reportedly made thirty trips to Elmira to get the high school standout to join the Orange.
In his quest to lure Davis, Schwartzwalder, who coached at Syracuse from 1949 to 1973, enjoyed advantages over other big-name schools. One was proximity. Syracuse was just 90 miles north of Elmira, which would allow Davis to continue playing before many of the hometown fans who adored him—and whom he knew.
Another advantage was Jim Brown. Davis idolized the former Syracuse running back and Cleveland Browns star, who helped recruit Davis to Syracuse. When Davis decided to enroll at the university, the Central New York media was agog. Comparisons to Brown, who graduated just one year before Davis arrived at Syracuse, began immediately. Davis would even wear the same number that his idol had made legendary, 44. The pressure to perform was intense.
Davis more than delivered. “Trying to stop Davis,” said Holy Cross coach Eddie Anderson, “is like trying to stop a runaway express.” In 1959, as a sophomore, Davis ran for 686 yards and helped Syracuse to a perfect 11-0 season, which he capped with a thrilling performance against Texas in the Cotton Bowl, scoring two touchdowns—one on a spectacular 87-yard play—and winning Most Valuable Player honors.
Players clashed during the game like it was a war, and strong racial overtones marred the contest. On the field, Texas players reportedly taunted the African Americans on Syracuse’s team. At one point, a Texan allegedly spat on a Syracuse player. When one Texas player hurled racial slurs at John Brown, one of Davis’s closest friends on the team, Brown retaliated by throwing a punch, and the Syracuse bench flooded the field. It took a while to restore order, but for the rest of the game both players and coaches felt driven by red-hot emotion and anger. Schwartzwalder was no stranger to combat, having served during World War II as an Army paratrooper and having survived the D-Day invasion. But after this football battle ended with a 23-14 Syracuse win, the exhausted coach remarked, “I feel like I played.”
Sheer fortitude and luck allowed Davis even to play in the Cotton Bowl, one of the most brilliant games of his college career. A hamstring injury had hobbled him, and his status was questionable right up to game day. Heat treatments and therapy improved his condition enough to play, although he limped noticeably throughout the game. “He was hurt, and yet I think if he hadn’t played, we never would have won the national championship,” John Brown believed. Davis scored sixteen of Syracuse’s twenty-three points. In the locker room after the game, he modestly said, “I was just lucky to be in the right place at the right time.”
The team’s title that season remains Syracuse’s only football championship. By the time Davis finished his Syracuse career, he had broken Jim Brown’s records, rushing for a total of 2,386 yards, averaging 6.6 yards per carry, and scoring 35 touchdowns.
And he continued to touch friends with his kindness.
The Syracuse football coach had the highest praise for Davis. “He just couldn’t do enough for people and did it all with a smile,” Schwartzwalder said. “Gosh, he even thanked folks asking for his autograph. If the fourth-string quarterback wanted to practice forward-passing, Ernie would volunteer to stay late with him as his receiver, even though he was the star of the team.”
John Mackey, a Syracuse teammate who later became a key member of the 1971 Super Bowl champion Baltimore Colts, remembered an evening when he and Davis—who were roommates—went to a movie. “We get to the lobby of the theater, and there’s this lady there, and she asks Ernie for some money so she can get a meal. Ernie gives her his 50 cents. He convinces me to give up mine, too,” Mackey recalled. “We never did see the movie because we were out of money. We wound up going back to the dorm. But that was Ernie. Always generous. Always looking out for others.”
Mackey, too, benefited from Davis’ kindness. Once, he complained that he had no money to take a girl out on a date. Davis gave him five dollars and his car keys. The girl Mackey took out that evening later became his wife.
Pictured from left: Ernie Davis, John Brown, the future Sylvia Mackey, and John Mackey. The four are seen in Syracuse, New York, during their college football days.
Davis’ fame grew, but he remained unassuming. “He would always ask more about you and your friends, and steer the conversation away from him,” Jack Moore remembered. “He didn’t have any need to talk about himself. He truly was interested in how other people were doing.”
To children, Davis was the perfect role model, dressing well and never cursing, living by the ideals of hard work. During summers he returned to Elmira, where residents saw him working on construction sites or training for football by running through city streets or sprinting up the stairs at a local stadium. At Christmas, he delivered mail for the U.S. Postal Service.
Normally he donned the number 44, but here Ernie Davis wears a practice jersey.
As a senior at Syracuse, Davis rushed for 823 yards and won the Heisman. When he broke the color barrier for college football’s coveted award, his achievement stood as one of the era’s hallmarks of hope. These were heady, important days for young African Americans. In 1960, black students in Greensboro, North Carolina, sat down at a Woolworth lunch counter to press for integration of restaurants. Their quiet protest launched a wave of “sit-in” style demonstrations throughout the South, including “wade-ins” at segregated beaches and “study-ins” at libraries. Just a few months before Davis won the Heisman, young civil rights protesters pushed to integrate buses and bus stations throughout the South by engaging in “Freedom Rides,” sometimes getting viciously beaten by white mobs wielding tire irons and baseball bats.
African-American athletes, too, struggled to make gains in a segregated world. Decades earlier, when boxer Joe Louis knocked out white opponents, many newspapers refused to print photos of an African American punching a white man; yet Louis rose to become world heavyweight champion and a source of national pride when he defeated German Max Schmeling. In 1947, Jackie Robinson famously broke the color barrier in professional baseball, enduring taunts by opposing players—even teammates—plus death threats from fans.
Black athletes still had a long way to go. In 1956, despite leading Syracuse to a 7-1 season in which he scored 43 points in his final game, senior Jim Brown placed only fifth in Heisman Trophy voting. The award instead went to quarterback Paul Horning of Notre Dame, whose team went 2-8, making him only the second Heisman winner whose team had a losing record.
Davis embodied the dreams of a new generation. He reminded African Americans of what they could achieve and opened the door for more accomplishment. Later during the 1960s, two more African Americans—Mike Garrett and O.J. Simpson, both of the University of Southern California—won the Heisman Trophy. (Simpson’s notorious future run-ins with the law contrasted sharply with Davis’s exemplary conduct off the field.) During the 1970s African-American Archie Griffin became the only two-time Heisman winner in history. For black running backs in later decades—including Marcus Allen and Barry Sanders—the Heisman presaged successful NFL careers.
Davis’s achievements had an impact that transcended the football field, even constituting one of many factors that gave the civil rights movement momentum. Just one month before his 1968 assassination, Martin Luther King, Jr. remarked to Brooklyn Dodgers pitcher Don Newcombe, the first black Cy Young Award winner in 1956, about “how much easier it was for me to do my job” because of athletes like Newcombe and Jackie Robinson. Davis’s behavior and athletic feats likewise set new standards that improved the prevailing racial climate.
That included at his school, where Davis erased the color line at Syracuse University’s Sigma Alpha Mu fraternity, becoming the first black student to get inducted. Floyd Little, the Syracuse running back who followed in Davis’s footsteps (playing for the Orange from 1964 to 1966) and later became a Pro Bowl NFL player for the Denver Broncos, credited Davis with ameliorating the racial atmosphere on the Syracuse campus. When Jim Brown was there during the mid-1950s, the racial environment was so polarized that he almost left the school, and he often appeared sullen and bitter at football practices. Brown “had a bitch of a time there,” Little said, “But when Ernie came aboard, he was just everybody’s hero—black and white—and he was able to break down a lot of barriers for a lot of people like myself.”
But Davis declined to tout his achievements. When asked about his chance to erase color lines in football, he replied, “I don’t want to be a crusader. I want to be a ballplayer.” Part of his human side was a humbleness, remembered John Brown. Davis “let his actions speak for himself—the way he played football, the way he carried himself on the field, the way he carried himself off the field,” Brown said.
Indeed, Davis’s popularity won him recognition in venues outside football. While in high school, he served as sophomore class president, junior prom king, and student council president. One of his proudest moments at Syracuse came when he was selected to be class marshal at the university’s 1962 commencement. Graduating with an economics major, Davis reflected, “You learn a lot of things in economics, especially to look ahead.” And look ahead he did, beyond his promising career as a professional athlete. “I want to be able to do something constructive in the off-season so ten or fifteen years from now I can step out of pro football and into business,” he said. Within a year after graduating, he began to realize that long-term aspiration by starting work as a Pepsi-Cola Company sales representative.
Yet Davis’s grandest dream was to play in the National Football League, and that appeared within his grasp. In 1962 he became the nation’s number-one draft pick. When he came to sign his three-year deal to play for the Cleveland Browns, he had just sixteen cents in his pocket. At the time, the media reported that Davis received $80,000, the largest sum ever for an NFL player. Almost two decades later, Davis’ lawyer, Tony Di Filippo, revealed that the actual amount was a staggering $200,000. On Cleveland’s backfield, he would be paired with Jim Brown in what promised to be the greatest running attack in professional football.
Ernie Davis stood on top of the world.
But during the summer of 1962, while practicing for the annual Coaches’ All-American Game in Buffalo, Davis felt strangely weak and tired. His gums bled, and he noticed canker sores in his mouth. While sitting at breakfast with teammates, he mentioned the canker sores. The problem seemed harmless enough, and they began to joke with him. “Where have you been?” they teased, implying that their friend had engaged in questionable extracurricular activity. They enjoyed a good laugh, but after the game, Davis admitted to John Brown, “I am tired.”
Friends sensed something was wrong. When Davis visited Marty Harrigan and his wife Louise in Elmira for a summer barbeque, his normally prodigious appetite was gone. The Harrigans especially noticed that he refused hot dogs, one of his favorite foods. And his gums continued to bleed.
In August 1962, Davis was at Northwestern University in Illinois, practicing for a game that would pit college all-stars against the NFL champion Green Bay Packers. But he seemed sluggish. When Art Modell, president of the Cleveland Browns, heard that his star halfback was underperforming, he had him hospitalized for tests. At first, doctors told Davis and his mother, Marie Radford Fleming, that he might have mumps or mononucleosis.
It was much worse. Al Mallette remembered receiving a call from Di Filippo in August. “It’s all over for Ernie,” Di Filippo said.
“What do you mean?” Mallette asked.
“Ernie has terminal leukemia,” came Di Filippo’s reply.
The shocking diagnosis came during an era when doctors often withheld grim news from patients. And Davis was no ordinary patient but a franchise NFL player; no doctor wanted to utter a death sentence for an athlete of such stature. Davis’s mother recalled that the Cleveland team doctor suspected leukemia but “he didn’t want to say anything, because Ernie had just signed that contract for the Cleveland Browns.” For two months, doctors kept the word from Davis and his mother. “All they ever told me was [it] was a blood disorder,” she remembered.
That was the official line fed to the media. In early August 1962, published reports hit newsstands in which Modell revealed that Davis suffered “a blood disorder requiring extended treatment and rest.” While the condition was “not contagious,” the Cleveland owner explained, he said “it appears almost certain that Ernie will not be able to play for the Browns this season.”
In early October 1962, doctors finally told Davis that he had leukemia. “It’s a word that jumps out at you, a frightening word,” Davis later wrote. But over the months, he realized that he might have the disease. Upon hearing the news, he gave an upbeat response, asking his doctors if he could beat it.
The answer seemed yes. Once again, Davis’ charmed life appeared to pull him back from disaster. Almost miraculously, the disease went into remission, and no trace of cancer appeared in Davis’ blood. His chief physician, Dr. Austin Weisberger, a renowned specialist on blood disorders, called it “a perfect state of remission.” Davis began exercising, although Cleveland’s legendary coach Paul Brown refused to risk giving him game time during the 1962 season. Davis never got to play a minute of professional football, despite Modell’s wish that he take the field. Indeed, the conflict between the team president and coach over Davis was likely a factor in Brown’s dismissal just months later, in January 1963.
Davis later wrote about Brown that he had “no ill will toward him.” Instead, he fought valiantly against his leukemia. When his girlfriend noticed that he ordered chicken liver at a restaurant, he explained that doctors had told him it would increase his blood cell count. He underwent blood transfusions, but once again showed his sensitive side. Fearing that friends would worry about him, he usually told John Brown, “I’m going into the hospital, and I’ll be out in a couple of days. Just tell people I’m out of town.” Leukemia, which ravages the blood’s ability to clot, caused Davis’s gums and nose to bleed, and dabbing cotton into his nose and trying to hide the red from friends became a constant struggle.
During the winter, Davis practiced with the Cleveland Browns basketball club, a group of football players who hit the hardwood to stay in shape during the off-season. It seemed that Davis’s ability to bounce back from injury would see him through this illness.
But in February 1963, the disease reappeared, and doctors ordered Davis to curtail all rigorous activity. When they told him that he needed to re-enter the hospital for blood transfusions, he simply said, “Darn.” One of his doctors commented, “That was the only complaint, literally and truly, that Ernie ever made in all the times I saw him.”
“The thing I recall most vividly is the fact that you never heard this guy complain about the illness,” remembered John Wooten, an offensive guard for the Cleveland Browns. “Never heard him say he got a tough break. He always spoke in terms of being okay, coming back. He was so high-spirited. In all these years, I’ve never seen anyone like this kid. He was special, indeed.”
Even while gravely ill, Davis showed more concern for others than for himself. John Brown, who roomed with him in Cleveland, once returned to their apartment dejected after a difficult practice. Brown was having doubts about playing professional football, even about making the team. “Man, this is tough,” he told Davis. “I don’t know if I want to do this.”
Davis, who could not practice, was clearly waging his own struggle. He listened to Brown and then said, “I may not make it, but I don’t have to give up trying.” “When he said that, I kind of looked at him,” Brown recalled, “because I knew what he was saying, and that has stuck with me to this day.” It was Davis’s way of encouraging his friend to persevere. Later, the irony of the conversation hit Brown hard: he was complaining about a football practice to a friend who was battling for his life.
Visiting Elmira just one month before he died, Davis went with Jack Moore to a local restaurant. As Moore recalled, “It was clear to the doctors and those that were close to him that he was not going to survive this illness. And he knew it. But he didn’t let on.” A waitress approached them, saw Davis, and burst into tears. “She knew who Ernie was, and she was afraid that he was terribly ill. It was upsetting to her. He was such a leader in the community,” Moore said.
Immediately, Davis tried to console her. “They think they’ve got me in the grave now,” he said. “But I’m going to lick this. I’m fine.”
The waitress smiled. “She believed it,” Moore remembered. “And he made her believe it. And she went away feeling great.”
Moore marveled, “Here is a guy at the age of 23 seemingly—at least a year ago—having the world right in his hands. Everything was going to be good. And having it all taken away from him and knowing it—yet caring more about this young woman than he did about himself.”
Medical advances held out hope. The blood transfusions pumped Davis up with new energy, and doctors encouraged him by saying they were close to a breakthrough. Still, Davis likely sensed that the end was near. Once, while visiting Elmira, he said to Marty Harrigan, “You know, coach, I’m not feeling very good.” For a moment, Davis grew emotional. “He knew. He knew,” Harrigan recalled.
On Thursday, May 16, 1963, Davis went to Art Modell’s Cleveland office to thank him for his help and talk about the team’s future. During the past nine months, Davis had often apologized to Modell for his medical expenses, and he did so again. Modell later realized that Davis, whose neck was visibly swollen, was saying good-bye.
That evening, Davis was with John Brown in their apartment. Brown went into the bathroom and saw that Davis was bleeding profusely from the nose and mouth.
“I might have to go into the hospital, John,” Davis said. “Just tell people, again, that I’m out of town.”
The next day Davis entered Cleveland’s Lakeside Hospital. In the evening, he slipped into a coma. Throughout his life, Davis had been soft-spoken and gentle, and he remained so to the end. At just past 2:00 a.m. on Saturday, while still comatose, he coughed. It was a soft, gentle cough. Then he died.
In Elmira, where his body lay in state, the city stood still. Twelve thousand mourners turned out to pay their respects. One Syracuse sports writer observed, “In the repose of death, Ernie still looked husky and strong enough to ward off any attacker.”
Players and coaches from the Cleveland Browns flew to Elmira for the funeral. Jim Brown, who was one of the pallbearers, eulogized Davis as “the greatest, most courageous person I’ve ever met,” adding, “I find it difficult to believe he’s gone. Maybe it’s because I never heard him complain. The way he acted, he had me believing he’d make it.” The New York Times called the fallen football player “a gentle giant” who was “as conspicuous for the selflessness and courage he displayed off the gridiron as for the spectacular scoring runs he made on it.” President Kennedy telegrammed his condolences, calling Davis “an outstanding young man of great character who consistently served as an inspiration to the young people of the country.”
Davis was buried in Elmira’s Woodlawn National Cemetery, where Mark Twain lies, as do many Union and Confederate Civil War soldiers. Today, the high school that Davis once attended in Elmira is the Ernie Davis Middle School. Outside the building stands a large statue of Davis, clutching books in one hand and a football in the other. At Syracuse University’s Carrier Dome, the football field is named after him.
Although he never wore it in a game, the Cleveland Browns retired the jersey Davis wore during practices, 45. The question of whether Davis could have broken Jim Brown’s professional rushing records will remain unanswered forever. But John Brown, who played for the Cleveland Browns and Pittsburgh Steelers, believes Davis still would have been a greater football player than his more controversial teammate. “He would have affected people, the sports fans of the U.S., with a greater magnitude than Jim did, because people liked him,” said Brown, who named his youngest son Ernie Davis Brown. His friend, Brown said, “was a genuine gentle man and a gentleman.”
Historians and civil rights activists may remember Davis as the first African American to win the Heisman Trophy, an athlete who broke color barriers in college football. Football fans may remember him as the standout halfback who led the Syracuse football team during three shining seasons, shattering Jim Brown’s records along the way.
Friends remember Ernie Davis as much more than that. He was almost a superhuman athlete, but it was his humanity that offered enduring lessons—of kindness, compassion, and courage. “I’ve never met anybody that was a better person than Ernie Davis,” Moore said. “And I’ve lived a long time and met a lot of people. Nobody better. Nobody better.”
Yanek Mieczkowski is the author of Eisenhower’s Sputnik Moment: The Race for Space and World Prestige (2013), Gerald Ford and the Challenges of the 1970s (2005), and The Routledge Historical Atlas of Presidential Elections (2001). He has contributed to American History magazine, Newsday, Florida Today, and the History News Network. He has been Professor and History Department Chair at New York’s Dowling College, and a Visiting Assistant Professor at the University of North Florida. During 2017-18 he is a Visiting Assistant Professor at the University of Central Florida.