This Day In History: November 21st
When reflecting on sports highly populated with African American talent, one would typically think of sports such as basketball or football. However, African American athletes have found success in other sports as well. Former professional bowler, George Branham III made history as the first African American to win a major Professional Bowlers Association (PBA) title.
Branham was born on November 21, 1962, in Detroit, Michigan. He developed his interest in the sport as a child after being influenced by his father who was an avid bowler. His family relocated to California during the 1970s and he continued to perfect his craft but also took part in other sports such as basketball. Once Branham completed high school, he refocused his energy back to bowling and found jobs working in bowling alleys.
He also joined bowling leagues and won Southern California’s Junior Bowler of the Year title in 1983. By 1985, Branham decided to become a professional bowler at the age of 23. His career took off and he consistently won tournaments, including the 1986 Brunswick Memorial World Open against Mark Roth, where he became the first African American to win a major PBA event.
The PBA was established in 1958 when its 33 founding members came together to create an organization dedicated to bowling. Since its inception, the association has evolved into the world’s leading bowling organization with more than 3,000 members. Although the PBA is a major supporter of the sport, it wasn’t until 28 years after being established that the organization awarded its first title to an African American bowler. Branham’s historic accomplishment helped to pave the way for future generations of African American bowlers such as Gary Faulkner Jr.
Over the course of his career, Branham won five major titles including the Brunswick Memorial World Open (1986), AC Delco Classic (1987), Baltimore Open (1993), Firestone Tournament of Champions (1993), and Cleveland Open (1996).
In 2003, after a 20-year career dedicated to bowling, Branham decided to retire in Indianapolis and put his competing days behind him. Although he retired from the sport, he could not deny his passion for bowling and decided to open his own bowling alley in Indianapolis.