"Racism is a God-damned thing!"

If you are not reading historian Pat McNamara’s weekly column In Ages Past, you’re missing great profiles, of American Catholics who impacted this nation in dramatic and often downright exhausting ways.

This week, say hello to Father John Markoe, S.J. – football star, soldier, alcoholic, priest, and a civil rights activist a few decades ahead of the rest:

Born in 1890 to a blueblood family whose ancestors included Benjamin Franklin, John Prince Markoe was the son of a prominent Minnesota doctor. At 18 he was accepted to West Point, but deferred the appointment in order to go west, to work on the railroads. In 1910, he entered the military academy, where his friends included Dwight Eisenhower. He played football against Knute Rockne and Jim Thorpe, and was named an honorably-mentioned All-American.

When he graduated in 1914, the yearbook said: “Possessing unlimited abilities, there is very little which he is incapable of performing.” But he earned his classmates’ contempt when he stood up for Marcus Alexander, the Point’s only African-American cadet. His final class ranking might have been higher, had Markoe not been a full-fledged alcoholic by his senior year.

Yeah, yeah, another Catholic in a battle with the bottle, but read on! There is a movie to be made on the life of this handsome fellow, who once tried to fight an entire bar (it took a half-dozen cops to pull him out of there) and spent his whole life walking against the wind. What a movie his life would make!

Read it all. And be sure to visit McNamara’s blog, every day, for interesting lessons in American Catholic history!

About Elizabeth Scalia

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