Black History Month: Joe ‘The Jet’ Perry, 49ers first Black player

Joe Perry #34 of the San Francisco 49ers carries the ball against Lou Michael #83 of the Los Angeles Rams (Photo by Robert Riger/Getty Images)
Joe Perry #34 of the San Francisco 49ers carries the ball against Lou Michael #83 of the Los Angeles Rams (Photo by Robert Riger/Getty Images) /

This is a Black History Month profile of Joe “The Jet” Perry, the 49ers’ first Black player in team history, and accomplishments as a pioneer of the NFL.

It’s been a rough week for the San Francisco 49ers franchise and their fans in the aftermath of the NFC Championship game, and a 20-17 loss to their division-rival Los Angeles Rams is not easy to stomach.

However, it was a valiant season, though, in which most if not all the experts wrote the Niners off when they were 3-5. The team fought back though and made it within one game of the Super Bowl. There is reason to celebrate, though, because this 49ers team has some great young talent and has the potential to get back to this point next year, and hopefully advance further.

There is also reason to celebrate because February is Black History Month, and this year we will be honoring Black players and coaches that have broken barriers for the 49ers franchise.

This week, we profile the late great fullback Joe “The Jet” Perry, the first Black player in the team’s franchise history.

Fletcher Joseph Perry was born on Jan. 22, 1927, in Stephens, Arkansas but would grow up in Los Angeles, California. He starred at Compton Junior College where he would help the school win back-to-back National Junior College football championships in 1946 and 1947.

He would be recruited into the NFL soon after, joining the 49ers in 1948 as the first Black player in 49ers’ history.

Joe Perry left an indelible mark on 49ers franchise and the NFL

Perry would go on to become a part of what would be called the “Million Dollar Backfield” along with quarterback Y.A. Tittle, fullback John Henry Johnson and halfback Hugh McElhenny.

All four players ended up in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Perry’s 14-year career with the Niners was one to be remembered. He rushed for back-to-back 1,000-plus yard seasons in 1953 and 1954, a league first.

Those were his most productive seasons, statistically, and he would earn Pro Bowl and All-Pro selections in both of them. And in 1954, he would win the NFL Player of the Year award, making him both the first Black player and the first 49er player to do so.

Perry would spend the majority of his career with San Francisco, and he played 13 seasons with the 49ers before being traded to the Baltimore Colts. However, after two seasons there, he would return to the Niners and end his career with the team he started with for one last season.

Perry ended his career with 9,723 yards rushing, which at the time, was the most in pro football history. He also had a whopping 4.9 yards per carry average for his career. He finished with three Pro Bowl and two All-Pro selections.

In 1969, Perry was enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He would be one of the first of the 49ers to earn the honor along with teammate Leo Nomellini.

Read More: 49ers’ 10 best running backs in franchise history

Along with being a Pro Football Hall of Famer, Perry would be inducted into the Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame and the 49ers Hall of Fame. In addition, he was named to the 1950s All-Decade Team and the 50th Anniversary All-Time Team.

Perry unfortunately passed in 2011 at the age of 84. He left behind a legacy as being a pioneer of the NFL and an absolute legend in franchise history.

He will always be remembered as having been the first Black player and the first Niners player to achieve some amazing accolades in the early days of the franchise and the league.

Next. 30 greatest 49ers players in franchise history. dark