On Sept. 7, 1963, the Pro Football Hall of Fame opened in Canton.
Paul Brown - at the time, head coach of the Cleveland Browns, which he founded in 1946 - played a key role. He proposed a hall of fame to Canton sportswriters who covered the Browns.
Canton's business leaders spotted the story in the local newspaper and were enthusiastic about the idea. They raised more than $378,000 in a bid to land the hall, competing against cities such as Los Angeles and Detroit.
Brown - a native of Norwalk, Ohio, who was influential among league owners - made the case for Canton. The town had historical ties to pro football. On Sept. 17, 1920, the American Professional Football Association - predecessor to the National Football League - was organized in Canton. Among the founding teams were the Canton Bulldogs, who won the NFL championship in 1922 and 1923.
The Hall of Fame includes uniforms, photos and other items related to the history of pro football teams, players and coaches. A class of football greats is added every year, with 221 people enshrined so far. Brown was inducted in 1967, the year before he became founding coach of the Cincinnati Bengals.
Since the Hall of Fame's opening 40 years ago, more than 7 million people have visited.
- Rebecca Goodman
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