Richard Ian Kimball - Celebrating Deaf Culture

Richard Ian Kimball

February 4, 2021
The Great Hall

Reflection | Podcast | VideoPhotos

Richard Ian Kimball is an associate professor of history at Brigham Young University with a PhD from Purdue University. He is the author of Legends Never Die: Athletes and Their Afterlives in Modern America (Syracuse University Press) and Sports in Zion: Mormon Recreation, 1890-1940 (University of Illinois Press). Richard currently lives in Mapleton with his wife and three children. He teaches courses in sports history and American culture.

His talk today will focus on his research of Deaf football players at the turn of the twentieth century and how they used the sport to promote sign language and Deaf culture in a time when assimilation and lip reading were becoming the norm.


On February 4th, 2021, BYU professor Richard Ian Kimball gave his presentation on how Deaf Athletes used sports to promote Sign Language and Deaf Culture in a time when assimilation and lip reading were becoming the norm. Richard Ian Kimball is a professor of history at Brigham Young University. He is a leading expert on the history of sports, especially as it relates to the Latter-day Saints. His book Sports in Zion: Mormon Recreation 1890-1940 was published by the University of Illinois Press and has been reviewed by such widely recognized journals as the Western Political Quarterly and the American Historical Review. Kimball received his bachelor's degree from BYU in American Studies and then received a master's degree and Ph.D. both in history from Purdue University. His research and writings have also explored the topics of the cultural history of the Utah Valley, the orchards or Orem, and sports and race relations in Utah history. Dr. Kimball was introduced to the stage by SUU Assistant Professor of History, Dr. David Lunt.

Dr. Kimball began his presentation by jumping right into how deaf athletes used football to fight for the integration of sign language as well as fighting against the idea that being deaf was a weakness in the early 20th century. He proceeded to read his paper, as a way to share with the audience different perspectives of deaf athletes. Kimball described the history of athletes who were deaf, along with the introduction of football in popular sports - and how deaf athletes used the new game to encourage equality on the playing field, even mentioning those at Gallaudet University, the United States’ first college for the deaf, and their wholehearted embrace of football and stories of the diligent work that the players put into their practices.

Towards the end of the hour, Dr. Kimball finished his presentation and began a Q&A session with Director of APEX Events, Dr. Lynn Vartan, in which they discussed Kimball’s history in sports history and how players communicated with one another during games.