Football player, coach. Art Shell was born in Charleston on November 26, 1946, the eldest child of Arthur Sr. and Gertrude Shell. Shell’s mother died of heart failure in 1961 at age thirty-five. His father, a paper mill employee, died in 1989 of complications from diabetes. During his youth Shell resided in the Daniel Jenkins housing project and attended Bonds-Wilson High School, excelling in football and basketball and graduating in 1964. He starred in football at Maryland State College (now University of Maryland Eastern Shore) and graduated in 1968. Shell played both offensive and defensive tackle and was named to several All-American teams. The Oakland Raiders of the American Football League selected him in the third round of the 1968 draft. A fixture at left tackle from 1968 to 1982, Shell became one of the most dominating offensive linemen in professional football history. He earned Pro Bowl honors eight times, played for National Football League (NFL) championship teams in 1976 and 1980, and was inducted into the Professional Football Hall of Fame in 1989.
Immediately after retiring, Shell became a scout and assistant coach for the Raiders. In 1989 the team named Art Shell head coach, the first African American NFL head coach in the modern era. Prior to Shell, the only African American head coach had been Fritz Pollard, coaching a Hammond, Indiana, team (1923–1925). As head coach (1989–1994), Shell amassed a 56–41 record. He left the Raiders in 1995, serving as offensive line coach for the Kansas City Chiefs (1995–1996) and the Atlanta Falcons (1996–2000). Shell then worked in the office of NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue (2000–2004), adjudicating player disciplinary appeals, representing the NFL in relationships with colleges, and writing a regular column for the NFL Web site. In 2004 he became head of football operations for the NFL and NFL representative on the USA Football Board of Directors.
Porter, David L. African-American Sports Greats: A Biographical Dictionary. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood, 1995.