Geographic Connection to Pennsylvania: Coulterville, Allegheny County
Art Rooney founded the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1933.
Awards: Football Hall of Fame
Arthur Joseph Rooney was born in Coulter, Pennsylvania, in 1901 to father Daniel and mother Margaret. He had eight siblings and grew up in Pittsburgh's north side. He attended Duquesne University, Georgetown University and Indiana University of Pennsylvania. He married Kathleen McNulty in 1931 and had five sons. He bought the football franchise, then called the Pittsburgh Pirates, in 1933. He later renamed the team the Pittsburgh Steelers. Art Rooney's first winning season was in 1974, in which he won the Super Bowl, as well. He signed the franchise over to his son, Dan, in 1975, but remained apart of the franchise until his death. He received countless rewards and memorials throughout his lifetime and died on August 25, 1988, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, at the age of 87.
Arthur Joseph Rooney was born in Coulter, Pennsylvania, which is a small mining town near Pittsburgh on January 27, 1901. He was the oldest of Daniel and Margaret Rooney's nine children. His mother's family worked as coal miners and his father's family worked as steel workers, so his entire family was a part of the mining business. He grew up in Old Allegheny, which is now known as Pittsburgh's North Side, and they lived on the second floor of his father's saloon. Three Rivers Stadium would be later built on top of the land that his childhood home stood. Art Rooney attended St. Peter's Parochial School and Duquesne University Prep School. He then continued his education at Indiana Normal in Pennsylvania (now Indiana University of Pennsylvania), Georgetown and Duquesne.
Art Rooney was always an exceptional athlete and he held middleweight and welterweight titles from the AAU Boxing Championships and he was also named to the U.S. Olympic Boxing Team in 1920, however he did not participate He played major league baseball, but was unable to continue after an injury to his arm. He also played semi-pro football in the Pittsburgh area. Art Rooney and his wife, Kathleen McNulty, were married on June 11, 1931, and they had five sons; Dan, Art Jr., twins Pat and John, and Tim. They also had 34 grandchildren and one great-grandchild, who is also the grandson of New York Giants' owner, Wellington Mara.
Art Rooney bought the Pittsburgh Pirates franchise, the fifth oldest in the National Football League, for $2,500 on July 8, 1933. They were a member of the Eastern Division of the 10-team NFL. The other four teams that were included in those ten that are still around today are the Chicago (Arizona) Cardinals, Green Bay Packers, Chicago Bears and the New York Giants. In 1938, Rooney signed Bryon "Whizzer" White for a record breaking $15,000. Bryon White was a college football star at the University of Colorado, which is where he acquired the nickname "Whizzer." He was elected into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1954 and became a Supreme Court Justice after he headed the John F. Kennedy Campaign in Colorado.
Art Rooney renamed the team the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1940. During the 1943 season, the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Philadelphia Eagles had a temporary merger, because both had lost countless players to military service due to WWII. They were named the "Steagles" and they finished the season with a record of 5-4-1, the first winning season in the history of the Philadelphia franchise and just the second in the history of the Pittsburgh franchise.
Rooney did not have another winning season until finally in the 1970s when the team became the most dominant team of an entire decade and won four Super Bowls with the first one in 1974. By the mid-1960's Art Rooney began to turn over much of the operation of the Steelers to his oldest son, Dan, and Art then named him the president of the Steelers Franchise in 1975. In 2000, Dan Rooney was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame and he and his father formed only the second father-son tandem to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. The first and only other father-son tandem was the late New York Giants owner Wellington Mara and his father Tim. Art Rooney remained chairman of the Board of the club of the Steelers Franchise until his death in 1988.
Art Rooney was well known among his peers and he received numerous awards from the time he was a child till after his immense contribution to the Steelers football franchise. . In 1964, Rooney was elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame and Duquesne University named their football field in his honor in 1993. In 1999, Sporting News named him one of the 100 most powerful sports figures of the 20th century. Finally, a statue of himself remains in the entrance to the home of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Heinz Field and a street was named in his honor on Pittsburgh's north shore. Art Rooney died on August 25, 1988, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, at the age of 87.