Born Orenthal James Simpson on July 9, 1947, in San Francisco, California, O.J. Simpson was considered to be one of the greatest running backs of all time.
Simpson, nicknamed Â“JuiceÂ" because of his energetic runs and the fact that his initials could stand for Â“Orange Juice," grew up as one of nine children in the projects of San FranciscoÂ’s Petrero Hill. Few opportunities existed for poor black children in that area at the time. Most of his early childhood was spent at the Petrero Hill Recreation Center, playing sports. As a young boy, O.J. met legendary running back Jim Brown, and told him that someday he would break all his records. From that time on, O.J. knew what he wanted in life and set out to accomplish it.
Simpson played football at Galileo High School in San Francisco, first as a tackle, then as a fullback. Following high school, he attended San Francisco City Collage, which earned him the scholastic record that enabled him to play at the University of Southern California. While at USC, he set several records for rushing and was named All American for 1967-1968. He played in two Rose Bowl games, and in 1968, won the coveted Heisman Trophy as the best collegiate player of the season.
On June 24, 1967, Simpson married his high school sweetheart, Marguerite L. Whitley. They had three children: Arnelle L. Simpson, born in 1968, Jason L. Simpson, born in 1970, and Aaren Lashone Simpson, born in 1977. In 1979, Aaren drowned in the family's swimming pool a month before her second birthday. That year, O.J. and Marguerite were divorced. On February 2, 1985, Simpson married Nicole Brown. They had two children, Sydney Brooke Simpson, born in 1985, and Justin Ryan Simpson, born in 1988. The couple divorced in 1992.
Following a successful college career, Simpson played professionally for the Buffalo Bills from 1969 to 1977, then the San Francisco 49ers from 1978 until his retirement in 1979. In his first year of eligibility, Simpson was inducted into Pro FootballÂ’s Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.
Simpson spent his retirement years building a movie career. He starred or otherwise acted in several movies, the most famous being the "Naked Gun" series and the "Towering Inferno." He also starred in "Roots," a made-for-TV movie, and was regularly seen in Hertz rental car television ads, in which he could be seen leaping over luggage and other obstacles on his way to catch a flight. Simpson later became an anchor on NBCÂ’s weekly NFL telecasts and was a familiar figure on the sidelines of numerous Buffalo Bills games, giving interviews to star players.
In June 1994, SimpsonÂ’s life would take a wrenching turn when the bodies of his ex-wife Nicole and her friend Ronald Goldman were found murdered outside her home. After returning from a flight to Chicago, then taking police on a chase that was watched live on television by thousands of people, Simpson was arrested and charged with the double homicide.
The trial, which began in January 1995, received a staggering amount of international publicity from the media. Millions of people spent days watching and waiting to view the fate of one of America's most admired football stars. On October 3, 1995, after brief deliberation, the jury returned a verdict of Â“Not Guilty.Â" Two years later, however, in a civil trial brought by the relatives of the victims, a civil jury found him liable for the damages in the murders. He was ordered to pay $33 million in damages.
O.J. Simpson was one of the most celebrated sports figures in America, but his alleged involvement in the murder of his ex-wife and her friend, despite his acquittal, will forever overshadow the opinions of sports fans the world over.
See also Black History Month .