Mitt Romney, left, and Milton Romney
Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney owes his name to Milton Romney (right), a former quarterback for the Chicago Bears and the University of Chicago, seen here in a photo in the school’s alumni magazine.

As a master of political trivia, I knew that Willard Mitt Romney—most recently in the news for out-fundraising his fellow GOP presidential hopefuls candidates in the second quarter—was named after J. Willard Marriott, the famous hotelier (and fellow Mormon) who was also best friends with Mitt’s father, George.

But Romney’s name has a Chicago tie as well. The frontrunner for the Republican nomination for president—who grew up in Michigan, where his father was a three-term governor—owes his middle name to George’s cousin, Milton “Mitt” Romney, who was a quarterback for the Chicago Bears from 1925 to 1929.

Milton Romney came to the Bears after playing QB for the University of Chicago back in the early 1920s, when the Maroons were a winning football team. (In the 1921 season, for example, U of C beat Northwestern 41-0, Illinois 14-6, Wisconsin 3-0, Colorado 35-0.)  According to the school’s alumni magazine, Milton, whose home was Salt Lake City, was a “brilliant” quarterback who was so admired by his teammates “for the kind of football he plays” that he was elected captain of the 1922 team. (He graduated in 1923.)

Robert Hutchins, who became the university’s president in 1929, dropped varsity football in 1939, complaining that too many schools placed more emphasis and resources on sports than on academics. By then, the team was losing regularly, making it easier for Hutchins—who once said, “Whenever I feel like exercise I lie down until the feeling passes”—to take his iconoclastic stand.

The Chicago tie will surely not be enough for Romney to carry Illinois in a presidential contest against Barack Obama, but it could give him a tiny boost if he makes it to the Republican primary here.


Photograph: (left) Chicago Tribune