President Biden honored Franco Harris, the Pittsburgh Steelers Hall of Fame running back who died Wednesday, by recalling the kindness he showed the Biden family in 1972 after the future president’s wife and daughter were killed in a car accident.
On Dec. 18, 1972, Mr. Biden’s wife Neilia and one-year-old daughter Naomi were killed while Christmas shopping in Delaware. The station wagon was hit by a semi-trailer truck and Mr. Biden’s sons Hunter Biden, aged 2, and Beau Biden, aged 3, suffered severe injuries.
As Mr. Biden tells it, days later he left the Delaware hospital that was caring for his sons to purchase a Christmas tree for their room. When he returned, they were smiling and clutching footballs signed by Steelers players.
Steelers owner Art Rooney Sr., Harris, and Rocky Bleier, a running back, made an unannounced trip to the hospital.
“Busy with their own lives, they took the time to be with my boys, sign footballs, and left with no publicity. A small act of kindness that meant the world to us,” Mr. Biden said in a statement just hours after Harris’ passing.
“May God bless Franco Harris — a dear friend, a good man, and a great American,” Mr. Biden said.
The visit to the hospital room came just days after Harris executed the “Immaculate Reception” which is considered one of the most iconic plays in NFL history.
“Sports have a powerful way of bringing people together. As families gather for Christmas this weekend, there will be countless Pittsburgh Steeler and Penn State fans sharing stories of Franco with their children and grandchildren who will discover his greatness on the field. But I know there will also be countless families like mine that will remember him for all that he did to lift our spirits when we needed it – in the most quiet, personal, and American of ways,” Mr. Biden said.
No cause of death was given for Harris, who was to be honored on Saturday during a halftime ceremony celebrating the 50th anniversary of the “Immaculate Reception.” The Steelers are scheduled to retire his jersey during the ceremony.