Lawrence Herkimer, a.k.a Mr. Cheerleader, the founder of the National Cheerleaders Association and the “grandfather of modern cheerleading,” died last Wednesday at the age of 89.

Herkimer began his cheerleading career in high school, then, after graduating from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, began a cheerleading camp and cheerleading business. In fact, it was Herkimer who first patented cheerleading pompoms. According to the New York Times, “Mr. Herkimer said that anticipating the advent of color television inspired him to create kaleidoscopic crepe-paper pompoms. (He called them pompons, the French spelling, because he was told that the other version was slang in the Pacific for prostitute.)”

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Simply put: “I figured there had to be something more colorful on the field than a chrome stick that the cheerleaders twirled, so I got the idea to put some colored paper on a stick.”

From his New York Times obituary:

Mr. Herkimer was often called the grandfather of modern cheerleading and Mr. Cheerleader. Not only did his enterprises achieve sales of $50 million a year, he also patented the pompoms that have become a staple of cheerleading and invented a leap known as the “Herkie jump” that is widely used by squads across the country.

Herkimer died in Dallas. He is survived by his daughters, grandchildren, and sister.


Contact the author at madeleine@jezebel.com.

Image via the National Cheerleaders Association/Facebook.