The idea of an annual, benefit dinner was hatched by Norman and Ginny Lockman with Tom and Lynda Maloney. Norm, Tom and Lynda all served many years on the Gridiron Board. Norm served as Chairman of the Board while Tom and Lynda headed up the "Show" committee. When amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) limited Norm's capacity to lead the effort, he stood down and another of Bill Frank's colleagues from The News Journal, Ron Williams took over.

After a four-year battle with ALS, Norm died in April 2005. The Board of Directors wanted to remember his direction and leadership of the First State Gridiron. The "new" arts awards were just being debuted and they were named after Norm. The Norman A. Lockman Excellence in the Arts Awards assisted organizations in Delaware who demonstrated a sincere interest in and commitment to the visual and performing arts.

In 2013 the philanthropic focus evolved to actively encouraging civility in Delaware's political discourse and encouraging greater civic participation for the common good.

In the early years, the Board of Directors presented the "Bill Frank Unsung Heroes Award" at the dinner. This was an extension of the column the Bill wrote for many years in The News Journal that heralded local people that had served others without recognition or fanfare. Beginning in 2002, the criteria for recognition changed and the award became known as the Thomas C. Maloney Community Service Award. Tom was one of the founders of the First State Gridiron Dinner and Show. He was a former Mayor of Wilmington and served as the Regional Director of Housing and Urban Development under President Jimmy Carter. After a dozen years, the recognition continued as the First State Gridiron Community Service Award.


Colleagues from The News Journal along with Bill Frank's wife Winnie got together to celebrate his many accomplishments at a private dinner and roast. After his death in 1989, the tradition continued and the initial proceeds of the Gridiron Dinner were invested at the University of Delaware in a journalism scholarship in his honor. 

For two decades, the volunteer Board of Directors of the First State Gridiron supported many students including graduating seniors from Delaware high schools, journalism students at The University of Delaware and communications students from Delaware State University.