NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The first black basketball player on scholarship in the Southeastern Conference now has a street named after him outside of Vanderbilt University’s Memorial Gymnasium.
Family members of the late Perry Wallace joined school officials, Vanderbilt men’s basketball coach Jerry Stackhouse, Nashville Mayor John Cooper and other supporters Saturday for the unveiling of the ceremonially renamed Perry Wallace Way.
“It’s with great pride that I take being the head coach here at Vanderbilt University knowing just the leadership it took to desegregate SEC basketball,” Stackhouse said.
Wallace became the first black player to play in a varsity game on Dec. 2, 1967, in a game at Southern Methodist. He made his SEC debut two days later at Memorial Gym against Auburn. He was captain of the team when he graduated in 1970.
“He overcame tremendous adversity both on campus and throughout the South as a true pioneer, and pioneer is a title I think he wore reluctantly,” Cooper said. “But he pushed forward with the immense courage of his convictions, and we are so grateful that he did.”
The Nashville Metro Council approved a measure in August 2019 to rename the portion of the street after Wallace, who died Dec. 1, 2017. He was 69.