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Vol. 58, No. 3 • March 2021 • .pdf version
Perry Wallace lends his name, courage to our award
By MALCOLM MORAN
The process began in 2014, when Andrew Maraniss' book, "Strong Inside: Perry Wallace and the Collision of Race and Sports in the South" described the experience of the first African-American basketball player in the Southeastern Conference. The description, frightening in its meticulous detail, captures the life of a college athlete as a focal point of the Civil Rights movement more than 50 years ago.
We look ahead at games and wonder what impact they will have on standings, on the direction of a season or the development of a team.
Wallace would anticipate road trips to SEC campuses and consider the possibility that he could be shot on a basketball court.
The words rained down on Wallace, but that wasn't all. He was spit on and pelted with Cokes, ice, and coins. At LSU, some Vanderbilt players claimed, a dagger was thrown on the court in Wallace's direction (an event he cannot recall). In Knoxville, teammates remember, fans dangled a noose near the Vanderbilt bench. Wallace understood that there was a fundamental irony pervading the "hellish dramas" unfolding at these southern gymnasiums. The same values his tormentors claimed to be at their core were the very ones that sustained him, even as the hecklers defaulted on their own claims.
When the USBWA board unanimously approved the naming of one of our oldest recognitions the Perry Wallace Most Courageous Award last month, the decision created one of the most important moments in the 65-year history of the organization. Former board members can recall lengthy, intense debates about some of our awards in the past. This discussion achieved a consensus very quickly.
Each year since the Most Courageous Award was first presented in 1978, the acceptance remarks of the honorees have provided some of the most powerful memories of our annual awards celebrations. Next month, for the first time, the award will have an identity that will ensure that future generations will remember Wallace's experience.
The game was just one aspect of a life of achievement. Wallace earned a law degree from Columbia University, worked as an attorney for the Department of Justice, and became the first Black tenured law professor at the University of Baltimore. He was a law professor at American University's Washington College of Law. He directed the university's JD/MBA Joint Degree Program and was co-director of the Paris- Geneva Comparative Law summer program. He received the Silver Anniversary Award from the NCAA in 1995.
At the end of a season that has taken place with the continuing discussion of racial justice, the USBWA will begin to recognize the courage Wallace displayed from the time he chose to enroll at Vanderbilt, knowing what was ahead. The recognition came slowly. It was more than two decades after he graduated in 1970 before Wallace was invited to return to the Vanderbilt campus to be honored. Now that campus includes Perry Wallace Way. The university, led by Candice Storey Lee, Vice Chancellor for Athletics and University Affairs and Athletic Director, will make an annual contribution for future honorees and guests to attend the Final Four and become part of the awards celebration.
Perry Wallace died at the age of 69 in 2017. Each year at the Final Four, he will honor us with his presence and create a connection to a new generation of college athletes with stories to tell about obstacles they have confronted and overcome.
We are an organization of story tellers, and it is hard to imagine a story more compelling than this.
Lodge Notes: Lodge Notes: Doughty, O'Toole retire after 40-plus years
Doug Doughty, the dean of University of Virginia beat writers, retired after a 47-year career at The Roanoke Times, 43 of them covering Cavaliers basketball teams.
According to the Times, he covered everything from the ACC title won by the Cavs in 1976, to the Ralph Sampson era, to their national championship in 2019.
"Anybody who can last in a profession, especially in … (the newspaper) profession, which is challenging, I think speaks volumes to the quality of their work, the quality of the person," UVa coach Tony Bennett told the Times.
Tom O'Toole, retired after 43 years as a sports journalist. He spent the past 20 years at USA Today, where he was an assistant managing editor for sports and a regular figure at 18 Final Fours, overseeing the publication's coverage.
O'Toole also covered Tennessee for the Knoxville News-Sentinel, Georgia for the Atlanta Constitution- Journal and national sports for Scripps Howard News Service.
Gordon S. White Jr. of The New York Times, USBWA president in 1969- 70 and a 1992 Hall of Fame inductee, passed away last August, according to his son, Gordon III.
Bill Potter left his role as assistant commissioner of communications at the Colonial Athletic Association to become the director of marketing at the First Tee of Richmond.
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