NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Perry Wallace, the first black player to receive a basketball scholarship at Vanderbilt or in the SEC, has died, Vanderbilt Athletics confirmed with News 2.
Wallace was a trailblazer in Vanderbilt and SEC basketball, graduating from Pearl High School in 1966 as a valedictorian and attending Vanderbilt as the first black player in its history and SEC history to receive
a basketball scholarship.
Vanderbilt established the Perry E. Wallace Jr. Scholarship in his honor. The
scholarship is awarded to an undergraduate in the School of Engineering, where Wallace earned his bachelor’s degree in 1970.
The former Commodore also received his law degree from Columbia University.
Nashville Mayor Megan Barry commented on Wallace’s death in a tweet Friday.
“Perry Wallace competed on the court the same way he lived his life: with an extremely rare blend of courage, strength, skill and grace under fire. We will miss this truly amazing man,” said Barry.
Vanderbilt University Chancellor Nicholas Zeppos issued a statement after news of the death reached the Vanderbilt community.
Vanderbilt, the sports world, and the entire country lost a civil rights icon today. We are deeply saddened by the passing of Perry Wallace, who through quiet strength and courage blazed a trail that still serves as a lesson in resilience and perseverance in the face of incredible obstacles. We are more fortunate for having known him and for his legacy at Vanderbilt. While his passing sadly comes just as we come together to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Perry’s groundbreaking achievement, his legacy will live on. Our thoughts are with his loved ones at this time.
Wallace is to be featured in an upcoming documentary celebrating the 50th anniversary of him enrolling at the school.
He was also set to receive the Michael L. Slive Distinguished Service Award at the SEC Football Championship in Atlanta, Georgia on Saturday.
A website set up by Vanderbilt chronicles the story of Wallace and his journey at Vanderbilt.