Perry Wallace
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Perry Wallace

Perry Wallace
Personal information
Born(1948-02-19)February 19, 1948
Nashville, Tennessee
DiedDecember 1, 2017(2017-12-01) (aged 69)
Rockville, Maryland
Listed height6 ft 5 in (1.96 m)
Career information
High schoolPearl (Nashville, Tennessee)
CollegeVanderbilt (1967-1970)
NBA draft1970 / Round: 5 / Pick: 80th overall
Selected by the Philadelphia 76ers
PositionSmall forward
Career highlights and awards

Perry Eugene Wallace Jr. (February 19, 1948 - December 1, 2017)[1] was an American lawyer who was a professor of law at Washington College of Law.[2] He was the first African-American varsity athlete to play basketball under an athletic scholarship in the Southeastern Conference, playing for Vanderbilt University.[3][4] His experiences at Vanderbilt are the subject of the book Strong Inside, by Andrew Maraniss, published in 2014.[5]


Wallace attended Pearl High School in the then segregated Nashville public schools. He helped Pearl High School's basketball team go undefeated and win the team's first integrated basketball state championship. He was a straight-A student, valedictorian of his class and was named a high school All-American athlete.[3][6]

Wallace was recruited by many colleges,[3] and enrolled at Vanderbilt in 1966. He was one of two African-American players who arrived at Vanderbilt that year, but the other, Godfrey Dillard, was injured before he could earn a varsity letter (at the time, freshmen were not eligible to play on NCAA varsity teams), and ultimately transferred to and played at Eastern Michigan.[7] In 1967, Perry became the first black scholarship athlete to play basketball in the Southeastern Conference.

Wallace was generally welcomed by his teammates, but traveling with the team was difficult, and Wallace was often threatened from opposing teams with verbal taunts and roughness on the court. He became the first black athlete to complete four years at an SEC school,[7][9] graduating with a degree in engineering in 1970, and was drafted by the Philadelphia 76ers.[6] In 1970, he was awarded the Bachelor of Ugliness, a whimsically titled but prestigious student prize.[10] He responded with a press interview in which he described some of the loneliness he had felt on campus throughout the four years, ranging from small slights and the lack of true inclusion by or friendship from well-meaning people to overtly racist professors and racist incidents, such as a demand from the University Church of Christ, located across the street from the campus but not affiliated with it, that he not attend church services there because of his race.[10]

In the following season, basketball teams from Alabama, Kentucky, Florida and Georgia contained black athletes.[4]

Wallace earned his J.D. from Columbia University in 1975.[2]


Wallace was a trial attorney at the United States Department of Justice, where he dealt with natural resources and environmental law. In 1992, he was appointed to the Environmental Policy advisory council of the EPA.[11] He became a professor of law at The American University Washington College of Law in 1993, where he specialized in environmental law, corporate law and finance.[12]


  • 1966 - Recruited by many colleges and enrolled at Vanderbilt
  • 2003 - Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame[6]
  • 2004 - Retirement of his Vanderbilt jersey, number 25[7]
  • 2017 - Movie was made about Perry Wallace's life called Triumph: The Untold Story of Perry Wallace -


  1. ^ Ammenheuser, David. "Perry Wallace: Vanderbilt, SEC basketball trailblazer dead". Tennessean. Retrieved 2017.
  2. ^ a b "Perry Wallace, Professor of Law". Washington College of Law. Retrieved 2010.
  3. ^ a b c "SEC Trailblazer Perry Wallace Will Speak at Landon". Landon. Retrieved 2010.
  4. ^ a b English, Antonya (January 25, 2009). "Former Vanderbilt star Perry Wallace learned to overcome hatred as Southeastern Conference's first black basketball player". St. Petersburg Times. Retrieved 2010.
  5. ^ Patterson, Jim (November 25, 2014). "Vanderbilt alum pens biography of the 'Jackie Robinson of the SEC'". Vanderbilt News. Retrieved 2014.
  6. ^ a b c "Perry Wallace". Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame. Archived from the original on July 24, 2011. Retrieved 2010.
  7. ^ a b c Carey, Jack (February 19, 2004). "An SEC trailblazer gets his due". USA Today. Retrieved 2010.
  8. ^ Story, Mark (September 27, 2016). "UK reveals sculpture honoring first black football players". Lexington Herald-Leader. Retrieved 2016.
  9. ^ The aforementioned Northington, grieving over the death of Kentucky's other African-American signee of 1966, Greg Page, left UK shortly after his injury, transferring to Western Kentucky.[8]
  10. ^ a b Andrew, Maraniss (2014). Strong inside : Perry Wallace and the collision of race and sports in the South. pp. 347-355. ISBN 0826520243. OCLC 894510850.
  11. ^ "Biography - Wallace" (PDF). Washington College of Law. Retrieved 2010.
  12. ^ "CV" (PDF). Washington College of Law. Retrieved 2010.

Further reading

External links

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