Skip to main content

Perry Wallace

Posted by on Thursday, February 7, 2019 in Uncategorized.

Portrait of Perry Wallace holding a basketball

Portrait Details:

Artist: Simmie Knox

Year: 2018

Current Location: Kirkland Hall



Perry Wallace, who enrolled at Vanderbilt in 1966, was the first African American varsity basketball player in the Southeastern Conference. Wallace received numerous honors during his time on campus, winning the SEC Sportsmanship Trophy after a vote by league players. After completing his bachelor of engineering in 1970, he earned a law degree from Columbia University. He began working at the Department of Justice and in 1992 was appointed to the Environmental Policy Advisory Council of the Environmental Protection Agency. Wallace later became a professor, teaching at Howard University, the University of Baltimore and American University. In 2004, Vanderbilt officially retired his jersey No. 25. He was also inducted into the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame and was named by the National Association of Basketball Coaches to its five-man Silver Anniversary All-America Team. In 2015, a scholarship for Vanderbilt students was created by his classmates in his honor, and the next year he was inducted into the School of Engineering’s Academy of Distinguished Alumni. Wallace’s story was the subject of The New York Times best-selling book Strong Inside by alumnus Andrew Maraniss. His biography of Wallace was the Commons Reading for first-year students during the 2016–17 and 2017–18 academic years. Wallace’s life was also detailed in the documentary film Triumph: The Untold Story of Perry Wallace. Chosen to receive the 2017 Vanderbilt University Alumni Association Distinguished Alumni Award, Wallace died that December and his family accepted the honor on his behalf in 2018.


Additional recognitions, awards and news

Vanderbilt Celebrating Change Page

Legacy of Courage Page

Scholarship in honor of Wallace

Documentary of Wallace featured in film festival

Tennessee State Legislature honors Wallace

Photos and Videos of Perry Wallace

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


“Triumph,” the Perry Wallace documentary official trailer


Strong Inside: Perry Wallace and the Collision of Race and Sports


State Legislature honors Vanderbilt athlete, civil rights pioneer Perry Wallace