Fifty years ago, Coolidge Ball broke down walls at the University of Mississippi. On May 15, Ole Miss’ first black student-athlete will be celebrated with a life-size, bronze likeness erected in the north plaza of The Pavilion.
Designed by renowned Mississippi sculptor Kim Sessums, the statue will sit on a four-foot-tall limestone base and will include an historical marker to reflect on Ball’s impact as a civil rights pioneer. The monument, which was funded with a generous gift from Bill and Lee Anne Fry, will be dedicated in a private ceremony due to COVID restrictions.
“Coolidge Ball is a trailblazer whose lasting legacy at the University of Mississippi is reflected in how he braved uncharted territory and, in doing so, helped to move the university and our state forward,” said Chancellor Glenn Boyce. “As the first black student-athlete to enroll here, Coolidge opened the door of opportunity for countless other student-athletes. This statue is a well-deserved and fitting honor that ensures his courage will always be remembered and celebrated by our university and our fans.”
“Our university is forever indebted to Coolidge Ball for the courage he showed 50 years ago,” said Keith Carter, Vice Chancellor for Intercollegiate Athletics. “With this strength, humility and kindness, Coolidge provided a beacon of light for our community while setting an example for generations of student-athletes, both on and off the court. We are eternally grateful to Coolidge for his contributions to civil rights and for his leadership for Ole Miss.”
“I’m very grateful to be distinguished in this way,” Ball said. “When I first came to campus, I never dreamed that 50 years later I would be recognized as a part of our university’s history. While I’m proud of my accomplishments on the court, I’m truly honored to be viewed as someone who paved the way for future student-athletes. I’m really excited to see the statue go up and look forward to the ceremony.”
On August 6, 1970, Ball signed the Rebels’ last available basketball scholarship for that season. The Indianola, Mississippi, native was recruited by other schools such as Arizona State, Northwestern and New Mexico State, but his decision to attend Ole Miss opened the door for future black student-athletes to make their way to the Oxford campus to wear the Red and Blue, not just in basketball, but other sports as well.
A 1975 graduate of the University of Mississippi, Ball was inducted into the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame in 2008 and the Ole Miss Athletics Hall of Fame in 1991 and was a member of the SEC Basketball Legends Class of 2005. When the University of Mississippi celebrated its “First 100 Years of Ole Miss Basketball” in 2009, it came as no surprise when Ball was selected to the All-Century Team.
Back in September, we sat down with Dr. Kim Sessums for our final episode of season one of Audibles. Hear what he had to say about the project and what it meant to him. Also, learn more about the man creating this life-size statue of Coolidge Ball by watching the entire interview, seen right here: https://www.spiritmedianet.com/audibles/