Father Ryan High School Salutes
50 Years of Sports Equality
Willie Brown Honored at State Tournaments
Father Ryan’s Willie Brown, who integrated sports in Tennessee and the South when he took the court for the Irish in December of 1963, was honored at each of this year’s TSSAA State Basketball Championship Saturdays for his contributions to the sport and to the state.
The state organization will be honoring Brown, who died while a policeman in 1975 in Stamford, Conn., while returning home from duty, during this 50th Anniversary of integration of sports. Brown’s sister, Ann Brown Beatty, his coach, Bill Derrick, and others will be a part of the celebrations. They will take place at the DII Championship at Lipscomb on March 1; the DI Girls Championship on March 8; and the DI Boys Championship on March 15, the latter two at MTSU.
Brown will also be inducted into the TSSAA Hall of Fame at its annual luncheon in April.
The game in 1963 lauched Brown, a 1965 graduate of Father Ryan, into a two-year career as a starter as he became one of the most talented and honored players in the state’s history. During those two years the Irish posted a 52-6 record, won the District 18 title two straight years, the Region V title in 1965 and advanced to the state tournament. In addition, on January 5, 1965, Willie’s senior team played and won an historic game against Pearl High’s outstanding team, led by Perry Wallace and Ted ‘Hound’ McClain, in front of 8,300 at Municipal Auditorium, the first game in the South between an African-American school and an integrated school.
Watch the documentary video that plays during the game broadcast:
View the game broadcast of the 2014 TSSAA Division II Class AA Boys Basketball Championship - Ensworth vs Memphis University School and tune in at 53:46 for the salute to Willie Brown.
Thank you to Star Physical Therapy for being an official sponsor of 50 Years of Equality in Sports.
On Tuesday, November 19th, Father Ryan High School continued its celebration of 50 years of sports equality in the South at the basketball home opener with the retirement of number 50 across all Father Ryan sports in honor of the late Willie Brown, a 1965 Father Ryan graduate. Brown and teammate Jesse Porter '64 were the first African-Americans to integrate high school sports in the South when they played for the Irish in the 1963-64.
Brown was one of the most accomplished players in Tennessee’s history, and in his two-year career as a starter, the Irish posted a 52-6 record, winning the District two straight years. In 1965 Brown and his teammates won the Region V title and advanced to the state tournament. In the process he also became the first African American to:
• Play in the District, Region and State Tournaments in Tennessee
• Play in an organized game at Vanderbilt’s Memorial Gym (1963)
• Sign an OVC Scholarship and play in that conference at MTSC (now MTSU) 1966-1969
In honor of the legacy of this outstanding player Father Ryan raised a banner with the #50 to the rafters of the gym. Willie Brown's sister, Ann Brown Beatty, and many of her family members were in attendance, along with a number of the members of that 1963-64 team, the teams that followed, and Coach Bill Derrick. Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam proclaimed this date as "Willie Brown/Retirement #50 Day"
WSMV Channel 4
Nashville Public Radio
The Tennessee Register
News Channel 5
USA Today HSS
WSMV Fox Channel 17
The Tennessean, December 3