Southern Conference announces the SoCon Alfred White Trailblazer Recognition
Southern Conference announces the SoCon Alfred White Trailblazer Recognition
Friday, January 29, 2021

List recognizes the first Black student-athletes, faculty and administrators throughout history of the conference

SPARTANBURG, S.C. - The Southern Conference Racial Equity and Justice Task Force announced the SoCon Alfred White Trailblazer Recognition on Friday afternoon, an initiative developed in conjunction with the conference’s 100th anniversary to honor Black student-athletes, faculty and administrators who have paved the way and contributed to the success of those who came after them in the league. 

The recognition is named after former Southern Conference commissioner Alfred White (1998-2001), who is the first and only Black commissioner of the league and the first African American named to lead a conference not composed primarily or exclusively of historically Black colleges.

“I am beyond honored to have my name associated with the SoCon Trailblazer recognition. I applaud the Racial Equity and Justice Task Force marketing subcommittee members that conceptualized this recognition initiative,” White said. “The Southern Conference will always occupy a special place in my heart, and I am delighted my time with the league brought significance to the progress minorities and women were making in athletics administration.”

West Virginia’s Phillip Edwards was the conference’s first Black student-athlete and also integrated sports at WVU on Friday, March 17, 1961, when Edwards spent his first day of practice as a member of the Mountaineer track team. In addition to Edwards, West Virginia’s first Black football and men’s basketball players integrated the conference in their respective sports. In 1962, Richard Leftridge and Roger Alford became the first Black football players at WVU. The Mountaineers’ 1965 men’s basketball team played an integral part of history with four trailblazing players in Jim Lewis, Ed Harvard, Norman Holmes and Ron Williams. They were the first Black men’s basketball players in the SoCon and at WVU.  

The list of trailblazers includes a total of 78 former and current Black student-athletes, faculty and administrators of the conference. There are 13 current Black head coaches and administrators who earned honorable mention, as they continue to make a daily impact on the lives of student-athletes.

The initial members of the list were the first to make marks on their respective campuses as first Black head coaches, student-athletes, administrators and more.

ETSU had five members receive the recognition, which includes current head volleyball coach Benavia Jenkinks, Assistant Director of Basketball Sport Performance Autumn Lockwood, former men’s soccer head coach Bo Oshoniyi, football’s Johnny Russaw and basketball’s Tommy Woods.

The SoCon Alfred White Trailblazer Recognition will be an evolving list as individuals in the SoCon continue to make their mark as trailblazers. If you would like to submit a name to the SoCon Alfred White Trailblazer Recognition list, please fill out the following fields in this form. (OR email Jasmine Washington, [email protected], with the first and last name, school, sport, years active at the school and a sentence explaining why this person is a trailblazer.) 

The SoCon stands with its student-athletes, faculty and administrators in supporting all ongoing and continuous racial equity and justice efforts.

Full list of the Southern Conference Alfred White Trailblazer Recognition members:
*Current member institutions who joined the conference at a later date

Rodney Acker; Furman Football (1969-71)- First Black Furman football player

Wendy Anderson; The Citadel Volleyball (1999-2006)- First Black Citadel head coach

Roger Alford; West Virginia Football (1962-65)- One of two first Black football players at WVU

*Greg Andrews; Chattanooga (1967-68)- First Black scholarship athlete

*Zeke Bateman; Wofford Men’s Basketball (1969-71)- First Black scholarship athlete

*Craig Beard; Samford Men’s Basketball (1982-85)- First Black and ever athlete drafted to the NBA

*Lenny Best; Wofford Football (1978-82)- First Black male in Wofford Hall of Fame (‘88)

Stanley Broaden; Southern Conference (2018-present) - First Black Assistant Commissioner for Championships 

Joe Brunson; Furman Men’s Basketball (1969-70)- First Black student-athlete at Furman

Jim Burch; Southern Conference Basketball (1967-2011)- First Black SoCon basketball official

Ronnie Carr; Western Carolina Men’s Basketball (1980-83)- First three-pointer in NCAA history

Jackie Carson; Furman Women’s Basketball (2010-present)- First and only Black woman head coach in Furman’s history

Paul Chelimo; UNCG Cross Country/Track and Field (2011-13)- First American to earn an Olympic medal in the 5,000-meter race since 1964, UNCG’s first Olympian

Dexter Coakley; App State Football (1993-96)- First Black SoCon football player inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame

Vincent Colbert; East Carolina Men’s Basketball (1966-68)- One of two first Black men’s basketball players at ECU; also played baseball (1967 & 1968), member of two-time SoCon baseball championship teams

Carlester Crumpler; East Carolina Football (1970-73)- First Black All-America selection

Henry Dickerson; Chattanooga Men’s Basketball (1998-2000)- First Black men’s basketball coach 

Sam Dixon; Furman Women’s Basketball (2002-10)- First Black head coach at Furman

Keith Elliot; Western Carolina Football (1965-68)- First Black student-athlete to receive a football scholarship in North Carolina and at Western Carolina

Phillip Edwards; West Virginia Track & Field (1961-63); First Black student-athlete at WVU and in the Southern Conference

Weldon Edwards; Richmond Football (1971-73)- School’s first Black football player

Phillip Ervin; Samford Baseball (2011-14)- First Black baseball player at Samford to be drafted in the first round of the MLB draft  

Edgar I. Farmer Jr.; Wofford Women’s Basketball (2004-16)- First Black Wofford head coach

Kenneth Feaster; The Citadel Baseball (1972-75)- First Black baseball player at The Citadel

Dwight Freeman; Marshall Men’s Basketball (1990-94)- First Black Southern Conference men’s basketball head coach 

Curtis Frye; East Carolina Men’s Soccer (1974-79)- First Black ECU head coach

Jerry Gaines; Virginia Tech Track & Field (1967-71)- First Black scholarship student-athlete

Alex Gary; Western Carolina Administration (2020-Present)- First Black Athletics Director

Ed Harvard; West Virginia Men’s Basketball (1965-68)- One of four first Black basketball players at WVU

Jameica Hill; Wofford Administration (2006-Present)- First Black faculty athletic representative

Norman Holmes; West Virginia Men’s Basketball (1965-68)- One of four first Black basketball players at WVU

Anthony James; Western Carolina Football/Track & Field (1979-83)- First Catamount to qualify for an NCAA National Championship (‘83)

Benavia Jenkins; ETSU Volleyball (2019-present)- First Black ETSU Volleyball head coach

*Lou Johnson; Mercer Baseball (1970)- First Black student-athlete at Mercer

Dick Leftridge; West Virginia Football (1962-65); One of two first Black football players at WVU

Jim Lewis; West Virginia Men’s Basketball (1965-68)- One of four first Black basketball players at WVU

Kyle Lewis; Mercer Baseball (2015-16)- SoCon’s first and only Golden Spikes recipient and Baseball America College Player of the Year

Autumn Lockwood; ETSU Strength and Conditioning (2020-present)- First woman to hold full-time strength and conditioning position

*Henry Logan; Western Carolina (1965-68)- First Black athlete to play at a predominantly white college in the Southeast

*Rudolph Long; Wofford Football (1970-72)- First Black Wofford football player

Mike Maloy; Davidson Men’s Basketball (1968-70)- First Black scholarship athlete at Davidson, three-time All-American and Southern Conference Player of the Year in 1969 and 1970

Stephanie McCormick; Western Carolina (2015-19)- First Black Western Carolina head coach of a non-Olympic sport

Livonia “Stump” Mitchell; The Citadel Football (1978-81)- First Black football player drafted to the NFL

Manteo Mitchell; Western Carolina Track & Field (2006-09)- First Olympian in WCU history (2012 Olympic Silver Medalist, 4x400-meter relay)

*Walter “Moose” McGary; Chattanooga Men’s Basketball (1971-74)- First Black Chattanooga athlete drafted to the NBA (‘73)

Richard B. Moore; Southern Conference (2002-06) - First Black SoCon Director of Marketing 

Melissa Morrison Howard; App State Track & Field (1989-93)- One of three Black student-athletes inducted into the first SoCon Hall of Fame (‘09)

Norman Neverson; George Washington Football (1963-67)- First Black football scholarship athlete

Wendy Palmer; UNCG Women's Basketball (2011-16) - First black women's basketball coach of UNCG's Division I era

Michael Payton; Marshall Football (1989-92)- First Black SoCon football player to receive the Walter Payton Award in 1992

Adrian Peterson; Georgia Southern Football (1998-2001)- One of three Black athletes in the first SoCon Hall of Fame (‘09); Member of the College Football Hall of Fame

Garland Pinkston; George Washington Men’s Basketball (1967-68)- First Black member of the men’s basketball varsity team

Bo Oshoniyi; ETSU Men’s Soccer (2014-17)- First Black men’s soccer coach to receive coach of the year honors

Jerry Roane; VMI Baseball (1975-76)- First Black head coach at VMI

Victor Roache; Georgia Southern Baseball (2009-12)- First Black SoCon baseball player to be drafted in the first round of the MLB draft (2012)

*Bobby Roberts; UNCG Men’s Basketball- First Black men’s basketball player

Devondia Ross; Western Carolina Track & Field (1991-94)- First woman in WCU history to break the 12-second barrier in the 100m dash

*John Russaw; ETSU Football (1964-67)- First Black student-athlete at ETSU

Michele Savage; Davidson Women’s Basketball (2010-17)- First Black woman head coach at Davidson

Oscar Scott; The Citadel Men’s Basketball (1971-73)- First Black men’s basketball player

Norman Seabrooks; The Citadel Football (1969-73)- First Black football player and scholarship athlete

Marvin Simpson; East Carolina Men’s Basketball (1966-67)- One of two first Black men’s basketball players at ECU

*Jerry Thurston; Mercer Men’s Basketball (1974-1977)- First Black athlete drafted to the NBA (‘77)

Charlie Tyler; VMI Men’s Basketball (1971-74)- First Black cadet-athlete to play basketball

Emmanuel Udogu; App State Men’s Soccer (1971-74); First Black student-athlete to receive SoCon Men’s Soccer Player of the Year honors; first ever men’s soccer player of the year recipient 

Thompson Usiyan; App State Men’s Soccer (1977-80)- NCAA men’s soccer record holder in season (108) and career (255) points

Dick Valentine; VMI Football (1969-72)- First Black cadet-athlete to play football

Stephanie VanBrakle; Samford Softball (2011)- First Black head coach at Samford

Junior Wade; Davidson Baseball (1975)- First Black head coach at Davidson

*Pez Whatley; Chattanooga Wrestling (1970-72)- First Black wrestler at Chattanooga

Alfred White; Southern Conference (1998-2001)- First and only Black commissioner of the SoCon

Alyssa Whitehead; Samford Women’s Soccer (2008-11)- First Black woman inducted into Samford Hall of Fame (‘18)

Valorie Whiteside; App State Women’s Basketball (1984-88)- One of three Black student-athletes inducted into the first SoCon Hall of Fame (‘09)

Ron “Fritz” Williams; West Virginia Men’s Basketball (1965-68)- First Black SoCon Student-Athlete of the Year (1967-68)

Maj. Gen. Cedric Wins; VMI Interim Superintendent (2020-Present)- First Black person to hold the highest position of leadership at the country’s oldest state-supported military college.

Warren Winston; William & Mary Football (1968-72)- First Black scholarship athlete

*Tommy Woods; ETSU Men’s Basketball (1963-67)- First Black basketball player at ETSU

Rocky Wright; George Washington Men’s Basketball (1963)- First Black men’s basketball player (played on the freshman team)

Honorable mention: (Currently serving in the SoCon)
Johnny Bomar; Wofford Track & Field/Cross Country Head Coach (2011-present)
Stanley Broaden; Southern Conference (2018-present)
Jackie Carson; Furman Women’s Basketball Head Coach (2010-present)
Rob Carson; Furman Athletics Administration- Associate Athletics Director/Academic Success, Diversity, Inclusion and Engagement (2010-present)
Rob Knox; UNCG Administration- Sports information (2020-present)
Autumn Lockwood; ETSU Strength and Conditioning (2020-present)
Roosevelt Lofton; Mercer Track & Field Head Coach (2019-present)
Seth Flanagan; Wofford Rifle Head Coach (2020-present)
Alex Gary; Western Carolina Athletic Director (2020-present)
Benavia Jenkins; ETSU Volleyball Head Coach (2019-present)
Pamella Jenkins; Delaware State Women’s Lacrosse Head Coach (2019-present)
Lamont Paris; Chattanooga Men’s Basketball Head Coach (2017-present)
Trina Patterson; UNCG Women’s Basketball Head Coach (2016-Present)

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