Coolidge Ball, first Black student-athlete at Ole Miss, passes away at 71

Written by on August 31, 2023

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Ole Miss announced Tuesday that Coolidge Ball, the first African-American student-athlete with the Rebels, passed away at 71.

In 1970, Ball became the first Black student-athlete in the history of Ole Miss by signing with its men’s basketball program, reports. From 1972 to 1974, Ball scored more than 1,072 points for the Rebels and led the team to three consecutive winning seasons for the first time since 1936-38.

Coolidge Ball, First Black Student-Athlete at Ole Miss, Passes Away at 71
Coolidge Ball screenshot via Ole Miss Rebels/YouTube

“He not only broke down walls for future generations of student-athletes but also provided an example for all those who followed him,” athletic director Keith Carter said in a statement. 

Carter described Ball as “the greatest trailblazer in the history of Ole Miss athletics.”

According to Carter, Coolidge “remained an active member of the Ole Miss family throughout his life” and noted his “impact as a student-athlete, civil rights leader, and friend to us all.”

As WJTV Jackson reports, Ball’s inductions included the Ole Miss Athletics Hall of Fame in 1991, the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame in 2008, and Ball was named SEC Basketball Legend in 2005. 

He earned a spot on the Ole Miss Men’s Basketball All-Century Team in 2009, and his bronze statue has stood outside the Pavilion Plaza since 2021.

Ball coached basketball at Northwest Mississippi Community College for four years after graduating in 1975. A few years later, in 1979, Ball established the Ball Sign Company in Oxford.

As reports, Ole Miss Chancellor Glenn Boyce called Ball “a pioneer and a trailblazer.”

“Coolidge was widely respected for his strength, humility, and kindness and will always be remembered as an extraordinary source of inspiration,” Boyce added. “We extend our deepest condolences and prayers to his family and loved ones.”

Ole Miss head coach Chris Beard said during a Tuesday press conference that Ball was not only one of the best players to play at this school, but one of the best people to go to this school.”

According to WJTV, Ball’s funeral service will occur at the Tallahatchie-Oxford Missionary Baptist Association Building on Saturday at noon. Visitation is Friday at 3 p.m. at the facility.

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