Ole Miss unveils statue of basketball legend Coolidge Ball – the Oxford Eagle


Ole Miss Athletics

When fans return to the Ole Miss football and basketball games later this year, a pioneer rebel will welcome them to the Pavilion Plaza. A bronze statue of Coolidge Ball, Ole Miss’s first black student-athlete, was unveiled in the square in a private ceremony on Saturday afternoon. (May 15).

“It’s a beautiful thing,” Ball said. “I am delighted to have a statue. I never dreamed of having one, and I thank the University for it.

Ball’s legacy will live on forever with the statue serving as a reminder of his impact on Ole Miss. Designed by renowned Mississippi sculptor Kim Sessums, the statue sits atop a four-foot-high limestone plinth and includes a historical marker to reflect on Ball’s impact as a civil rights pioneer. The monument was funded by a generous donation from Bill and Lee Anne Fry.

“Our university is forever indebted to Coolidge Ball for the courage he showed 50 years ago,” said Keith Carter, vice-chancellor of Intercollegiate Athletics. “With this strength, humility and kindness, Coolidge has provided a beacon to our community while setting an example for generations of student-athletes, on and off the field. We are eternally grateful to Coolidge for his contribution to civil rights and for his leadership for Ole Miss.

On August 6, 1970, Ball signed the Rebels’ last available basketball purse 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 go to the Oxford campus to wear red. and Blue, not just in basketball, but in other sports as well.

Ball’s groundbreaking career at Ole Miss saw him earn First-Team All-Southeastern Conference League Coaching honors in 1972 and 1973. He also won Associated All-SEC Second Team honors. Press in 1972 and 1973, was selected for the third team of United Press International in its three college seasons (1972-73-74) and made the All-SEC Freshman team in 1970-71.

His first college season came in his sophomore year averaging 16.8 points and 10.3 rebounds per game, while leading the team with 42 assists. He scored a career-high 30 points against Vanderbilt and LSU this season and added a career-high 19 rebound performance against Southern Miss.

Ball was instrumental in helping Ole Miss defeat SEC rivals Kentucky, Tennessee and Mississippi State in consecutive games in 1973. He scored 1072 points during his college career, helped lead the Rebels to three consecutive seasons for the first time since 1936-38 and was one of the team’s most respected players, earning team captain and MVP honors.

A graduate of the University of Mississippi in 1975, 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 in 2005. When the University of Mississippi celebrated her “First 100 Years of Ole Miss Basketball” in 2009, it’s no surprise when Ball was selected for the All-Century squad.

Since 1979 Ball has owned and operated Ball Sign Company, a business he started upon returning to Oxford after a four-year stint as a basketball coach at Northwest Mississippi Community College.

Ball and his wife, Ruth, have two children, Telitha and Anthony. Telitha lives in Desoto County, while Anthony resides in Arkansas and has two sons, Mason and Marion.

Ball ended the special day by throwing the first pitch of the Ole Miss baseball game against No.2 Vanderbilt.


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