Player Who Integrated Nashville Basketball Honored With Jersey Retirement

Willie Brown (above) and Jesse Porter (not pictured) were the first black players in the state to play on an all-white team without opposing teams being given the option to decline their presence. Two years later, the TSSAA offered black schools affiliate membership in the league. Image via Diocese of Nashville

Willie Brown (above) and Jesse Porter (not pictured) were the first black players in the state to play on an all-white team without opposing teams being given the option to decline their presence. Two years later, the TSSAA offered black schools affiliate membership in the league. Image via Diocese of Nashville

This year marks a half-century since Father Ryan’s basketball team first took the court with an integrated team.

Willie Brown was a junior at the time. Coach Bill Derrick remembers Brown as one of the best kids he ever worked with;  a gentleman and very honest.

“Besides all that other, he was an excellent athlete and a good—excellent basketball player.”

Playing against all-white teams, Willie Brown went all-district, all-region, and in his senior year, all-state. He went on to integrate MTSU’s basketball team, as well. He set an OVC record and even played a little professional ball. Brown died in 1974 while on duty as a motorcycle cop in Connecticut.

Brown’s jersey number is being retired throughout Father Ryan’s entire sports program.

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