WILLIE HORTON RECEIVES SAM LACY PIONEER AWARD
Willie Horton was among six sports figures who were honored with the prestigious Sam Lacy Pioneer Awards Friday, August 3, 2018 as chosen by the Sports Task Force of the National Association of Black Journalists.
One of the most feared hitters in Major League Baseball through the 1960s and into the 1970s, Horton hit 20 or more home runs seven times in his 17-year career. All but three of those years were spent as a member of the Detroit Tigers. Horton would be named an All-Star seven times in addition to helping the Tigers win the World Series in 1968.
Spencer Haywood, a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame, was a bona fide superstar on the basketball court, and a courageous champion for the rights of young players to earn a living. His Supreme Court victory in 1971 set the table for the freedom and multimillion dollar contracts NBA players enjoy today.
Joining Haywood was Brenda Gatlin, a true pioneer when it comes to Detroit basketball. She was the first women’s coach in the state of Michigan to also coach a boys high school team and the first woman to be inducted into the Detroit Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame.
At a time when black quarterbacks were extremely rare outside of black colleges, Jimmy Raye II was the first black quarterback from the South to lead his team to a national championship, doing that with Michigan State in 1966. He started the 10-10 tie against Notre Dame that is considered one of the greatest college games ever played. He would later coach 36 years in the NFL as an assistant, including 22 years as an offensive coordinator with seven different teams. The NFL bug didn’t fall far from the family tree, with his son Jimmy Raye III, currently in the role of senior personnel executive for the Detroit Lions.
Lowell Perry was a star wide receiver and safety at the University of Michigan who became the NFL’s first African-American assistant coach in 1957 with Pittsburgh. Nine years later, he achieved another historic milestone by becoming the first African-American TV analyst to broadcast an NFL game to a national audience.
He has been a Detroit institution for most of his journalism career, having spent 20 years as a journalist in this city. A versatile talent with his words on a computer, in front of a TV camera or behind a mic in radio, the Sports Task Force’s Journalist of the Year is Rob Parker.
For the ninth consecutive year, Major League Baseball is the major sponsor of the Pioneer Awards, which are named for Sam Lacy, a pioneering sports reporter at black newspapers and in broadcasting who strongly pushed for racial integration in sports. In addition to MLB, co-sponsors of the Pioneer Awards include the National Basketball Association and NASCAR. The co-hosts this year will be Ron Thomas, the director of the Morehouse College Journalism and Sports Program, and sports journalist Ray Richardson of KMOJ-FM in Minneapolis.
The awards ceremony was part of the NABJ Convention, which is the largest assembly of minority journalists in the world. More than 2,000 members from all aspects of journalism gathered for the convention. The Sports Task Force, which has existed for 32 years, is comprised of black print, broadcast, public relations, radio and online sports journalists nationwide and internationally.