By John Davis, Oxford Citizen
Perry Wallace is not the leading scorer in the history of Vanderbilt University men’s basketball program. His greatest impact was being the first African-American on scholarship to play in the SEC.
Wallace is the subject of a new book “Strong Inside: Perry Wallace and the Collision of Race and Sports in the South.” The book was written by Andrew Maraniss, a Vanderbilt graduate who also served as the media relations contact for men’s basketball in years past.
Maraniss will be in Oxford Thursday morning to discuss the book as part of a panel geared around the Conference of the Book. Maraniss, who still lives and works in Nashville, Tennessee, first learned about Wallace’s story when he was a student at Vanderbilt.
He came to Vanderbilt on a scholarship to write about sports and he wrote about Wallace’s experience for the first time in the school newspaper. Eight years ago, Maraniss talked to Wallace about writing a book, and started getting the extensive interviews and research together to accomplish that project.
The book was published this past December and Maraniss has been speaking about it ever since. Strong Inside is currently on the New York Times bestseller list for Sports and Civil Rights.
Wallace, who played at Vanderbilt from 1967-1970, was recruited by other top schools such as UCLA and some Big Ten schools, but he ended up staying close to his home by choosing Vanderbilt. (Wallace grew up in Nashville and played at Pearl High School). At the end of the day, Wallace wanted to be educated and he felt like Vanderbilt’s engineering program would be his best choice.
Wallace went on to be a lawyer, graduating from Columbia University in 1975. He is currently a law professor at Washington College of Law. For more on Maraniss’ visit, there is more in Thursday’s print edition of the Citizen.