Sixty-two years ago Sunday, Walt Moore, an all-stater from Mount Vernon, announced he would attend Illinois. Though his career was brief, he became the Illini basketball team’s first African-American player.
One other black player, Ken McBride of Centralia, enrolled at Illinois in the fall of 1947 but never played. Moore played on two state championship teams for Mount Vernon (1949 and ’50). The 1951-52 Illini media guide stated that “the colored athlete won 13 letters in four sports at Mt. Vernon.”
Coach Harry Combes’ ’52 Illini squad went on to win the Big Ten championship, but Moore only played in four games and scored five points. He served in the Army from 1952 to ’53. Moore briefly attended Tennessee State University before eventually playing at Western Illinois.
He was the starting forward on the second-ranked WIU basketball team in 1957 and was selected to the Little All-American Team in 1957.
Moore graduated from WIU with a bachelor’s degree in physical education. He taught and coached at Carbondale Central High School, Attucks High School and Macomb High School, and he was honored as Coach of the Year in 1968.
Moore was an assistant basketball coach at WIU from 1970 to ’73 and served as the Leathernecks’ head basketball coach from 1973 to ’77. From 1977 to ’95, he was an admissions counselor at the Office of Admission & Records at WIU.
The city of Carbondale celebrated Walt Moore Day on June 20, 1970. The Walt Moore Trophy has been presented every year since 1970 to the most outstanding basketball player at Carbondale Central High School. He also received the Distinguished Alumnus award from Mount Vernon Township High School.
Moore was a charter member of the Illinois Basketball Hall of Fame. He died May 26, 2004, at age 71.
Sunday: Randy Rodgers, football (66)
Monday: Dan Mazur, track & field (40)
Tuesday: Dan Humay, football and basketball (68)
Wednesday: Laura Zobrist, softball (30)
Thursday: Brian Wilson, tennis (31)
Friday: Kent Brown, assistant athletic director (50)
Saturday: Kendall Gill, basketball (45)
By Mike Pearson, author of Illini Legends, Lists & Lore and assistant athletic director at Miami (Ohio)
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