D. Joe Williams' Hall of Fame Rings
First African American to integrate collegiate sports in Texas
D. Joe Williams (1936-2013) was the first African American to integrate collegiate sports in Texas. In recognition of his athletic excellence, Williams was inducted into three different Texas sports Halls of Fame.
Born in Dobbin on March 4, 1936, Williams moved to McAllen as a child, where he picked up baseball at the age of 10. He became one of the first African Americans to play in the Junior League in the late 1940s, hitting over .400 as a first baseman. He also played in a semi-pro Negro League at the age of 16.
Williams attended segregated Booker T. Washington High School in McAllen where he excelled in track, cross country, and baseball. As a position player on their baseball team, he stole 26 bases and went 10-3 with 78 strikeouts as a pitcher. This led to him getting scouted by the St. Louis Browns in 1953. The coaches at Pan American College (now the University of Texas Pan America) in Edinburg were also impressed, and extended him an offer to join the Broncos baseball and track teams. This was a bold move for the university as they had not previously admitted African American students. Their pioneering decision stood out in Texas as the first college to integrate its sports program. The University of El Paso integrated a year later in 1955, and North Texas State College in Denton in 1956. Most other schools in Texas and the nation did not follow suit until the 1960s.
In 1954 Williams was a starting centerfielder on Pan American’s baseball team and contributed offensively and defensively to the team's Big State Conference championship squad. Williams also captured third place in the half-mile run at the conference track meet that year, helping that team to a conference championship.
Following his collegiate career, Williams coached at Charlie Brown High School in West Columbia for five years before moving to the El Paso area, where he was a teacher and coach for 47 years at Fabens, Socorro, and Tornillo High Schools. He led Fabens to three district titles in five years, advancing to the regional finals each time. He coached several players who went on to play in the Mexican League and in minor league baseball.
He continued to pursue athletics, forming, coaching, and playing for a semi-pro baseball team, the Viejos, for whom Williams was a two-time All-Star. He led the league in strikeouts in 1979, his second to last season as a player. Williams also played fast-pitch softball, where he was an outstanding pitcher. When his playing career ended, Williams spent time as an umpire at several levels of baseball.
Williams was inducted into the El Paso Baseball Hall of Fame in 1996, the Texas Black Sports Hall of Fame in 2001, and the Rio Grande Valley Sports Hall of Fame in 2003. Williams was an original member of the Board of Directors for the El Paso Baseball Hall of Fame, and at one point, served as the president. In 1998, the Texas State Senate issued a proclamation honoring D. Joe Williams for his athletic achievements and his contributions to education.
Courtesy Thelma Williams, El Paso
Time Period: 1946 - 1970
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