Harrison Wilson, the grandfather of Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson, was denied admission to the University of Kentucky 68 years ago because he is black. Last weekend, Harrison was praised by UK officials and received an honorary doctorate.
Brandon Wilson, Harrison’s grandson and Russell’s cousin, received his master’s degree in history from UK on the same day. Brandon started the idea of honoring his grandfather in conversations with UK professors.
Gretchen Starr-LeBeau, associate chairwoman of the history department, said it was a year-long process to determine whether a person is worthy of an honorary doctorate.
“On one hand, we are righting a wrong,” Starr-LeBeau told the Lexington (Ky.) Herald-Leader. “On the other hand, we are acknowledging his accomplishments, especially the important impact he has had on higher education.”
Harrison Wilson joined the Navy and served his country in World War II before returning home with plans to attend college on the GI Bill. After being denied admission to Kentucky, Wilson enrolled at Kentucky State, where he graduated with honors.
He went on to coach basketball at Jackson State in Mississippi before eventually leaving athletics for administration and later becoming the president of Norfolk State University in Virginia in 1975.