Julius Pegues, first Black basketball player at Pitt, dies at 86

PITTSBURGH -- Julius Pegues, the first Black basketball player at the University of Pittsburgh, has died after being treated for cancer. He was 86.

The school said Pegues died this week at John Hope Franklin Center for Reconciliation in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

The 6-foot-3 forward joined Pitt in 1954 and played a year on the freshman team before earning a scholarship and moving to varsity. He averaged 13.6 points and 4.9 rebounds in 77 career games for the Panthers and twice helped them to the NCAA tournament, including a 31-point performance in a first-round loss to Miami (Ohio) in 1958.

The St. Louis Hawks selected Pegues in the fourth round of the 1958 draft. He was unable to play due to a previously made five-year commitment to the U.S. Air Force through the Reserve Officer Training Corps program.

Pegues had an undergraduate degree from Pitt in aerospace engineering and studied meteorology at St. Louis University. He served as a weatherman in the Air Force and worked extensively in the air industry, including a stint as an adviser for the Federal Aviation Administration.

"Julius was a trailblazer at the University of Pittsburgh and went on to become an icon in the Tulsa community," Pitt athletic director Heather Lyke said in a statement. "We are proud to recognize him as one of the exceptional people in the history of Pitt Athletics."

Pegues is survived by his wife of 63 years, Wennette, their three children -- Mary Pegues, Michael Pegues and Angela Guillory -- and their families.