In recognition of Black History Month, UNC honored four African-American pioneers - Courtney Bumpers, Robyn Hadley, Ricky Lanier and Charles Scott - as its inaugural Tar Heel Trailblazers, the first in an ongoing program to celebrate those who have shaped Carolina athletics. The four were recognized at halftime of the men's basketball game against Wake Forest on Feb. 22, receiving a well-deserved standing ovation from an appreciative Smith Center Crowd.
Bumpers is the only UNC gymnast to have won an NCAA title. Hadley, a women's basketball player, was a Morehead Scholar and a Rhodes Scholar. Lanier was the first black scholarship football player at UNC and Scott, a member of the men's basketball team, was UNC's first black scholarship student-athlete in any sport.
Following the game, Trailblazers and their families joined UNC student-athletes, professors, administrators and other members of the campus community for a reception at Kenan-Flagler Business School. The highlight of the event was a panel discussion in which the honorees took questions from two student-athletes, Jarrod James (football) and Chaniel Nelson (volleyball), about their time at UNC, things that have changed about campus and advice they'd give to current student-athletes.
There were plenty of lighthearted moments and some great advice offered (two tips from Lanier, now a teacher: "It goes so fast - don't waste it" and "Go to class!"), but those in attendance also got a stark look at what the South, and specifically the UNC campus, was like when Scott arrived in 1966 as the first black scholarship athlete. While he remembers the way things were then, Scott also is appreciative of how far they've come. "Ninety percent of things on the Carolina campus I never had the chance to enjoy, but my son did and my daughter did," said Scott, the parent of two UNC graduates.
"It was hard for me to understand because I've never been in that situation, but he grew up in it and described how it was," James said. "It made me a lot more thankful for following in his footsteps and along the path he'd set for me, Chaniel and other black athletes on campus."