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Willie R. Evans

Born: 1937
Death: 2017

Willie Evans was born in Buffalo, New York on December 1, 1937.  While attending Emerson Vocational High School, Evans lettered in three sports: cross-country, basketball and track and field.  Though he did not play football until his senior year in high school, Evans played halfback for the UB Bulls and was the team's leading rusher from 1957-1959.  As of 2022, he still holds the team record for yards-per-carry career average (6.36).

1958 was a banner year for the UB Bulls football team.  The team had an 8-1 record for the season and was awarded the Lambert Cup for being the best small school program in the eastern United States.  The team further distinguished themselves when they turned down an invitation to play Florida State in the Tangerine Bowl.  Because the game would be played in the segregated South, the Bulls' African American players would not be allowed to play in the game.  Head Coach Dick Offenhamer let the players vote and they unanimously decided to stand beside their African American teammates and turn down the bowl invitation.  When interviewed by the Buffalo News in 2011 about the decision, Evans said "My teammates were the real heroes.  If you look back, it was not an easy thing to do."

Willie Evans graduated from UB in 1960 with a degree in physical education.  He remained active with the university, serving as a board member for the Alumni Association and on numerous other university-wide committees.  In 2009, Evans and his 1958 football teammates received the Chancellor Charles P. Norton Medal, UB's highest award given to citizens who "performed some great thing identified with Buffalo."  Evans was inducted into the UB Athletic Hall of Fame in 1978 and the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame in 2009.  

In 2021, Porter Quadrangle in the Ellicott Complex was renamed Willie R. Evans Quadrangle.

  • Sources:
    • Fuller, John. "UB mourns the loss of Willie Evans, prominent alumnus, athletics legend." Buffalo News, January 5, 2017.
    • Slotnik, Daniel E. "Willie Evans, Who Was Barred from a Bowl Game Because of His Color, Dies at 79." New York Times, January 17, 2017.

Affiliation(s): Alumnus
Record Group(s): 30
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