UA to Honor Wade as Part of ‘Through the Doors’ Activities
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Dr. Archie Wade’s contributions to collegiate and professional sports could easily be his favorite talking points when discussing his life.
He played for legendary baseball coach Sparky Anderson as a minor league player, and he was a starter in a record-breaking, 29-inning game in 1966. That same year, he led the Class A Florida League with a .338 batting average.
A Tuscaloosa native, Wade coached basketball and baseball at Stillman College, his alma-mater, prior to playing professional baseball and earning his master’s degree at West Virginia University.
Wade even spent two years as a recruiter for legendary University of Alabama football coach Paul “Bear” Bryant while teaching and working on his doctorate degree at UA. While the narrative of working with Bryant, particularly when the Crimson Tide began to recruit black players, and his coaching and playing career can elicit a book’s worth of stories, it’s Wade’s role as a trailblazer, mentor and professor that he and friends cherish the most.
As part of the University’s “Through the Doors” activities, which celebrates the 50th anniversary of integration at UA, Wade will be honored with a plaque commemorating his 30 years as a faculty member in the kinesiology department during a ceremony at Graves Auditorium on the UA campus from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. March 12. The plaque will be placed in the conference room of Moore Hall, where Wade had an office and taught classes as one of the first black faculty members at the University.
“I had no idea there’d be something like this ceremony,” said Wade, who retired in 2000. “When it’s all happening, you don’t think about the full implications and the impact it’ll have later. I knew what was happening at that time, but it’s not until lately that I’ve been able to understand the scope of it all.
“Maybe I was the right type person for this to happen to,” Wade added. “The timing (of my hire) was great, the opportunity was there, and I took advantage of it. That’s the way I’ve always been – I gave my all. That is what I got from athletics.”
Wade will be joined by family and friends at the ceremony, and UA President Judy Bonner and Dr. James McLean, retired dean of the College of Education, will speak. Additionally, UA’s Black Faculty and Staff Association – a group Wade helped establish – will honor Wade with a glass figurine commemorating his service to the university.
Dr. Matt Curtner-Smith, professor of kinesiology, worked with Wade and co-authored “Legacy of a Pioneer African American Educator,” a paper that reconstructs Wade’s historical and legendary contributions. Curtner-Smith said Wade’s legacy was evident when he began working at UA.
“His story is obviously interesting and historically significant,” said Curtner-Smith. “However, on top of this, as an inexperienced assistant professor in the early 1990s, I was also struck by the incredible respect all our students had for him. They really did revere him. Having witnessed his induction into the YMCA a year or so ago, I saw the same kind of affection for him among his local community. He really is one of those people about whom you do not hear a bad word.”
Said Wade, “Right now, it’s the letters I receive from students and parents – I still receive some – how they appreciate the help I gave them. That makes my day whenever I receive that. I got a call last week from a student who was in my class in 1975. That’s what I enjoy a lot right now. I’ve been retired for 13 years, but I still have moments like those that make me smile.”
Wade is appreciative of the University administration for allowing him to take a full load of doctoral classes while he was an instructor, which was pivotal to his career because he had a family and couldn’t take time off to complete his doctorate. His greatest career highlight came soon after he’d earned his doctorate.
“I was granted tenure three or four years after that,” Wade said, “and that was an incredible feeling. It was a moment I had looked forward to for a long time.”
The event is part of “Through the Doors,” a year-long series of activities and events commemorating the 50th anniversary of the desegregation of UA in 1963 and honoring the courage and dedication of the two African-American students who enrolled in the University on June 11, 1963, as well as the University’s ongoing commitment to change over the past 50 years and its commitment to continued progress in the future. For more information, visit www.throughthedoors.ua.edu/
The University of Alabama, a student-centered research university, is experiencing significant growth in both enrollment and academic quality. This growth, which is positively impacting the campus and the state's economy, is in keeping with UA's vision to be the university of choice for the best and brightest students. UA, the state's flagship university, is an academic community united in its commitment to enhancing the quality of life for all Alabamians.