From NKAA, Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (main entry)

Exum, William

(born: 1910  -  died: 1988) 

William Exum, born in Illinois, was the first African American varsity football player at the University of Wisconsin. He was both an outstanding track star and student at Wisconsin, completing his bachelor's, master's, and doctorate degrees.

William Exum was the son of William (b. 1868 in MS) and Ruth Exum (b. 1876 in IL). His father's family had originally come from Mississippi and Tennessee, and his maternal grandmother was from Kentucky, according to the 1920 U.S. Federal Census. William Exum's family settled in Gary, IN; after he graduated from high school, he left Indiana to attend school in Wisconsin.

In 1949 Exum was hired as head of the Kentucky State University (KSU) Physical Education Department and later made head of the Athletics Department, sometimes coaching various sports teams. In 1964 he coached the KSU men's cross country team to an NCAA Division II championship. He was the manager of the United States Track and Field teams at the 1972 and 1976 Olympics.

In 1978 the National Association of College Directors of Athletics inducted him into the Hall of Fame. Exum retired from KSU in 1980. The William Exum Athletic Center at KSU was named in his honor in 1994, and he is a member of the KSU Thorobreds Hall of Fame.

For more see N. C. Bates, "Exum a great athlete and coach," Post-Tribune (IN), 2/6/2003, Neighbors section, p. B2; and "William Exum" on the Wisconsin Badgers website.

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NKAA Source: The Post-tribune (newspaper)

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“Exum, William,” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed May 24, 2024,

Last modified: 2021-08-30 16:46:58