The Atlantic Coast Conference announced today that the University of Louisville’s Von Macklin (women’s basketball, 1974) and Lawrence Simmons (football, 1952) have been named recipients of the inaugural ACC UNITE Award, which was created to honor individuals affiliated with the league who have made an impact in the areas of racial and social justice.
The UNITE Award is an initiative of the ACC’s Committee for Racial and Social Justice (CORE – Champions of Racial Equity) and was developed and approved by its 15 member institutions. In the first year of the award, the league is celebrating the individuals who – according to available information – are the first male and female athletes of color to integrate the athletic teams at each current ACC institution.
Von Macklin was a star center for the Louisville women’s basketball team from 1974-76, averaging 13 points a game as a two-year starter. At 5-foot-9, she dominated the boards, twice setting the program’s single season rebounding record. In 1975-76, she averaged 9.8 rebounds per game and then eclipsed that with 10.27 rebounds per contest in 1976-77. That record stood until All-American Angel McCoughtry averaged 10.34 rebounds per game in 2006-07. She once hauled down 14 rebounds in the first half against Evansville during a 101-47 drubbing of the Purple Aces.
After graduating from UofL in 1976, Macklin coached girl’s basketball and taught at Thomas Jefferson, Iroquois and Male High Schools, earning four regional coach of the year honors. She was honored as the 1993 Citizens for Sports Equity Outstanding Coach of the Year. She moved into educational administration in 1992 when she became the sixth and seventh grade dean at Iroquois Middle School and in 1994 was named girls Athletic Director for Jefferson County Public Schools.
Lawrence “Bumpy” Simmons is recognized as the first athlete of color to compete for the Louisville football team. Simmons was a three-year varsity athlete at Louisville Central High School and captain of the Yellowjackets in 1951. He enrolled at UofL in January 1952 and participated in spring practice that year. An offensive lineman, Simmons saw action in the last quarter of the Cardinals’ 19-12 victory over Wayne State in their season opener in 1952. Simmons later transferred to Tennessee State before returning to finish his degree at UofL.
After college, Simmons became a teacher at Meyzeek Middle School, from which he retired. He then moved to Detroit where he was a preacher at Morelight Missionary Baptist Church prior to moving back to Louisville to become pastor at the Greater Shepherd Missionary Baptist Church. Simmons passed away on February 16, 2013.
The UNITE Award will be presented annually to individuals who:
- Best exemplify ACC CORE’s mission to promote and encourage racial equity and social justice through education, partnerships, engagement and advocacy;
- Have helped create meaningful, lasting change by improving systems, organizational structures, policies, practices and attitudes;
- Have been a pioneer and/or helped pave the way for minorities either at the institution or in the community
Each school will honor its recipients during the current academic year. Moving forward, each school will select one male and one female recipient for the annual ACC UNITE Award. The entire list of this year’s winners from the ACC is available online here.
C.O.R.E was created in June 2020 to support the ACC’s commitment to social justice and racial equity. Members of C.O.R.E. include conference office staff members and campus representatives from each of the league’s 15 institutions. C.O.R.E.’s mission is to promote and encourage inclusion, racial equity and social justice through education, partnerships, engagement and advocacy.