Honoring Black History: Clarksburg native, NBA color barrier breaker, Robert “Bob” Wilson

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CLARKSBURG, W.Va. – A local legend was honored by his hometown in Harrison County earlier this year, and now he will be remembered by all who pass through it.

One of the Jackie Robinsons of basketball. That’s how Clarksburg-native, Robert “Bob” Wilson, was described in January.

Wilson, who passed away in 2014, was honored with a sign in Clarksburg that shows his great accomplishments, and the legacy he left behind.

Wilson attended the former Kelly Miller High School during the 1940s, played basketball for the Harlem Globetrotters, and was one of the very first African-American players to break the color barrier in the National Basketball Association (NBA).

He was a pioneer in his sport, who helped pave the way for so many players who came after him.

“To think that an individual for the little ole town of Clarksburg, West Virginia was one who broke the color line in the NBA,” said West Virginia Black Heritage Festival board chairman, James Griffin. “You know, it just goes to show young people what could happen. Often times people feel like if they come from a little ole small town in West Virginia, like Clarksburg, that things can’t happen for them. But he’s a prime example of what can come about.”

Wilson was both a state and national champion, winning back-to-back state championships in high school, and one on the national stage at West Virginia State.

After a stint with the Harlem Globetrotters, he made, arguably, his greatest accomplishment in 1951 as he was one of the first black players to play in the NBA — paving the way for all of those who came after him.

“To be able to honor one of the sons of Clarksburg, who was one of the Jackie Robinsons of the NBA. Mr. Wilson was one of six Black, African-Americans who broke the color line in the NBA,” Griffin said has he addressed the small crowd at the sign’s unveiling in January.

“It also shows other individuals, who might be going to one of the local high schools that, hey, you too can do that,” he said later. “We need to tell these young people about the stories and African-Americans who made contributions to our nation.”

Find our original story on Wilson being honored by the city of Clarksburg, here.

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