Former WSSU Star Basketball Player Receives the Ann Spencer Sports Connector Award
Earl ‘The Pearl’ Monroe, the leader of the 1967 Winston-Salem State University basketball team that won the 1967 NCAA Division Two national championship, has been named the second recipient of the Ann Lewallen Spencer Sports Connector Award. Monroe will receive the award, to be presented by the National Sports Media Association, at a dinner on April 26 at Forsyth Country Club in Winston-Salem. The “Annie,” named for the former president of Goody’s Headache Powders who died in 2016, recognizes a person who has helped to connect the local community through sports.
Monroe averaged 41.5 points per game in his final season at Winston-Salem State and almost 27 points per game for his career. After scoring 50-plus points in one game, a Winston-Salem sportswriter wrote of “Earl’s pearls.” The nickname “Pearl” stuck after that. The 1967 team was the first from a historically black college or university to win an NCAA championship in any sport. And because the Rams – and in particular, Monroe — were so good, the Rams had to move their home games from their on-campus gym to the larger Winston-Salem Memorial Coliseum. It provided a connection for a more diverse group of fans to come together and cheer on the Rams, which helped to foster improved race relations in the city.
The Baltimore Bullets selected Monroe with the number two overall pick in the 1967 NBA Draft and he was named the NBA Rookie of the Year his first season. He averaged more than 21 points per game for the Bullets over his first four seasons, then was traded to the New York Knicks early in the 1971-72 season. In his second of eight seasons with the Knicks, they won the NBA Championship. Monroe scored 23 points in the final game.
Plagued by knee injuries throughout his career, Monroe retired after the 1979-80 season. A four-time All Star, Monroe averaged almost 19 point per game in his 13 seasons. He was elected to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 1990, to the NBA’s 50 Greatest Players (50th Anniversary Team) in 1990, and to the College Basketball Hall of Fame in 2006.
Monroe’s post-playing career has seen him dive into a variety of roles. He has served as a Madison Square Garden commentator, owned an entertainment, sports and consulting company, and served in and been honored for a variety of civic-minded roles. He also won a Peabody Award as a producer of the ESPN documentary, Black Magic.
“When I was in my ‘Wonder Years’ as a sports fan, Earl ‘The Pearl’ Monroe was a mythic figure,” NSMA executive director Dave Goren said. “When I moved to Winston-Salem and learned more about him and the effect his play had on race relations, my respect for his legacy grew even greater. He is a very worthy recipient of ‘The Annie.’”
Proceeds from ‘The Annie’ dinner provide essential support for the NSMA awards weekend and for the fund created in memory of Ann Lewallen Spencer and Dr. Harold Pollard, the first ‘Annie’ recipient. The Spencer/Pollard Fund allows college students to attend the awards weekend, where they take part in NSMA’s education program and benefit from the networking available with sports media professionals.
The 60th NSMA Awards Weekend is scheduled for June 22-24, in Winston-Salem. For attendance information or sponsorship opportunities at ‘The Annie’ or the 60th Annual Awards Weekend, please contact Dave Goren, [email protected] or 336-655-2976.