Wendell Hudson's retired University of Alabama jersey unveiled

Emotional Wendell Hudson watches unveiling of his retired Alabama jersey

By Michael Casagrande | mcasagrande@al.com

Standing at midcourt Saturday, the emotions hit Wendell Hudson.

On that same spot, 50 years earlier, the Birmingham native made Alabama history as the first African American scholarship athlete. And now, nobody will easily forget his contributions to the civil rights’ era and Crimson Tide athletics.

The emotions followed the unveiling of Hudson’s No. 20 jersey in the rafters of Coleman Coliseum at halftime of Alabama’s 88-82 win over No. 25 LSU. A packed arena that included Nick and Terry Saban gave a long ovation to the big man named SEC player of the year as a senior.

It was the first jersey retired by any sport in the history of Alabama’s athletics department. Before the game, Hudson recalled the moment athletics director Greg Byrne called to inform him of the honor.

“When he told me about retiring the jersey, I just paused,” said Hudson, a star player from 1969-73. “I had to take that in. Because I know the history of Alabama and I know the history of the athletes and all the things that happened. And I know about all the people arguing about ‘Why don’t you retire somebody’s jersey?’ For mine to be the first one, it was an unbelievable feeling.”

The No. 20 will not be taken out of circulation for Alabama basketball, but the jersey will hang in the rafters forever.

All Alabama teams from every sport will wear some form of a “WH” patch on their jersey for the rest of the 2019-20 academic calendar in tribute to Hudson’s contributions.

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