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Legendary Tulsan Julius Pegues dies at 85

Posted at 5:00 PM, Mar 30, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-30 18:00:27-04

TULSA, Okla. — Lifelong Tulsan Julius Pegues has died at 85, the John Hope Franklin Center for Reconciliation announced Wednesday.

Pegues served on the Center's board and led a life championing human rights and education.

He graduated from Booker T. Washington High School in 1953 as valedictorian and planned to become an engineer before racial segregation stopped him from getting into any Oklahoma college that offered the program.

A star basketball player at Booker T., Pegues instead spent a year in Detroit taking advanced mathematics in technical school before enrolling at Pitt as the school's first Black basketball player.

He quickly transitioned from a walk-on to a scholarship player after averaging 20 points per game in his first month. He finished as one of only 34 player's in the program's history to score 1,000 career points. The NBA's St. Louis Hawks picked Pegues in the fourth round of the 1958 draft but had to serve in the military as he was in the Air Force ROTC at Pitt.

He studied meteorology at Saint Louis University and became an Air Force weather forecaster before returning to Tulsa to work for Douglas Aircraft and American Airlines — eventually landing as a consultant for the Federal Aviation Administration.

He served on several boards benefiting the community including the Tulsa NAACP, Tulsa Urban League and the Tulsa Board of Education Human Relations Committee. He later led the commission that planned the memorial to the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre.

More of Pegues's life can be read in the Tulsa Historical Society Hall of Fame.

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