With great sadness, the world has lost another trailblazer. The legendary Mr. Bill Nunn Jr., longtime Steelers scout for 46 seasons and the first recipient of the Chuck Cooper Career Achievement Award in Leadership, Diversity, and Community Service, passed away late Tuesday, May 6, 2014.
Mr. Nunn was one of my father’s best friends. My father was a part of his wedding and they remained very close throughout their lives until my father passed away in 1984. They were teammates at Westinghouse High School and led Westinghouse to its first city basketball championship in the early 1940s, Westinghouse’s first in over 20 years. They were again teammates later at West Virginia State University for one semester.
Mr. Nunn was the first African-American appointed to a front office position for the Pittsburgh Steelers as a scout for the Steelers in the late 1960s. Nunn recruited players from historically black colleges and universities. In a large part due to Mr. Nunn’s eye for exceptional talent, the Steelers won an unprecedented four Super Bowl titles in the 1970s.
“You cannot write the history of the Pittsburgh Steelers without Bill Nunn. When you look at the Steelers of the 1970s, none of that would have happened without Bill Nunn.” – Mel Blount, NFL Hall of Famer
His role not only as scout, but as chief scout for many years, for the Steelers expedited the integration of African-American players into the NFL. Ultimately other teams began seeing the impact of Nunn’s work and began to follow his lead in recruiting from those same colleges and universities. Nunn played a major role in breaking down racial barriers across sports and in American life as a player, as an editor for the Pittsburgh Courier, and as a scout for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
When The Chuck Cooper Foundation had our committee meeting to discuss nominations for the 2011 honoree, not only was it a unanimous decision, but also a no-brainer to choose Mr. Nunn. Credit to the Rooney family and the Pittsburgh Steelers organization for not only making such a great hire, but continuing to be at the forefront of establishing opportunities for diverse professionals in the NFL. My condolences to his family, his friends, Steeler Nation, and the entire sports world.
Chuck Cooper III
President and Founder
Chuck Cooper Foundation