Pioneer player in integration of Legion baseball speaks tonight at History Club

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 11, 2016

SALISBURY — The Rowan History Club will meet at 7 tonight, and the program will be presented by William Gillispie, whose topic is “Breaking the Barriers: Integrating American Legion Baseball.”

Tonight’s History Club meeting will be held in the Messinger Room of the Rowan Museum, 202 N. Main St. The room is accessible by elevator.

Gillispie, or “The Jet,” as he was known in his playing days, is respected as a local sports legend and successful youth coach, not only in the 1980s and 1990s, but presently. He was a pioneer in the integration of American Legion Baseball in North Carolina, becoming one of the first African Americans to compete at that level in the state.

In the 1960s, he also was instrumental in the integration of high school sports in Gaston County. He was the first black athlete to compete in the Dallas High School program.

Gillispie played baseball while in college at Shaw University, and in the Eastern Illinois Baseball League while serving as medic in the U.S. Air Force.

In 2010, Gillispie was voted sixth best player in the 75-year history of the Eastern Illinois Baseball League. In 2014, he was one of two black players inducted into the N.C. American Legion Hall of Fame.

Today, Gillispie, along with his son Travis,  is chairman of the nonprofit baseball  program “Keep Playing Inc.” and the Carolina Tigers.

William is married to Edna Gillispie.

History Club meetings are held on the second Tuesday of each month, September-June. Guests to the program should enter through the rear entrance of the museum.

A roundtable format will allow for a 30- to 45-minute presentation, followed by a question-and-answer period.  The Rowan History Club is open to all people interested in the history of Rowan County. There are no dues or admission fees, and refreshments are served.

For more information, contact the Rowan Museum at 704-633-5946 or email