OXFORD, Miss. (WLBT) - Historic Ole Miss football star “Gentle” Ben Williams died at the age of 65, the school announced Monday.
Williams was one of the first African-American student-athletes to sign a football scholarship with the Rebels when he and James Reed signed in 1971.
The school paid tribute to the pair with the Williams-Reed Football Foyer on campus.
Williams was a Yazoo City native who was the first African-American Ole Miss player to be named an All-American. He was named to the first team in 1975.
Williams was also a three-time All-SEC pick and a member of Ole Miss’ Football Team of the Century.
“Gentle Ben’s impact on our university, the SEC and college football as a whole is immeasurable,” said Keith Carter, Ole Miss Vice Chancellor for Intercollegiate Athletics. “Ben not only helped break the race barrier for our football program but was also the first African-American student to be elected by the student body for what is now known as Mr. Ole Miss. He was a great person, player and ambassador for our university and will forever be beloved by Rebel Nation.”
Williams was a third round draft pick by the Buffalo Bills in 1976 and went on to play 10 years in Buffalo with a selection to the 1983 Pro Bowl. He retired as Buffalo’s all-time franchise leader in sacks with 45.5.