The Wendell Scott Foundation wants Danville to install signs at the city limits honoring Scott, a city native and the first black man to win a top-tier race.
Foundation representatives plan to present a petition Tuesday night urging Danville City Council during its meeting to erect the highway signs.
“The Wendell Scott Foundation carries on the legacy of determination, fearlessness and ingenuity that Wendell Scott left behind,” according to a news release from the foundation. “It has been a long-standing dream of ours to have welcome signs that display ‘Home of Wendell Scott Sr., NASCAR Hall of Fame’ at the entrance/exit points of Danville, showing how proud the city is of their native son.”
Scott was famous for breaking through racial barriers in NASCAR. Scott has a street in Danville named in his honor — Wendell Scott Drive — as well as many scholarships given in his name.
Foundation founder and CEO Warrick Scott, Wendell’s grandson, said his grandfather’s impact was not only state and national, but global.
“His legacy means so much to so many people right now today,” Warrick Scott said Friday.
The racism and discrimination he endured, he overcame with dignity and class, he said, comparing Wendell Scott to tennis great Arthur Ashe and baseball legend Jackie Robinson.
Also, the signs would help improve tourism and economic development by getting visitors passing through to drop by a restaurant or other business or the Danville Science Center, he said. Danville is strategically placed among so many motorsports resources, including VIR and Martinsville Speedway, Warrick Scott added.
He said he hopes the city and/or the state would pay for the signs, but the foundation would be willing to lead fundraising efforts if necessary, Warrick Scott said.
Danville City Manager Ken Larking said whether the city would have the authority to approve the signs would depend on where the foundation wants to put them.
“If it’s on the bypass, that may require [Virginia Department of Transportation] approval,” Larking said. “It just depends on which road we’re talking about.”
City Councilman Larry Campbell Sr. called the proposal “an excellent idea.”
“Anytime we can recognize our local people in our area, we should do it,” Campbell said, pointing out Virginia International Raceway’s presence in the region.
Mayor John Gilstrap said Scott is deserving of recognition, but he has concerns because there are other Danvillians who have national and/or worldwide fame, including Camilla Williams, Lady Astor, Irene Langhorne Gibson (The Gibson Girl) and others.
“It needs to be discussed on how we would deal with all the famous individuals from Danville, including Wendell Scott,” Gilstrap said.
Scott officially retired from racing in 1973 and died in 1990. His career began in 1960 and he went on to compete in 495 races and finished in the top 10 in point standings for four consecutive seasons. He had a total of 147 top 10 finishes.
Scott did this during a time of civil rights struggles for black Americans and had to fight the racial stereotypes of the era. His journey inspired a movie from Warner Brothers, “Greased Lightning,” two documentaries, several books and inductions to 13 different halls of fame.
John Crane reports for the Danville Register & Bee. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or (434) 791-7987.
Authored by Glen McStanly