Biography

imagesBorn August 29, 1921, in Danville, VA; died of spinal cancer, December 24, 1990; married Mary; children: Willie Ann, Wendell Jr., Franklin, Deborah, Cheryl, Sybil, and Michael.
Religion: New Hope Baptist Church.

Career

Taxi cab driver, 1939-43; U.S. Army, 1943-45; city service, 1945-49; driver, 1949-52; NASCAR driver, 1952-73; owner of Scott’s Garage, 1949-90.

Awards

Keys to numerous Cities; Virginia State Championship and Southside Speedway Championship, 1959; 127 race wins; Jacksonville Speedway Championship, 1963; State of Florida Citation for Outstanding Achievements, 1965; honorary Lieutenant-Colonel-Aide-de-Camp, Alabama State Militia, 1970; Curtis Turner Memorial Achievement Award, 1971; Special Olympics Service Award, 1974; Schasfer Brewing Company Achievement Award, 1975; subject of the movie and novel, Greased Lightning, 1977; Bont Cultural Council Achievement Award, Greenville, SC, 1977; National Black Athletic Hall of Fame, 1977; Tobaccoland 200 Award for the Finest NASCAR Driver, 1978; Fort Belvair, VA Award for Outstanding Services Rendered, 1979; Black Rose Community Services Award, 1980; Muscular Dystrophy Association Award for Achievements, 1981; Virginia Skyline Girl Scout Council, Inc. Award for outstanding contributions, 1985; Proclamation of Atlanta, GA and Danville, VA, 1986; Wendell Scott Foundation and Scholarship Fund, 1986; Early Dirt Racers Driver of the Year Award, 1990; Wendell Scott Day, Danville, VA, 1990; mourned and honored by the General Assembly of Virginia, January 16, 1991.

Wendell_MugAfter working as a taxi driver and a moonshine runner, Wendell Oliver Scott (August 28, 1921–December 23, 1990) began racing professionally late in the 1940s. Owners of the Danville raceway approached Scott about racing, with hopes of increasing African American attendance at their events. The officials had consulted with local authorities, who reported that Scott had several speeding offenses and that he was the one moonshine runner that they could not catch.

In 1959 Scott won the Sportsman Division championship at Richmond’s Southside Speedway and NASCAR’s Virginia State Sportsman Championship. In 1961, after nearly 200 wins, he decided to leave the Sportsman and Modified racing leagues and move to NASCAR’s major division, the Grand National racing circuit.

Racing in nearly 500 NASCAR Grand National (later Sprint Cup) events, Scott earned more than $180,000. He won one checkered flag, in Jacksonville, Florida, on December 1, 1963, but was denied the opportunity to publicly celebrate his only Grand National victory. At the conclusion of the race, Scott was scored a lap down and the second-place finisher, Buck Baker, was declared the winner. Scott contested the decision, and hours later NASCAR overturned the ruling, citing a scoring error. Although Scott never accepted the explanation, he handled the slight with dignity, as he did in scores of other instances of discrimination that he faced in his personal and professional life.

A racing accident in Florida forced Scott to retire from competition in 1973. He finished his career with 147 top ten finishes in 495 Grand National starts. He was named to the National Sports Hall of Fame, the International Motorsports Hall of Fame, the National Motorsports Press Association Hall of Fame, and the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame.