After Paralysis During Game, He's Credited With Naming ADA

Kent Waldrep, strong advocate for people with disabilities, dies at 67
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 14, 2022 10:15 AM CDT
Paralyzed on Football Field, He Became Advocate for Disabled
Stock photo.   (Getty/herreid)

Back in 1974, Kent Waldrep got tackled while running the ball for Texas Christian University and ended up paralyzed from the chest down for life, per He died last month at age 67, and his obituaries are focused not so much on what happened during that game against Alabama, but what Waldrep made of his life afterward. He raised millions for paralysis research and became a fierce advocate for the rights of people with disabilities, notes the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. He helped shape the policies of Ronald Reagan and George HW Bush on the matter, and he's credited with helping draft the landmark Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990. In fact, he might have actually named it.

In its coverage, the New York Times reports that a lawyer working on a national council under Reagan says Waldrep suggested in a 1985 memo that "all new legislation be packaged under one title such as 'The Americans With Disabilities Act of 1986.'" Waldrep added that "the recommended legislative changes can be marketed much more effectively." Thus, the ADA was born. The stories about Waldrep also mention an interesting result born of his on-field injury: a lifelong friendship with legendary Alabama coach Paul "Bear" Bryant.

Bryant felt awful because Waldrep got injured playing against his team, and he spent time in the hospital with the teenager during his recuperation. Bryant also invited Waldrep to an Alabama game the following year, at which he received a standing ovation and became an honorary school athlete. More notable: Bryant made sure that Waldrep's future sons (he had two) could attend Alabama on a scholarship, something typically reserved for his former players. (More obituary stories.)

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