William H. McCormack, a trailblazer who established wheelchair basketball in Nashville and 1996 inductee to theNational Wheelchair Basketball Association Hall of Fame in, died Wednesday night.
McCormack, 83, died at about 9:21 p.m. local time in Vanderbilt Medical Center, according to a close friend and former NWBA Vice President, Roger “Boo” Davis Jr. The cause of death was complications following a heart attack McCormack suffered last week.
McCormack organized the Nashville Handicappers/Wheelcats in 1957, serving as team manager and head coach starting in 1970. As a player, he led the Nashville Wheelcats, Music City Panthers, and Music City Lightning to over 25 NWBT’s. As a player or player-coach “H” has been a member of Nashville Teams that finished the season ranked in the top-5 eighteen times. He reached his pinnacle as a coach in 1966 when he led the Wheelcats to a National Championship in 1966.
“He was a pioneer for wheelchair sports,” Davis Jr. said. “He was extraordinarily thoughtful and generous, both on a personal level and for those in need, as illustrated by his commitment to growing adaptive sports over the past six decades.”
“H” is also credited for starting the Tennessee Wheelchair Sports Association which sponsored 5 teams in Tennessee. In 1985, because his organization sponsored or partially funded several individuals or teams from around the United States, the name of the Nashville Wheelcats was officially changed to the National Wheelcats, Inc. McCormack introduced a plethora of adaptive sports to the Nashville community, including quad rugby, track and field, tennis, softball, water sports, and sled hockey.
“For an organization that was not founded or sponsored by a larger institution, like a hospital or university, it’s amazing the organization grew to what it is today,” Davis Jr. said. “For 62 years, he gave the disabled community of Nashville a place in athletics, while educating able-bodied people on what people in wheelchairs could really do.”
McCormack’s legacy is survived by his wife, Vena, and his “adopted” kids -- the Nashville Wheelcats and the various athletes he’s impacted throughout his life.