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Harvey Munford, 1st Black Eastern Montana College student-athlete to graduate, passes away

Harvey Munford MSUB
Posted at 12:23 PM, Nov 29, 2023

(Editor's note: MSUB Athletics release)

BILLINGS — Harvey Munford, the first Black student-athlete to graduate as a Yellowjacket, passed away on Oct. 26, 2023, at the age of 83. Munford was a standout two-sport athlete for the Yellowjackets, being inducted in the MSU Billings Athletics Hall of Fame in 1994 for his accomplishments in basketball and football.

Munford was living in Las Vegas, where he recently served as an elected member of the Nevada Legislature, representing the Clark County District 6 from 2004 to 2016. He was known for fighting for civil rights in the post-civil rights era during his six terms in the Nevada Assembly.

Munford began his Yellowjacket career in the early 1960s after being recruited by legendary athletic director and coach Joseph S. “Shorty” Alterowitz. Munford quickly excelled on the field and on the court for the ‘Jackets, becoming an All-American and eventually being signed as a free agent for both the Los Angeles Lakers of the National Basketball Association and the Los Angeles Rams of the National Football League.

However, before Munford graduated from then Eastern Montana College and took the next step in his life, he made life-changing impacts for the ‘Jackets and in the Billings community. Not only was he the first Black student-athlete at the school, but he also truly excelled in football and basketball while helping pave the way for other Black student-athletes. His name still stands in the MSUB records books in categories such as field goal percentage and rebounding, among others. Since 1994, Munford’s Hall of Fame plaque lives in the lobby of Alterowitz Gym — a fitting location given the connection of the two legends that will live on in MSUB history forever.

Speaking to the greatness of becoming an All-American in two sports, Munford averaged eight blocked shots per game for the Yellowjackets in 1963-64. In comparison, the best statistical shot blocker in the NBA thus far this season, Anthony Davis of the Los Angeles Lakers, blocks 3.3 shots per game. Munford, standing at 6-foot-7, was set to make professional debuts in both basketball and football until injuries altered his trajectory.

An incredible life by Harvey Munford was recognized by many, including friendships with former NBA great Wilt Chamberlin and former President Barack Obama. Last November, the City of Las Vegas renamed the street he lived on to “Harvey Munford Street” to show appreciation for the countless lives he has positively impacted in his community. After his athletic career finished, he put his master’s degree to use and became a teacher and coach in the Clark County School District (Las Vegas) while also instructing classes at UNLV and College of Southern Nevada.

Although Munford relocated to Las Vegas, his impact on Billings and the surrounding communities continues to live on. In 2011, he was awarded with a Distinguished Alumnus award from MSUB Foundation & Alumni. In 2013, he was the MSU Billings commencement speaker and in 2016, he was inducted into the Montana Football Hall of Fame.

Munford spent 36 years teaching high school government classes, among many other exciting life adventures as he always shared his knowledge of life and will to make his community a better place. In 2016, when Munford reached his term limit in the legislature, he was able to spend more time training horses, watching sports and spending time outdoors. Munford leaves behind his wife of 29 years, Viviana Munford, and his two children Stephen and Jamila.