Legendary University of North Carolina head basketball coach Dean Smith will be presented with the presidential medal of freedom was a key figure in advocating for civil rights and recruited the first African-American scholarship athlete in UNC's history- Charlie Scott.
An outspoken democrat, he also opposed the Vietnam War and the death penalty and endorsed President Barack Obama during his first presidential run in 2008.
Smith retired in 1997 as the all-time winningest coach in men's college basketball history with 879 victories - all of them with UNC.
The award is the highest civilian honor in the nation. The White House, says it is given to individuals “who have made especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.”
It is not yet known if 82-year old Smith will attend the ceremony later this year. He has been battling a progressive neurocognitive disorder that affects his memory.
Obama will award 16 people with the honor this year including Chicago Cubs Hall of Famer Ernie Banks. Other notables include former President Bill Clinton, country music singer Loretta Lynn, female astronaut Sally Ride and TV personality Oprah Winfrey.