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Retired longtime WVU Marching Band Director Don Wilcox dies

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Don Wilcox, the beloved and respected former longtime director of the WVU Marching Band, died Monday.

The death was announced on social media by Wilcox’s son, Lee.

Don Wilcox

“With great sadness, our beloved Dad passed away this morning. Although the health downturn was sudden, his four children had time to surround his bedside, and he passed peacefully at home surrounded by family,” the post said.

Wilcox directed the Pride of West Virginia from 1971-1997. His 27-year tenure stands as the second longest behind only the band’s first-ever director Walter Mestrezat who served for 37 years from 1901-1938.

The band had just 88 members when Wilcox took over but grew to 325 by the time he stepped down as the marching band director in 1988. He continued as WVU’s Director of Bands until May 2005. Wilcox was WVU Director of Bands Emeritus.

A key part of the band’s growth was the decision by Wilcox to admit women into the band beginning in 1972.

The Pride was nationally recognized under Wilcox’s leadership. It won the coveted Sudler Trophy in 1997 as the nation’s outstanding collegiate marching band.

Wilcox was praised in a 2018 announcement by the WVU Foundation introducing the Don Wilcox Endowment Fund.

“People saw Don Wilcox as a great director, but they also connected with him as a person and that’s what made his impact so great,” said John Hendricks, who followed Wilcox as the band’s director. “His philosophical views on band, music and life made a difference in people’s lives.”

The band’s long-running pregame show is largely credited to Wilcox including the playing of Country Roads with the state outline and Simple Gifts with the famed Simple Gifts circle.

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