Dr. Ralph Lee Wooden Sr. was born on March 29, 1915, in Columbus, Ohio. He moved to Greensboro, North Carolina, in 1934 to attend North Carolina A&T State University, where he played football and basketball on scholarship. Wooden graduated summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in industrial arts and mathematics. In 1940, he married Rosalie McLeod Gibson and moved to Hagerstown, Maryland, to teach and coach. After a year, the couple returned to Greensboro, where Wooden worked as a lab technician at The Woman's College of The University of North Carolina (now The University of North Carolina at Greensboro) and then as an industrial arts teacher at Dudley High School.
During World War II, Wooden served in the 477th Bomber Group of the Army Air Force. Upon returning to the United States, he received his masters degree and PhD from Ohio State University. Wooden returned to A&T in 1947, where he taught, served as the director of the Audio-Visual Center, and was chairman of the Department of Educational Media until his retirement in 1980.
Wooden served as president of the Greensboro Citizens Association, chairman of North Carolina Gate City Chapter of the NAACP, president of the Greensboro Citizens Political Action Committee, and vice-chairman of the UNC System Faculty Assembly. He was named Greensboro Citizen of the Year in 1965 and named to the A&T Sports Hall of Fame. Wooden was also one of the first African-Americans to sit on Greensboro’s planning and zoning commission. He died on January 26, 2003 in Greensboro at the age of 87.