Donald Edward Grace, coach, educator, and administrator, was born on July 12, 1930, in Livingston, Texas, to Vert and Betheu Grace. Prior to 1940 Grace’s family moved to Houston, Texas, and settled in the Fifth Ward community. Grace attended the Houston public schools and graduated from Phillis Wheatley High School in 1948. While in high school, he participated in both track and football. As a guard on the football team, he received all-city and all-district recognition at that position in 1947. In track and field, he competed on Wheatley's 1948 Prarie View Interscholastic League (PVIL) Class 2A state championship team. Grace was well-known for the speed with which he could block and tackle from his guard position which earned him the nickname of "Amazing Grace." Both his exploits on the gridiron and his academic performance at Wheatley earned him a scholarship to Prairie View A&M University where he continued to excel in track and football. In football, he was co-captain of the 1951 Prairie View Southwestern Athletic Conference championship team and was named as both an all-conference and an all-American player. In 1952 Grace earned his bachelor's degree in education. He later earned a master's degree at Prairie View A&M University in 1968. He also completed advanced study at the University of Texas in Austin some years later.
Donald Grace's outstanding football coaching career began in 1952 with an assitant coaching position at Carter G. Woodson High School in Abilene, Texas. During the 1953 season, his first as head coach, Grace guided his team to the PVIL Class 2A state championship game, despite fielding only eighteen players. In 1956 Grace became head football coach and athletic director at James Madison High School in Dallas. He spent fourteen years at Madison and led his teams to six city championships, two district championships, and two runner-up finishes in the PVIL Class 4A state finals (1963 and 1966). Notably, the 1966 Prairie View Interscholastic League championship game was the last legally segregated state championship in Texas high school football. Afterward, the PVIL began a gradual merger with the all-White University Interscholastic League (UIL) and eventually ceased operations in 1970. Grace's fourteen-year record at James Madison High School was eighty wins, sixty-seven losses, and four ties.
In 1965 along with seventy-five other coaches attending the Prairie View Interscholastic League Coaching Clinic that year, Grace took a leading role in organizing the Lone Star Coaches Association (LSCA), an organization devoted to the recognition of African-American sports achievements and needs in Texas. He served as president of the LSCA during both 1965 and 1966. This organization was the forerunner of what is now the Prairie View Interscholastic League Coaches Association (PVILCA). In 2004 Grace was elected executive director of the PVILCA, and he was inducted into its Hall of Honor in 1983.
Following his retirement from coaching in 1971, Grace held jobs in other capacities until his final retirement in 1994. These positions included auditor, Dallas Independent School District, 1971–76; auditor, Texas Education Agency (Austin), 1976–77; associate dean, Austin Community College (Austin), 1977–84; and human resources director, Huston-Tillotson College (Austin), 1984–94.
In addition to his many professional accomplishments, Grace was active in a number of community and civic organizations. These included the southwestern province alumni chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. (Polemarch); Austin Greater East Kiwanis Club (president); Texas Association for Staff, Program & Organization (secretary/treasurer); Austin Urban League (life member); Hamilton Park United Methodist Church (lay leader); and Prairie View A&M University National Alumni Association (board of directors). He was also the recipient of many sports honors and achievement awards/designations in his lifetime: Dallas Metropolitan Coach of the Year for 1962, 1963, 1966, and 1967; Prairie View A&M University Sports Hall of Fame, 1994; Texas Black Sports Hall of Fame, 2001; and the Houston Texans Texas Legend Award (NFL), 2004.
Donald Edward Grace was married twice. He married Angie Lee Meann in 1955; they divorced in 1980. They had one son and two daughters. In 1982 he married Marcia L. Ratterson, but they divorced a year later. Grace died in Austin, Texas, on December 24, 2004, and was buried at Paradise North Cemetery in Houston.