It was a great day for Mack. Film crews and reporters converged on the school Wednesday, the day after President Barack Obama presented the Presidential Medal of Freedom to NBA great Bill Russell, McClymonds High School’s most famous graduate.
Other recipients this year included poet Maya Angelou, Yo Yo Ma, and former President George H.W. Bush.
Russell’s achievements in the sports world are legendary.
The towering center not only dominated the court, but he was also a civil rights pioneer, tearing down racial barriers in sports. He won 11 NBA championships with the Celtics. In 1966, he became the first African-American coach. In 1976, he was the first African American inducted into the NBA’s Hall of Fame.
The Bill Russell legend started at McClymonds High School, when Mack was known as the School of Champions because of it turned out star athletes over the decades. Russell, who graduated in 1952, is the most famous.
Other graduates included Frank Robinson, who would become a Major League Baseball All-Star and the first African-American manager in major league baseball, Paul Silas, the former NBA All-Star, Joe Ellis, Nate Williams and Antonio Davis, Vada Pinson, Curt Flood, Curt Roberts and Willie Tasby, who all went on to play Major League Baseball; Olympic gold medalist Jim Hines.
McClymonds’ student population has shrunk from about 900 in the early 1960s to 250 students today.