by Pamela Tapia (with press releases and news reports)
Bay Area friends and fans will honor Presidential Medal of Freedom winner and McClymonds graduate William F. “Bill” Russell at a gala tribute at the Scotlan Convention Center tomorrow (Thursday) night.
It will be the first public recognition by his hometown of one of the nation’s most revered sports figures.
Russell’s principles have guided him as he pursued his life’s work with minimal fanfare. The tribute will start at 6 p.m. with a reception followed by dinner in the George P. Scotlan Memorial Convention Center on 10th Street.
Current athletes at McClymonds, both male and female, were invited to the event.
Russell started playing on the playgrounds and schoolyards of West Oakland before he graduated from McClymonds High School. In addition to basketball titles in high school, he also won titles in the Oakland Athletic League, California Tournament of Champions, and two National Collegiate Athletic Association championships.
As an NBA player, Russell led the Boston Celtics to 11 World Championships and was a gold medalist in the1956 Olympic Games. In 1967 he became the first African-American coach of any American major league sports team.
His life achievements are not limited to the basketball court. During the Civil Rights Movement, Mr. Russell was an agent for social change and human rights. In addition to marching with Dr. King, he joined with fellow athletes Jim Brown, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Willie Davis and others to establish the Black Economic Union to harness the power of Black athletes to advance Black economic development. He continues to be an aggressive advocate for civil rights and diversity.
To celebrate Mr. Russell’s being awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and his many other accomplishments, his friends, family and peers will host the Bill Russell Tribute, with support from Alameda County Youth Development Inc., the Joe Morgan Youth Foundation, the City of Oakland, and Alameda County.
Funds raised by the Bill Russell Gala Tribute will assist DeFremery Park’s George P. Scotlan Youth and Family Center, which is committed to reduce youth violence and sexual exploitation.