A courtly man of sport and faith: First African American NBA ref celebrated at Cascade UMC
By Jennifer C. Thomas
A tree stump, though small, is known for its deep-running roots. Even amid the thickest forest and worst of conditions, the stump will survive. Kenneth Samuel Hudson thusly named his autobiography; A Tree Stump in the Valley of Redwoods — a fitting title for a life well lived. A decades-long member of Cascade United Methodist Church, Hudson, one of the first African American referees in the National Basketball Association (NBA), was eulogized on May 17 as a man who made an enormous impact to the church, community, and global society.
Hudson was in brand-marketing in Boston when he began to network with Sam Jones, a legend of the Boston Celtics. With the support of Jones, Bill Russell and Red Auerbach, Hudson began working as an NBA referee. He also worked for more than 20 years with the Coca-Cola Company, negotiating agreements with the company and several college sports conferences. He founded the still active Boston Shoot-Out high school basketball program.
NBA players, corporate executives and high school students gathered alongside Cascade UMC parishioners to pay homage. Monica Kaufman Pearson, the first African American female television anchor in Atlanta, Ingrid Saunders Jones, Senior Vice President of Global Community Connections for The Coca-Cola Company and Chair of The Coca-Cola Foundation, and Civil Rights icon Rev. Dr. Joseph Lowery, shared reflections with wit, song, and anecdotes. “He was a little man with a big heart,” recalled Lowery, who also had the teary crowd bursting with laughter. Cascade Senior Pastor, Rev. Dr. Marvin A. Moss entitled his spirit-filled eulogy, “Ken Made the Right Call,” saying Hudson knew the game, knew the ground rules and most importantly he knew God. “Ken taught us it was not about ourselves, but those we come in contact with.”
Ken Hudson quietly transitioned into eternal rest on May 9. News of his passing came as the NBA playoffs were getting underway. “For Ken, the championship game had already been played,” preached Moss.