In 2005 Ken Hudson published his autobiography, "A Tree Stump in The Valley of Redwoods." In mid May Ken Hudson died after complications from a fall. Ken was 72 years old and did more for race relations and sportsmanship than any person I can recall.
Ken was a diminutive figure at 5 feet 6 inches but was a giant among athletes of all ages. Ken grew up in Pittsburgh and in 1968 became the first African American to become an NBA referee.
After four years in the NBA Ken moved to Boston where he held a number of jobs including director of community relations for the Celtics and eventually an executive with Coca Cola. Ken befriended NBA stars with the same genuine sincerity as he did a Coca Cola truck driver or an eighth grader searching for his identity. I first met Ken when he was an NBA referee and later worked with him while a struggling rookie at a radio station and a high school basketball referee.
At the time race relations in Boston were simmering each night. Ken always saw sports as a bridge between races, cultures and economic disparities. He took a chance and formed the Boston Neighborhood Basketball League (still in existence to this day) bringing together teenagers from every corner of the city. He told me one night to bring my "whistle and referee shirt" and meet him at a playground in Roxbury.
With trepidation I showed up for the game that featured an all white team from South Boston and an all black team from Dorchester. Ken blew the whistle to bring the two captains together, introduced me as his partner and instead of going over the ground rules and warning against physical play, Ken asked the white kid what kind of pizza he liked. He asked the same question to the black player. Ken went on with more questions about their favorite NBA and NFL players and then he said, "see, you guys have more in common than you think. Now lets have a good game."
The game was incident free and after the game Ken invited both teams to the trunk of his car which was stocked with a couple of cases of Coca Cola. That was how Ken lived his life until the day he died. He used to tell me that " you reach twice in your life. You reach out for help, and you reach back to help someone." Ken helped thousands to reach their dreams. Ken was hardly a "tree stump."
To those he reached, he was the tallest "redwood" of them all.