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July 22, 2014, 11:45 pm

Hoops icon Frank Washington dies at 91

Philadelphia will certainly miss a true basketball legend and a great person. Frank Washington, an outstanding player and a pioneer in professional basketball, passed away on Thursday, Jan. 24. He was 91 years old.

Washington, a 6-foot-5 center, played for the internationally famous Harlem Globetrotters from 1946 to1960. During this period, he made two movies and traveled around the world six times. In the summer of 1941, Washington traveled with Zack Clayton and others to a South Philadelphia playground where the New York Renaissance (Rens) were practicing. There Washington played with and against the Rens. The team members were Clayton, Washington, Tarzan Cooper, Jackie Bethards and John Yancy.

During World War II, Washington volunteered for the United States Navy from 1942 to 1945. After the war ended, he returned to Philadelphia and played locally with the Washington Bears…who were mostly comprised of members of the Rens, this included John Isaacs, Pop Gates and Charlie Isles. He also traveled with George Besnoff, a local promoter/booker and played against the Washington Bears. In 1946, Washington went to play with the Harlem Globetrotters in Chicago.

After leaving the Globetrotters, Washington landed a job at Pepsi Cola in Philadelphia. He worked his way up to become the community relations manager for Pepsi Cola East. He remained at Pepsi for more than 40 years and is legendary for his community programs and support.

He has been involved in helping make a difference with OIC of America; the Urban League; the NAACP; Operation PUSH; Concerned Black Men and the House of Ujoma, just to name a few as well as numerous churches and civic organizations. He has been instrumental in helping Pepsi adopt area high schools as well as becoming involved in such programs as: MISS SCHOOL/MISS OUT, Clean Block, The Philadelphia Tribune Person of the Month, the Sonny Hill Basketball League and the Mobile Tennis Program.

In 1983 Washington and his daughter, Michele, created the Frank Washington Celebrity Golf Tournament to help raise over $700,000 in scholarship money for the United Negro College Fund. In 1995, instead of giving the money to UNCF as he did in the past, Washington developed a program to directly benefit the area’s young people. Through the Michele Washington Memorial Scholarship, all proceeds from the tournament went directly toward the education of the individual recipients. Since 1995, more than 95 students have benefited from this golf tournament.

A year ago, Washington was recognized as the oldest living player from the Rens at the Ford Freedom Award program in Detroit, Mich. The program is a fundraiser for the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History.

Recently, Washington served on the board of the Lupus Foundation of Southeastern, PA annual golf tournament.

Funeral services for Washington will be held at Salem Baptist Church of Jenkintown, 610 Summit Avenue, on Thursday, Jan. 31. The services will start at 11 a.m.

Washington has one living son, Frank Jr. of California. His son Kevin drowned while trying to save a child in Illinois and his daughter Michele died of Lupus in 1993 at the age of 29.

He is the grandfather of three: Jason Washington of Illinois and Dezjoli Washington of California and Zoe Michelle Washington of California. Since 1995, he has been married to Barbara C. Merriweather.

Washington is the grandson of the Rev. Frank B. Mitchell and Lottie Mitchell. He is the son of Julia Mitchell Washington.

 

Contact staff writer Donald Hunt at (215) 893-5719 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .