The African American Sports Legends 2023 Hall of Fame Induction

Wes Harper helps Erik Kynard, Sr, accept the red jackt on his son’s behalf

The Truth Staff

Eight gifted athletes were welcomed into the African American Sports Legends Hall of Fame this past weekend with ceremonies at the Holland Garden Banquet Hall on Friday night and an afternoon induction on Saturday at Jerusalem Baptist Church.

Robert Smith, founder and director of the African American Legacy Project, introduced a new aspect to the annual event with the unveiling of a red jacket for the inductees. The red jacket, adopted by the committee after researching similar practices from around the country, was unveiled at a “smoker” on Friday night. Each inductee received his or her jacket on Saturday.

“Young people need to know what it takes to be great,” said veteran broadcaster Tom Cole, who shared master of ceremony duties with Smith. “Nothing is fast and easy. You don’t quit and you don’t sit down and cry. You get up and get back in the race. Sport teaches you to get back up.”

The 2023 inductees are: Leroy Bates, Theodore H. Bey, Sr; Felesha Boyd-Towbridge; Joe Cooke, Jr; Erik Kynard, Jr; Robert “Raymond” Lothery; Dr. Airron Richardson and Francella Washington.

Accompanied by Legends committee members, the inductees were introduced by Cole and Smith, escorted to the front of the church sanctuary, praised for their sporting accomplishments and presented with a red jacket.

Coach Leroy Bates is honored accompanied by James L. Jones, Keith Mathis Smith and Eddie Norrils

Leroy Bates, a five-time City League coach of the year, taught in the Toledo Public Schools district for 35 years and served as an assistant coach under the legendary Ben Williams at Scott High School from 1984 to 1992. He became the head basketball coach at Libbey High School in 1992 and his teams appeared in 12 City League playoffs during his 16 years at the helm.

Bates’ teams won six regular season City League titles and six Sectional  Championships. They won three District titles, two Regional titles, two State appearances and a runner-up tittle in 2008.

Theodore Bey, Sr., who was honored posthumously, attended Libbey High School, was a football and track standout. Bey  was the featured halfback on the football team and his track specialty was the 100 yard dash. During his high school career he earned numerous awards in football and track and upon graduation entered Fort Valley State College in Georgia.

In 1947 the Fort Valley Wildcats football team were undefeated as Bey, a freshman, led the team in scoring. He was chosen for “All-Southern Conference” for three consecutive years.

Felesha Boyd-Trowbridge was a four-time Rogers Lady Rams varsity basketball letter winner and was widely considered the best female basketball player in school history.

In 1989, Boyd-Trowbridge was named Player of the Year. A senior that year, she averaged 20 points, 14 rebounds and four blacks a game. She was also named First Team All City and Honorable Mention for the State of Ohio.

Joe Cooke’s sister, Sharon Cooke Parker, dons the red jacket accompanied by Truman Claytor, Ed Jaynes and Terry Crosby

Joe Cooke, Jr., also honored posthumously, was a top City League basketball guard at Libbey High School starting in 1963. In 1966 he led his team to the Ohio State finals appearance.

Cooke played college ball at Indiana University and averaged 18.2 points over a two-year period. In 1970, Cooke entered NBA draft and was selected by the newly formed Cleveland Cavaliers in the sixth round and for two years was an integral part of the team until knee injuries forced his retirement.

Erik Kynard, Jr.  attended Rogers High School and qualified for the Olympic Trials in the high jump during his junior year there in 2008. During his high school career, in addition to winning four City League titles in the high jump, he also won the 2009 Nike Outdoor and Indoor Championships and became a two-tim OHSAA champion.

Kynard attended Kansas State University where he was an All-American for both indorr and outdoor seasons. He won six Big 12 championship titles.

A two-time Olympian, Kynard received the Gold Medal in the 2012 London Games and became a representative for a number of elite brand such as Nike, Jordan and Gypsium, to name a few.

Robert Lothery graduated from Macomber High School in 1960 where he played varsity basketball and attended Tri-State University in Angola, Indiana. After graduation from Tri State. Lothery played for the original Harlem Globetrotters for five years before returning to Toledo. He became a teacher with the Toledo Public Schools and ultimately became director of the Wayman Palmer and Indiana YMCAs

Lothery also served on a number of boards such as Harbor Mental Health Service, Catholic Charities  of the Diocese of Toledo, Lucas County Board of Developmental Disability and YMCA NOW.

Dr. Airron Richardson adds to his wardrobe with the aid of Keith Mathis Smith, Willie Loper and James L. Jones (2)

Dr. Airron Richardson was an honor student and three-sport varsity athlete at Start High School – football, Track and field and wrestling. In wrestling he became a state and national champion in his senior year – with a 4-0 record as a heavyweight.

Dr. Richardson entered Morehouse College but transferred to the University of Michigan after one year on a full athletic scholarship. As a senior at UM, he was an Academic All-American and Big Ten conference champion. He was a national team member on the Olympic wrestling team during the 2000 games. He then attended Vanderbilt University School of Medicine and completed the five-year MD and MBA program.

He is currently the clinical assistant professor at the Medical College of Wisconsin and co-owner and chief medical officer of Premier Urgent Care and Occupational Health Center in Chicago.

Francella Washington attended Woodward High School and played on the first girls basketball state championship team in 1976. She was named Woodward’s Most Valuable Player and Player of the Year in the City League. She also played volleyball and ran track at Woodward.

Washington was a key player on the Ohio State University’s 1978 Big Ten Championship team and was named to the 1979 Kodak All-American team averaging 23.7points a game.

Later she was a multi-talented athlete who played the wide receiver position with the renowned “Toledo Troopers,” a female football team. She was inducted into the Toledo City League Hall of Fame in 1995.

“We are honored to present eight great athletes who just happen to be eight great men and women who without fail continue to contribute to our society,” wrote Smith in this year’s program notes.