earl

Glade resident Earl Lloyd is honored by his home state of West Virginia.

Earl Lloyd has seen his share of monumental firsts and victories.

A standout basketball player who played on three of the most successful basketball teams in West Virginia State history, Lloyd made history 58 years ago when he became the first African-American to play in the NBA on Oct. 31, 1950 for the Washington Capitols. Earlier this year Lloyd was interviewed and featured in the ESPN network's documentary film "Black Magic."

With U.S. Senator Barack Obama winning his presidential bid to the White House and becoming the first African-American president-elect, the historic election means something very special to Lloyd.

"I'll tell you, one of the things that I never imagined in my lifetime has happened. What registers with me the most is that this is the first time I can look at a black child, my child or my grandchild and honestly say to them 'you can be president someday,'" Earl Lloyd said. "Not until now could I look at my kids and grandkids and say 'you can be anything you want to be and really mean it. You know. Now, it's not just a thought.'"

Lloyd said late Tuesday night as he and his wife watched the election results unfold, they shed joyous tears for America as they witnessed the historic presidential win.

"The images of joyous faces of the people on TV and those looks of joy on the faces of not only black, but white, Hispanic and all the people celebrating made the event emotional," he said.

Lloyd, who is now retired and living in Fairfield Glade, also served as a basketball coach and scout for the Detroit Pistons in the early '70s. In 1950 he was selected in the ninth round of the NBA Draft by the Washington Capitols and the first game, against the Rochester Royals, was days before the debut of two other African-Americans who helped integrate the NBA — Chuck Cooper of the Boston Celtics, the first African-American draftee, and Nat (Sweetwater) Clifton of the New York Knickerbockers, the first African-American to sign an NBA contract.

He became the NBA’s first African-American assistant coach when he joined the staff of the Detroit Pistons in 1968. Three years later, Lloyd became the first African-American bench coach and only the second African-American head coach with the Pistons.

Lloyd was elected to the West Virginia Sports Hall of Fame and honored in 2006. He was also inducted, as a contributor, into the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, MA in 2003.

Wednesday morning Lloyd said, "Until now, having a black man for a president was just a dream. It wasn't a reality or anything close to it. It was just a thought ... It's amazing and unimaginable ... You know a picture is worth a thousand words and seeing that young, black woman on TV at Spellman College in Atlanta, down on her knees and crying — I mean to me, that says it all. What just happened in this country — it means a lot to me."

He credited young Americans for helping Obama's win occur.

"Obama was able to inspire a lot of young people. To get them out there and vote. Black and white and Hispanic. The younger people of this country have a lot of energy and the young people had to do it. He is a very smart man and it won't be easy for him. He's going to have a lot of challenges. But he's offering the young and old people of this country hope and that's a big step in the right direction," Lloyd said.