Meadowlark Lemon, a native of Wilmington, known as the “Clown Prince of Basketball” died Sunday, Dec. 27 in Scottsdale, Arizona. Perhaps the most beloved member of the Harlem Globetrotters, Lemon was 83.
His twitter handle, @meadowlarkL, alerted fans to his passing: “Our dear Meadowlark passed away yesterday in his sleep at home in AZ. His memory will always be cherished by his friends, fans, and family.”
He attended Williston High School and graduated in 1952. Known for his near-perfect hook shot from half-court, Lemon joined the Globetrotters in 1957.
That year the Globetrotters, official American Ambassadors of Goodwill, began annual performances at military bases and naval aircraft carriers during Christmas. In 1960, Lemon and the team traveled behind the iron curtain to perform a series of shows in Moscow.
Lemon, who was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2003, is one of only five Globetrotters to have their numbers retired since the team was founded in Chicago in the 1920s. He played in over 16,000 games in a career that lasted until 1979. Lemon starred in most of the team’s appearances on the ABC Wide World of Sports. He was portrayed in the Saturday morning animated show “The Harlem Globetrotters” from 1970 to 1971.
In 1978, a nationwide poll named Meadowlark Lemon the fourth most popular personality in America; only John Wayne, Alan Alda and Bob Hope preceded him.
In 1986 he became an ordained minister and for many years, hosted “The Meadowlark Lemon Show” televised nationally and internationally through the Trinity Broadcasting Network. His television ministry focused on athletic and entertainment figures testimonials, gang ministry, youth outreach, youth prison work and youth drug awareness.