Parks and Recreation Honors Athlete and Sports Advocate Ken Free Sr.
This morning Greensboro Parks and Recreation celebrated local athlete and long-time sports advocate Kenneth “Ken” Free, Sr. at a groundbreaking for a new outdoor basketball court at Barber Park. Once complete, the new court and the existing indoor courts at the George C. Simkins Indoor Sports Pavilion at Barber Park will be named in Free’s honor.
City staff, Council members, and Parks and Recreation Commissioners surprised Free with a bronze plaque with his name and biography, which will be installed at the outdoor court.
“When you think of a lifetime of achievement, surely that is someone’s legacy. For Mr. Free, that not only includes many honors that have been bestowed upon him, but most importantly how he has improved and increased opportunities within Greensboro and beyond,” Councilwoman Sharon Hightower said during the ceremony.
Free, a former Greensboro Parks and Recreation Commissioner and Windsor Recreation Center director, is a trailblazing African American athlete, recreation professional, and collegiate athletics administrator. He played professional baseball as a young man before starting a career in recreation and athletics administration.
In 1978, he became the first commissioner of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC), where he helped build exposure for athletes at historically black colleges and universities. Mr. Free was instrumental in the drive for MEAC institutions to attain NCAA Division I status, and in 1987 he was named to the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Selection Committee, becoming the first African-American appointed to that group.
Free later served as Commissioner of the Eastern Intercollegiate Athletic Association. In retirement, he has volunteered with the Metropolitan Junior Baseball League, helping to connect youth from urban areas to the sport of baseball.
“Naming the courts at Barber Park after Free is a perfect recognition befitting of for someone who have so much to this community and beyond; Mr. Free even served as a member of the Greensboro Parks and Recreation Commission from 2008 through 2013,” said Parks and Recreation Commission Chairman Justin Washington.
Free has been inducted into the sports halls of fame at NC A&T, Dudley High School, and Guilford County; and most recently was honored in the 2018 class of the South Atlantic League Hall of Fame. He received the Order of the Long Leaf Pine from the late Governor Holshouser.
“I may not deserve this honor, but I sure need it,” Free joked at the ceremony.