UDC renames sports complex after Dr. Edwin Bancroft Henderson, the ‘grandfather of Black basketball’

Edwin Henderson
The renowned 1910, 12th Street Colored YMCA team. Edwin Henderson is holding the basket ball. (Photo YMCA)

What used to be building 47 at the University of the District of Columbia will now be called The Dr. Edwin Bancroft Henderson Sports Complex, after the D.C. native credited with bringing basketball to Black youth in the early 1900s.

Henderson, who is also a Howard University graduate, learned basketball at the YMCA in Springfield, Massachusetts. When he returned to D.C., he found there were no courts or clubs for Black ballplayers. Henderson then took it upon himself to organize Black basketball teams, leagues and referees.

“In 1907, Dr. Henderson introduced a new sport to Black youth in Washington D.C. and today UDC athletics empowers partners across the city,” said Patricia Tomas, UDC’s director of athletics.

“Dr. Edwin Bancroft Henderson exemplified academic excellence, athletic excellence and service to the community, and those attributes are what this department of athletics embodies every single day,” Thomas said.

Edwin B. Henderson in 1910. (Photo University of the District of Columbia)

“It’s a good thing because UDC has decided to shine light on him and his story, so those are all positive. Those are all good things,” said John Thompson III with Monumental Sports.

Thompson is also a former Georgetown University basketball coach. He pointed out that not many people in the basketball world even know who Henderson is.

“It’s extremely important just to educate people about E.B. Henderson, someone that is so important to our sport,” said Thompson.

The unveiling has also kicked off the Dr. Edwin Bancroft Henderson Memorial Fund. Proceeds from the charity will help with the creation of a scholarship endowment, establishing a permanent memorial in his honor on campus and renaming the university’s sports complex after Dr. Henderson.

Ted Leonsis, Founder and CEO of Monumental Sports & Entertainment kicked off the public phase of the campaign with a 200K gift, which Thompson presented at the ceremony.

Former Georgetown University Basketball coach John Thompson III presents UDC a $200, 000 check from Monumental Sports and Entertainment for The Dr. Edwin Bancroft Henderson Memorial Fund. (Photo Monumental Sports & Entertainment)

Henderson also became the first Black man to receive a National Honor Fellowship in the American Association for Health, Physical Education and Recreation. In 2013, he was inducted posthumously by the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

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