Meadowlark center stage

Harlem All-Stars to play in fundraiser for Williams Leadership Academy

Standing center court in Alcoa High School gymnasium are, from left, Eston Williams, Bethel AME Church; George Williams, director of the Richard Williams Leadership Development Academy; and Kenneth Oglesby with Bethel AME Church.

Standing center court in Alcoa High School gymnasium are, from left, Eston Williams, Bethel AME Church; George Williams, director of the Richard Williams Leadership Development Academy; and Kenneth Oglesby with Bethel AME Church.

Harlem Globetrotter fans will want to be at Alcoa High School gymnasium at 6 p.m. on July 24.

Meadowlark Lemon and his Harlem All-Stars will play a group of local celebrities during a fundraiser for the Richard Williams Leadership Development Academy and Bethel AME Youth Department.

George Williams, director the academy and brother of the late Richard Williams, took Kenneth Oglesby and Eston Williams of Bethel AME Youth Department on a tour of the Alcoa gym as plans were being finalized for the event.

The game will be the second of two games Lemon and his All-Stars will be playing. At 7 p.m. on July 23, they will play at Central High School in Knoxville as a fundraiser for Knox Area Rescue Ministries and Bethel AME Youth Department.

George Williams said he was shocked when he was approached about having Lemon do a fundraiser for the academy that he founded to help area youth. “So many of us grew up admiring Meadowlark Lemon and the Harlem Globetrotters. To think we’d have the opportunity to have him here in Alcoa and even more so to benefit the Leadership Academy is humbling,” George Williams said. “It’s a great opportunity for our kids to interact with a positive image and have a good evening of fun for the whole family.”

George Williams said Meadowlark Lemon always gives a great show. “Even though he’s getting on up in age, he’s still got it. I’m looking forward to getting on the floor with him. We’ll put together a good local team,” he said. “It is going to be a great event for Alcoa and Blount County. I especially like the idea that some of the younger people will get to come meet some of these guys and to talk to them.”

The idea for the fundraiser started when Oglesby and his wife were boarding a plane in Atlanta, headed to Arizona. They were assigned seats beside Pee Wee Harrison.

“We got to talking about how I was over major giving at Bethel AME, my church, and he said, ‘We can find a way to do a fundraiser for your church. We’ll come to Knoxville. You set it up.’ We talked over a period of two or three days in Phoenix, and when I got back home, Meadowlark Lemon called my house and said, ‘Let’s get it set up. You find the facility,” Oglesby said.

Oglesby said that is what he and Williams had been doing when they spoke with Natasha Hillsman, a former Leadership Development Academy cadet now with Denso.

Eston Williams is on the steward board of Bethel AME, and he said Hillsman shared with him what the academy does. Eston Williams then realized he had served on a church denomination council with the late Richard Williams years ago, so helping the academy bearing Richard Williams’ name meant even more to Eston Williams.

“It is a great opportunity. This is an awesome thing coming together, and we’re so excited about being able to provide some type of giving to this worthy cause,” Eston Williams said. “During this whole time, we have been doing our leg work. What we’ve done, we’ve put God first. Before we set out to do anything, we wanted God to direct us in a way so this would be successful. It will be successful.”

Eston Williams said tickets will be $10 in advance and $15 at the door. VIP tickets will be $25 in advance and $30 at the door. “VIP gets them on the floor interacting with Pee Wee Harris and Meadowlark Lemon. We hope to have local celebrities,” Eston Williams said. “They’re playing four 10-minutes quarters.”

Oglesby said there will be half-time activities. George Williams is putting together a local team and will coach it.

Oglesby said there will be an autograph signing at Aubrey’s restaurant in Maryville following the game. “After the game that night, we’ll meet at the restaurant and the 50th person through gets an autographed ball,” he said.

For information, call Oglesby at 865-679-6855 or Williams at 865-406-5412. Tickets are available at the Alcoa City Center, 229 East Watt Street in Alcoa.

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