A former professional basketball player resides in Cumberland County. Other than the fact that he is extremely tall, you would never know it. He's humble about his accomplishments and his accomplishments are pretty impressive.
Three names made basketball history in 1950. "Sweetwater" Clifton, Chuck Cooper and Earl Lloyd. The first three African American men in the NBA.
The first, though, to actually play in a game was Earl Lloyd who now lives just outside of Crossville.
"There were people who just they could not believe that here is a black kid that's good enough to play," said Lloyd.
Earl comes from Alexandria, Virginia.
"In my community, if you didn't do it together you didn't survive," said Lloyd. It's where he learned teamwork.
"I was a baseball player. I was a basketball player and I was on the football team," explained Lloyd. And while he said baseball was his best sport, basketball chose him. He played at a small West Virginia college where his height got him his nickname, Moonfixer.
"They gave me the toughest job on campus. My job was to regulate the moon every night accordingly," joked Lloyd.
He found out he was going pro after a young girl said she heard his name on the radio. "Some basketball team out of Washington D.C. called the Washington Capitals, a professional basketball team, they have drafted you to come and play for them," said Lloyd.
And he made the team. "When I came into the NBA there were eight teams and each team had ten players," explained Lloyd. Meaning he was one of just 80 to make the cut.
"You had to be ready emotionally, physically," said Lloyd. And he was. Much of that strength came from mom.
"I'm from a time and a place and a people where young kids did what they were told," stated Lloyd.
Lloyd played ball for eight years. Eight good years. He's been likened to Jackie Robinson.
"It knocks me off my feet, but I also keep things in check," said Lloyd. "Jackie Robinson his first year was the only black player in the league."
When Lloyd stopped playing, he moved on to a new job, scouting for the NBA.
"I've had a hell of a run," says Lloyd.
Now he lives a quiet life in Fairfield Glade with his wife of thirty years Charlita.
"When we sit together this morning and I tell you I've been blessed, take it to the bank," said Lloyd.
But he's well aware of the legacy he's left behind. "Now I know Chuck Cooper knows and "Sweetwater" Clifton knows that we left it a better place because some more folks that look like us got in," said Lloyd.
Earl Lloyd, a basketball great, a Hall of Famer, a history maker who chose to make East Tennessee home.
One of Your Stories. There's no place like this one.
To learn more about Earl Lloyd he co-wrote a book about his life called Moonfixer: The Basketball Journey of Earl Lloyd