Basketball Legend Lemon Visits Clay County

Thursday, April 3, 2014
Basketball and entertainment legend Meadowlark Lemon with Harmony Baptist Church Pastor Tim McCluskey. During his visit to the area Meadowlark was attended by Ronnie "The Preaching Machine" Raven of Farmington, Mo.(courtesy photo)

A rural church in the obscure little town of Pollard got a big treat Sunday night when basketball legend Meadowlark Lemon came to town.

The famed Globetrotter continues to tour the world and, while he still plays the game, his energies are more focused on preaching the word of God.

He was the special guest at Harmony Baptist Church during the Sunday evening service, arriving just after a baptism and prior to the traditional fifth Sunday supper that Baptists are known for. Meadowlark fit right in, socializing and generating laughter during his 3-hour visit.

Harmony Pastor Tim McCluskey was among the many fans excited about Meadowlark's visit.

"It was great," McCluskey said. "I've been a fan of Meadowlark's since I was a kid. So to meet him was a dream come true. And to hear him share his experiences and preach to our congregation was such a huge thing for all of us."

A congregate, Jim McIntosh, said he remembers seeing Meadowlark Lemon and the Globetrotters live in 1975 while living in Los Angeles, Calif.

"He has always been one of my heroes," McIntosh said. "Meadowlark Lemon and Evel Knievel. They were steeped in my childhood in the '70s. I never dreamed I'd get the opportunity to meet him and, even more impressive, to hear him share the word of God at our church. It was definitely a 'wow' moment that I will remember always."

McIntosh said his good friend Chris Shelton, a local author and minister, arranged for the visit.

"We're so thankful to Chris for hooking us up," he said. "This was truly an honor and an unforgettable time. Everyone was all smiles."

Indeed, church members from ages 3-83 were on hand to hear Meadowlark's inspirational message. He shared with the congregation about how God has used him during his travels to spread joy. He spread some instant joy when he signed a basketball for 14-year-old Jason Bradshaw after performing a few of his customary basketball tricks.

As an entertainer known internationally as the "Clown Prince," Meadowlark has played to crowds on every continent.

"I've been to countries that no longer exist," he said. "And I can tell you from experience, we live in the greatest country on the planet."

He also shared his latest test of faith which occurred eight months ago involving his health. A kidney problem was discovered by physicians after an emergency room visit at his Arizona home. Upon closer inspection doctors learned he had a blood clot in his arm and a small hole in his heart. Three surgeries later and he is back on the road, preaching and playing basketball.

"I was in such good shape all my life that this took me by surprise," Meadowlark said of the recovery period. "I thought I would heal up in a few weeks and be ready to go. But I'm still healing. God is using me and I'm excited about what he's doing. You can trust him."

Meadowlark is an internationally known celebrity. He played in more than 16,000 games and is known for his longevity as much as anything else. At 82 years old he still competes in charity basketball games. He also starred in movies including "The Fish That Saved Pittsburg," a 1979 film in which he played the Rev. Grady Jackson.

"It was while filming that movie that God began to work in my life," he told the crowd. "I had never been in church. I realized I had no business playing a preacher. I didn't even know what a preacher was supposed to do."

He also starred in the educational geography film "Meadowlark Lemon Presents the World," appeared in the TV sit-com "Hello, Larry," and numerous other appearances, not to mention cartoons modeled after his person.

Born in Wilmington, N.C., he attended Florida A&M University and began playing with the Harlem Globetrotters in 1955 at the age of 23, soon becoming easily the most recognizable member of the team. Before long, he was considered one of the five most recognized people in America, along with Alan Alda, Bob Hope and John Wayne.

Meadowlark has numerous accolades in the athletic world but among the most coveted are the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame induction and the John Bunn Award, the highest honor given.

His most decorated induction, however, admittedly came in 1986 when he became an ordained minister. He received a Doctor of Divinity degree from Vision International University in Ramona, Calif., in 1988. His surrender to God has led to the Meadowlark Lemon Ministries, Inc.

He and his wife Dr. Cynthia Lemon have 10 (grown) children: Richard, George, Beverly, Donna, Robin, Jonathan, Jamison, Angela, Crystal and Caleb, all of whom he spoke about during the service.

Before leaving Meadowlark signed autographs and posed for pictures with members of the congregation.

Earlier in the day he spoke at the Oasis Church in St. Francis before a large and appreciative crowd.

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