The historic mile marker at 1020 Montgomery Street in Alexandria, Va., was placed on April 2. (Anthony Tilghman/The Washington Informer)
The historic mile marker at 1020 Montgomery Street in Alexandria, Va., was placed on April 2. (Anthony Tilghman/The Washington Informer)

Just three years after Jackie Robinson broke Major League Baseball’s color line, Earl Francis Lloyd, a native of Alexandria, Virginia, did the same in the National Basketball Association.

And four years before Frank Robinson became the first Black man to manage a Major League Baseball team, Lloyd stood on the hardwood as the first full-time African-American head coach in the NBA when the Detroit Pistons hired him for the role.

Lloyd, who died in 2015, continues to make those in his native Alexandria proud of his many accomplishments. On April 2, the city held a State Historic Marker Dedication to honor Lloyd. Officials placed the market at 1020 Montgomery Street, just a few steps away from Lloyd’s childhood home. 

Formally approved on Sept. 21, 2021, city officials held an unveiling event for the mile marker sign with citizens and politicians in attendance.

Lloyd’s NBA Hall of Fame bio reads:

“On the night of October 31, 1950, Earl Lloyd, a forward with the Washington Capitols, became the first African American to play in an NBA game. From that moment, Lloyd would forever change how African Americans would integrate into professional basketball. 

Lloyd’s ability to conduct himself with grace, style and professionalism both on and off the court during an era of segregation became the model for others to follow. 

Lloyd was a two-time All-America selection at West Virginia State where he helped lead his school to an undefeated 30-0 season in 1947-48, a conference championship and unofficial “national champion” status as voted by several Black newspapers.

 The 6-foot-8 Lloyd enjoyed a solid NBA career with the Capitols, Syracuse Nationals and Detroit Pistons. A rugged power forward who became a starter on Syracuse’s NBA championship team in 1955, Lloyd was known for his defensive play on the opponent’s top scorer, rugged rebounding and effective offensive game.”

Known as humble, Lloyd often spoke about the difference in environment in which he and two others – Chuck Cooper, and Nat Clifton – arrived in the NBA as compared to Robinson’s 1947 debut with baseball’s Brooklyn Dodgers.

 “I don’t think my situation was anything like Jackie Robinson’s – a guy who played in a very hostile environment where even some of his own teammates didn’t want him around,” Lloyd told in an undated interview. “In basketball, folks were used to seeing integrated teams at the college level. There was a different mentality. But of course, the team did stay and eat in some places where I wasn’t welcome.

“I remember in Fort Wayne, Ind., we stayed at a hotel where they let me sleep but they wouldn’t let me eat. They didn’t want anyone to see me. Heck, I figured if they let me sleep there, I was at least halfway home. You have to remember, I grew up in segregated Virginia, so I had seen this stuff before. Did it make me bitter? No. If you let yourself become bitter, it will eat away at you inside. If adversity doesn’t kill you, it makes you a better person.”

At the time of his 2015 death at age 86, Lloyd’s survivors included: his wife, Charlita; three sons, Kenneth, Kevin and David; and four grandchildren.

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Stacy M. Brown is a senior writer for The Washington Informer and the senior national correspondent for the Black Press of America. Stacy has more than 25 years of journalism experience and has authored...

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