Pioneering NBA referee Ken Hudson dies in Atlanta

Atlanta, Ga.—Ken Hudson, one of the first full-time African-American referees for the National Basketball Association, passed away on May 9 in Atlanta. He officiated in the league from 1968 to 1972. During this phase of his career, he interacted with such notable players as Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, Julius “Dr. J” Erving, Walt Frazier, Lenny Wilkins, and Jerry West, to name only a few. Hudson became beloved by both players and owners. In 2009 he was recognized by the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, as the recipient of the prestigious Mannie Jackson Human Spirit Award.


Born and raised in Pittsburgh, PA where he attended Westinghouse High School, Hudson earned a Bachelor of Science degree at Central State University in Wilberforce, Ohio where he began his refereeing career. He returned to Pittsburgh to teach elementary school students for several years. Ken also attended the University of Pittsburgh. But, after working in other arenas, he found his niche in the world of sports.

The former executive for the Coca-Cola Company successfully negotiated agreements with the Big East, CIAA, SWAC, MEAC, and SIAC Conferences. After moving to Atlanta with Coca-Cola, he was on the committee that was responsible for developing relationships with the NBA.

He served as special assistant to Mayor Maynard Jackson and coordinated sports-related events and facilitated weekly “Success Seminars” at Atlanta area high schools.

In the early 1970s, Hudson served as general manager of Sheridan Broadcasting owned WILD radio in Boston. It was during this time that Hudson developed several Boston-area youth basketball programs. He founded the Boston Shoot-Out (1972), a basketball program that continues to attract top USA high school players. To encourage young people to achieve success in life, Hudson authored “A Tree Stump in the Valley of Redwoods.” The book imparts proven techniques, success stories and alliances that help young people become confident, well-rounded students, players and citizens.

Demonstrating the generosity that characterized his life, one of his final unselfish acts was to donate his body to science in the hope that cures and treatments could be identified for others. A memorial service to celebrate his life will be held on May 17 at 11 a.m. at the Cascade United Methodist Church. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to the Kenneth Hudson Scholarship Fund at Atlanta Technical College, 1560 Metropolitan Parkway, Atlanta, Ga., 30310.


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