By Dr. Conrad W. Worrill (June 4, 2000) 

On Saturday, May 13th we learned of the passing into eternity of our big brother Mack Henry Herndon, or "Big Mack" as we affectionately called him.

I met "Big Mack" in 1955 while playing basketball for Hyde Park High School. Big Mack played for DuSable and our teams competed against each other over a span of four years (1955 – 1959).

I was able to personally witness Big Mack mature into one of the best high school players in Chicago. Big Mack grew to at least 6ft. 7in. by his senior year at DuSable. It just seemed there was nothing he could not do on the basketball court.

For a man of his size, he could dribble, pass, and shoot with the best. Mack was a ferocious jumper and rebounder. It was during this era, 1957 and 1958, that the great Marshall High School basketball team was the first team from Chicago to win the state championship. That team was made up of Bobbie Jones, M. C. Thompson, Steve Thomas, Tyrone Johnson, and Ralph Wells.

The DuSable / Marshall rivalry was fierce. I had the privilege of watching DuSable and Marshall play against each other on a couple of occasions. With Big Mack leading the charge, along with David Reed, Jim Hutchinson, Sam Perkins, and others, DuSable played Marshall heads up. Even though Marshall won the city championship in 1958 and 1959, DuSable, under Mack’s leadership gave Marshall "a run for their money."

Big Mack, like all of us who aspired to become basketball players, was greatly impacted by the great DuSable team of 1954 led by the dazzling basketball abilities of the late Paxton Lumpkin, who made his transition into eternity on January 10, 1991.

Mack, like so many of us, had an opportunity to watch some of the DuSable players play on the playground. We were able to see at close range the talent they possessed. We especially had great admiration for the skills Paxton Lumpkin exhibited in dribbling and passing the basketball and his overall leadership ability on the basketball court. I am sure this impacted on Big Mack greatly.

As a matter of fact, in the summer of 1954, it seemed that most of the youth in the African in American communities of Chicago were trying to learn to play basketball, or trying to improve their game on the playgrounds throughout the neighborhoods. Big Mack was one of those youngsters whose athletic abilities were recognized immediately, particularly by his eventual high school coach, the legendary Jim Brown.

Almost a year ago , Woodrow "Little Woody" Hill, another brother in our basketball fraternity, made his transition, June 1999. Paxton, Little Woody, and Big Mack are all together again in the spirit of the heavenly universe.

Upon graduation from high school, Big Mack received a basketball scholarship from Bradley University where he continued to excel at the college level. At Bradley, he played with Al Sanders (Dunbar 1956), Tim Robinson (Crane 1959), Chet Walker (Benton Harbor 1959), Laverne Tart and Joe Strawder (Florida 1959).

Big Mack left Bradley after his junior year to pursue a professional career. With the support of his friend, the great Oscar Robertson, Mack played briefly with the Cincinnati Royals. He continued to play in the mid west semi pro league for several years.

After his life as a basketball player, Mack became friends and business partners with Clarence Ludd, where over the years he managed the club, the High Chaparral, a series of Godfather clubs, and most recently Artis’.

In this role, the pleasing personality of Mack became a major reason why many people attended the clubs he managed. Everybody liked Big Mack and he interacted with the diversity of people who attended the clubs he managed.

Big Mack had a special gift in relating to people and a real concern for the social issues of the day that impacted on the African in American community. I had many long discussions with Mack over the years regarding solutions to many of the problems that impact on our communities. Big Mack had strong opinions about many issues.

At the funeral for Mack Henry Herndon held on Saturday, May 20th at Bethany Union Church over 800 friends and family members attended this great celebration of the life of a great human being.

It is clear that Chicago possesses an informal athletic, and specifically basketball, brotherhood. Basketball players and athletes attended this celebration by the hundreds, including Mack’s friend Oscar "Big O" Robertson.

I hesitate naming those athletes and basketball players who attended for fear of missing some of them. But I think for the purpose of history, I need to name a few and they are: Curtis Cousen, Dennis Boston, Brian Dennis, Art Hicks, Al Saunders, David Reed, Jim Hutchinson, Tank Ellis, Howard Hayes, Tim Robinson, Thomas Letcher, Chuck McFarren, Tony Banks, Lawrence Moore, Talmage Milan, Marvin Torrence, Clarence Ludd, Frank Burks, and many, many, many others.

The spirit of Big Mack will live on!

National Chairman
National Black United Front (NBUF)

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