Kenneth A. Free, Sr. June 8, 1936 - December 29, 2021
Ken Free, Sr. was a man of many talents and one of the most energetic personalities you will ever meet.
Despite battling illnesses for decades, he is recognized as an unsung hero who led by his actions and work ethic in promoting equality for his beloved HBCUs.
Ken was born on June 8, 1936, in Greensboro, NC, the son of the late Lazelle Free and Margaret Free. He and the family later moved to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and returned to Greensboro when Ken was 12 years old.
A talented athlete, he graduated from James B. Dudley High School and was an outstanding baseball player who attended North Carolina A&T State University on a baseball scholarship.
He joined the Raleigh Tigers of the Negro League in 1959. He played in the East/West All-Star game in Chicago’s famous Comiskey Park.
He shared his fond memories of playing with other Negro League greats like Satchel Paige on the Winston Salem (NC) Pond Giants team. After playing
Leader, Innovator, Achiever, Friend
First MEAC First Full-time Commissioner,1978.
Former member-NCAA Div. I Basketball Committee and NCAA Executive Committee.
Former Negro League Baseball player and NCAA Referee.
Former Charter Board member, Black College Sports & Education Foundation.
Served on numerous local and state boards and committees.
Inductions and Awards:
North Carolina A&T State University (Baseball)
Dudley High School Hall of Fame
Guilford County Sports Hall of Fame 2013
South Atlantic League Hall of Fame 2018
North Carolina Recreation and Parks Society Hall of Fame
North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame
CIAA Football and Basketball Officials Hall of Fame
Fellow Award (the highest award by North Carolina Recreation and Parks Society 1986.
Recipient, the Order of the Long Leaf Pine (one of the state’s highest civilian honors presented by the Governor).
with the Hickory Rebels, he was signed and spent three seasons in the New York Mets organization where he played with the Raleigh Capitals of the Carolina League and the Salinas Mets.He began his athletic administration career as the Director of the new Windsor Recreation Center before moving on to become a Regional Parks Recreation consultant for the State of North Carolina Department of Natural and Economic Resources. He was a former Greensboro Parks and Recreation Commissioner.
When the newly found Black college conference – the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference formed in 1978, Free became the first full-time commissioner and oversaw the growth of the conference until 1996.
He moved the conference headquarters to Greensboro and was instrumental in the drive for MEAC institutions to attain NCAA Division I status, which became a reality in 1980.
Ken continued his drive for post-season football play by being a force in the development of the Freedom Bowl All-Star Classic; and the Heritage Bowl, matching a SWAC team against one from the MEAC, the precursor to what is now the Celebration Bowl.
In 1987, he became the first African American appointed to the powerful NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Selection Committee and was instrumental in the drive for Black college conferences to attain NCAA Division I status, which resulted in the MEAC and SWAC getting an automatic berth in the NCAA National Basketball Tournament.
After his MEAC tenure, Free served as Commissioner of the Eastern Intercollegiate Athletic Association (EIAC) from 1996-2006.
Other accomplishments: he was named liaison contact official to the American Football Coaches Associations by the University Commissioners Association (UCA).