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Today in Black History, 10/28/2011

·   October 28, 1922 Simon Vengai Muzenda, Zimbabwean politician, was born In the Gutu District of what was then Rhodesia. After completing his carpentry courses, Muzenda started his own carpentry business and became active in politics, eventually becoming administrative secretary of the Zimbabwe African National Union. His political activity led to him being imprisoned several times between 1955 and 1971. After Zimbabwe gained independence from the British government in 1980, Robert Mugabe was elected prime minister and he appointed Muzenda the deputy prime minister and foreign minister. In 1987, Muzenda was appointed first vice president, a position he held until his death on September 30, 2003.

·   October 28, 1937 Leonard Randolph “Lenny” Wilkins, hall of fame basketball player and coach, was born in Brooklyn, New York. Wilkins was a two time All-American at Providence College and when he graduated with a degree in economics he was second highest scorer in the college’s history. Providence retired his jersey number in 1996, making Wilkins the first alumnus to receive that honor. Wilkins was selected by the St. Louis Hawks in the 1960 NBA Draft and over his 15 season professional career was a nine-time NBA All-Star and at the time of his retirement in 1975 had the second most career assists in NBA history. After retiring as a player, Wilkins coached in the NBA for 35 years. He was named Coach of the Year in 1994 and retired with the most wins and losses as a coach in NBA history. He also coached the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Champion Men’s Basketball team. Wilkins is one of three individuals to be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame as both a player and a coach. He was inducted into the hall as a player in 1989 and as a coach in 1998. In 1996, the NBA named Wilkins one of the 50 Greatest Players and 10 Greatest Coaches in league history, the only person named to both lists. Wilkins founded the Lenny Wilkins Foundation in 1970 “to fund organizations that deliver healthcare and education services to young people while honoring their dignity and sense of self-respect.”

·   October 28, 1972 Terrell Lamar Davis, former football player, was born in San Diego, California. Davis initially played college football at Long Beach State University and, when they ended their football program, he transferred to the University of Georgia. Davis earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in consumer economics and was selected by the Denver Broncos in the 1995 NFL Draft. Over his seven season professional career, Davis was a three-time Pro Bowl selection, two-time NFL Offensive Player of the Year, and two-time Super Bowl champion. In 1998, Davis led the league in rushing and was named the NFL Most Valuable Player. Davis retired before the 2002 season and was inducted into the Denver Bronco Ring of Fame in 2007. He has been a semifinalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame on a couple of occasions. Davis published his autobiography, “TD: Dreams in Motion” in 1980. In 1998, he founded The Terrell Davis Migraine foundation to raise awareness about the impact of living with migraine headaches and to educate sufferers and their families about treatment options.

·   October 28, 1975 Oliver Edward Nelson, jazz musician, arranger, and composer, died. Nelson was born June 4, 1932 in St. Louis, Missouri. He learned to play the piano when he was six and started to play the saxophone when he was eleven. After military service in the Marines, Nelson earned his bachelor’s degree in music composition and theory from Washington University in 1957 and his master’s degree in music from Lincoln University in 1958. Nelson began leading his own groups in 1959 and after recording six albums his big breakthrough came with the 1961 album “The Blues and the Abstract Truth,” which included “Stolen Moments,” now considered a jazz standard. Between 1966 and his death, Nelson led several all-star bands. He also composed music for television and films and produced and arranged for stars such as Nancy Wilson, James Brown, The Temptations, and Diana Ross.

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Gregory Lucas-Myers is a 2010 University of Michigan - Ann Arbor graduate, possessing a B.A. in English with a focus in creative writing.

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