Fayetteville Flyer file photo
Fayetteville City Council members on Tuesday voted to honor former University of Arkansas basketball coach Nolan Richardson by naming a street after him.
The idea, brought forth by the University of Arkansas Black Alumni Society, called for renaming Leroy Pond Drive to Nolan Richardson Drive. The street is located directly in front of Bud Walton Arena.
As part of the decision, Government Avenue will be renamed Lt. Col. Leroy Pond Avenue in honor of the local war hero who was born in Fayetteville and graduated from the University of Arkansas. The street runs south from Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard to the Fayetteville National Cemetery, where thousands of veterans of the Revolutionary War, Civil War, World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan are buried.
Synetra Hughes, president elect of the Black Alumni Society, said naming a street after Richardson is more than a simple acknowledgement of his contributions to the university, but is also a testament to his legacy as a pioneering sports figure and a celebrated leader in the Black community in Fayetteville, the region and across the state.
“Coach Nolan Richardson is truly valued in the Fayetteville community,” said Hughes. “As head coach of a national champion basketball program, coach Richardson was a source of leadership for the Black community in Arkansas. After his departure from the university, he chose to remain in Fayetteville and has showed many African American students that this was a place they could call home. Coach Nolan Richardson embodied and empowered the growing diversity of the University of Arkansas.”
The resolution was sponsored by Ward 1 Council Member D’Andre Jones, who said the street renaming was a good opportunity to celebrate the accomplishments of Richardson, not only for his success on the court, but also for his continued commitment in supporting local programs aimed at improving the lives of marginalized residents.
Such a move, Jones said, would also send a message that Fayetteville continues to support racial harmony at a time when many communities are failing to remedy injustices of the past.
“We must listen to Black students, Black alumni and community members,” said Jones. “Tonight let’s partner with the University of Arkansas Black Alumni Society, students and members of the African-American community and support an opportunity to honor Nolan as a citizen and a living legacy.”
The resolution was passed unanimously without any debate.
Richardson coached Arkansas to its only NCAA basketball championship in 1994, and he also led his teams to the NCAA Final Four three times.
Before his time in Fayetteville, Richardson won the junior college national championship at Western Texas College, and won the NIT championship at Tulsa. He was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2014, and was honored again in 2019 when the university named the floor at Bud Walton Arena as Nolan Richardson Court.
An early proposal called for relocating Leroy Pond Drive one block north to Meadow Street, but that road is managed by the university, which the council cannot control.
Government Avenue, which is a city street, is actually a better fit for honoring Pond, said City Attorney Kit Williams.
“This is the road by which other deceased veterans are taken, and how their families and citizens access the National Cemetery for interments, services and commemorations,” said Williams.
Pond is a World War II veteran who participated in D-Day and was honored with the Silver Star, a Purple Heart and several other awards for his bravery in battle. He was later wounded in Germany and died in 1945.
The original Leroy Pond Drive was a road leading to Camp Leroy Pond, a housing complex south of where Bud Walton Arena stands today that was used for students who were returning home after World War II.