Mercer Island resident Bill Russell honored with Medal of Freedom
February 16, 2011 · Updated 9:17 AM
Mercer Island resident Bill Russell was honored on Tuesday by President Obama, who gave him the Medal of Freedom. Russell and 14 others were given the highest honor a U.S. civilian can receive in a ceremony at the White House.
The Medal of Freedom is given to people who make contributions "to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors."
Russell marched with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and was a member of the Boston Celtics through the 1960s before becoming a coach.
A press release from the White House said, "Russell led the Celtics to a virtually unparalleled string of 11 championships in 13 years and was named the NBA’s Most Valuable Player five times. The first African American to coach in the NBA — indeed, he was the first to coach a major sport at the professional level in the United States — Bill Russell is also an impassioned advocate of human rights. He marched with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and has been a consistent advocate of equality."
He was a member of 11 NBA championship teams and was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1975.
Others receiving the Medal of Freedom included: President George H. W. Bush, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Congressman John Lewis, John H. Adams, Maya Angelou, Warren Buffett, Jasper Johns, Gerda Weissmann Klein, Dr. Tom Little (posthumous), Yo-Yo Ma, Sylvia Mendez, Stan Musial, Jean Kennedy Smith and John J. Sweeney.