By Char McCargo Bah
It was 1962 when Lawrence “Lucky” Elliott, who wore basketball jersey number 11, graduated from Parker-Gray High School. He enrolled in Northern Virginia Community College to study Parks and Recreation Management.
In 1965, Elliott landed a part-time job with the City of Alexandria as a recreation leader. This was the beginning of a long full-time career in the Alexandria Recreation Department. He supervised kids in boxing, basketball, football, track and field and even the females in the cheerleading competitions. These activities kept many children out of trouble and off the streets.
In the 1970s, the City of Alexandria had a serious drug problem. Lucky by that time was a full-time employee, the Youth Sports Supervisor, at the Charles Houston Recreation Center. He used his position to get kids off the street by recruiting them to learn and play sports. He applied strict rules that the kids had to follow and he enforced disciplinary actions when it was necessary. Many of those children had never had the opportunity to play on a team. Lucky was not just their coach; he became a trusted friend and a father figure for the Alexandria African American youth of the 1970s through 1990s.
One of Lucky’s assistant coaches, Aaron Banks, said “Lucky was a role model for so many of the youth at Charles Houston Recreation Center. He would do everything he could to keep his kids in line.”
Banks also stated that one of Lucky’s kids, Carl Carr, made it into the NFL. Carr attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Craig Harris, another one of his kids, played basketball in Lucky’s program at Charles Houston Recreation Center. In 1977, he represented T.C. Williams in the McDonald’s Capital Classic game where he played against Magic Johnson and Gene Banks and received the game’s Most Valuable Player award. After graduating from high school, Harris attended Tulane University. In addition, five of Lucky’s kids played basketball for T.C. Williams in a state championship game.
Another one of Lucky’s kids was Rev. Jasper Lee McCargo, Sr., who remembers Lucky being a stern and no-nonsense coach.
“[Lucky] also taught us our culture and he was serious about us winning. He taught us a song, ‘We Are the Mighty, Mighty Houston,’ he helped boys become men,” McCargo said.
Many of Lucky’s kids became successful in life. They became educated and had good careers. Anthony Gray, a finance entrepreneur, is another one of Lucky’s kids.
“Playing for Charles Houston Recreation was the best time of my life. Majority of my friends have been through Lucky’s program at Charles Houston. When I was growing up everyone wanted to play for Charles Houston Recreation Center,” Gray said.
On Sept. 4, more than 250 people attended the annual Charles Houston Youth Sports Reunion Cookout in honor of Lucky. Although his former kids are now in their 50s and 60s, Lucky still considers them his kids. Several years ago, Lucky got together with some of the people who were in his Recreation Center program to discuss having an annual Youth Sports Reunion Cookout. For five years, the alumni of the Charles Houston Youth Sports have attended the Reunion Cookouts, missing only two out of the five years because of the pandemic.
Lucky was born as Lawrence Elliott in Alexandria. He was raised in the neighborhood called The Berg.” He found his calling early in life and was able to make a difference in many lives.
Lucky was lucky, because he gave children a reason to hope and shoot for the stars. These kids became the “Mighty, Mighty Houston” and they developed into successful individuals because one man was determined to keep them off the streets and give them a direction for success. They became a family. Those children were able to see how setting a goal helps one succeed in life. They continued to carry that same discipline throughout life.
Lucky was lucky indeed because he bet on his kids and they did not let him down. Every Sports Reunion Cookout that is given, his kids will be there to honor the man who believed in them.
The writer is a published author, freelance writer, independent historian, investigative/genealogist researcher and a Living Legend of Alexandria. Her blog is http://www. theotheralexandria.com