Meadow “Meadowlark” Lemon III (1932-2015)

Meadowlark Lemon
Meadowlark Lemon, 1988
Public Domain Image

Meadow “Meadowlark” Lemon III was most famous as the longtime star player of the Harlem Globetrotters. Lemon was born in Wilmington, North Carolina on April 25, 1932. He adopted the name “Meadowlark” while he was with the Harlem Globetrotters. Lemon attended Williston Industrial School in Wilmington, North Carolina where he played basketball and football. Upon graduation in 1952 he enrolled in Florida A&M University but was drafted into the United States Army after two weeks in school, serving two years in Austria and West Germany.

Lemon first saw the Globetrotters play in a newsreel film when he was a young boy. While he was stationed in Austria, he played a few games with the team when they toured Europe. After his discharge, Lemon tried out for a permanent spot with the Globetrotters. He was first assigned to their developmental team, the Kansas City Stars, but then become a member of the Globetrotters in 1954. He played twenty-four seasons with the Globetrotters including more than 7,500 consecutive games in 94 countries and 1,500 cities in North America.

During his time with the Globetrotters Lemon was a centerpiece of the Globetrotters’ entertainment, taking on the title “Clown Prince” of the Harlem Globetrotters in 1956. Later Lemon was awarded the International Clown Hall of Fame’s Lifetime of Laughter Award in 2000.

Lemon capitalized on his gifts to branch out into other forms of entertainment. He starred in the 1979 film The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh and appeared on a number of television shows including The White Shadow and Alice. He also appeared in the New Scooby Doo movies. His voice also appeared in animated cartoon series Harlem Globetrotters, The Super Globetrotters, and The Harlem Globetrotters Popcorn Machine.

In 1978, Lemon left the Harlem Globetrotters and eventually stated his own team, the Bucketeers. The team was rebranded The Shooting Stars in 1984. In 1988 he founded another team, Meadowlark Lemon’s Harlem All Stars. Lemon returned to the Globetrotters, playing with them up to 1994.

Lemon, a born-again Christian, was ordained as a minister in 1986 and received a Doctor of Divinity degree from Vision International University in Ramona, California. Twelve years later in 1998, Lemon founded the eponymous Meadowlark Lemon Ministries and retired from basketball. In his ministry, Lemon traveled around the country preaching to young people at basketball camps and juvenile facilities.

Lemon’s accomplishments won him a great deal of recognition. He was one of only five members of the Harlem Globetrotters to have his jersey retired. In 2000 the Basketball Hall of Fame presented Lemon the John Bunn Award for lifetime achievement. In 2003, he was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame for his contributions.

Meadow “Meadowlark” Lemon III died on December 27, 2015 in Scottsdale, Arizona. He left behind a widow, Cynthia Lemon, and ten children.