Leroy Pond Drive will be renamed Nolan Richardson Drive on April 16 after the Fayetteville City Council voted unanimously to honor the only UA basketball coach to have led the Razorbacks to a national championship.
On March 16, city council members voted 8-0 to rename the street, which runs along the south side of Bud Walton Arena, and was chosen because of its proximity to the arena. Bud Walton houses Nolan Richardson Court, which was dedicated in October 2019 after the UA Board of Trustees voted to honor the former head basketball coach. Richardson was named the winningest basketball coach in Arkansas history after leading his teams to 369 victories during his 17 seasons spent coaching.
Fayetteville city employees will rename Government Avenue, which leads to the Fayetteville National Cemetery, Lieutenant Colonel Leroy Pond Avenue. Lt. Col. Pond was a decorated WWII war veteran recognized for his bravery in leading troops to storm Normandy Beach on D-Day in 1944. He was also a UA graduate who served as inspiration in the creation of Camp Leroy Pond, an on-campus housing area for students returning from war, according to the UA Newswire.
The change was led by Black Alumni Society president Ritche Bowden after BAS members met with students and alumni to create a list of proposals to present to Chancellor Joe Steinmetz, Bowden said.
After #BlackatUARK trended on Twitter in June 2020, when Black students shared personal experiences of racism on the UA campus, the BAS sought to bring tangible changes to the university, Bowden said. BAS members selected Richardson to be honored because of his contributions not only to basketball, but also to the city of Fayetteville and Northwest Arkansas.
“It’s important for students to see someone honored on the campus of the University of Arkansas who’s a Black man that has made contributions,” Bowden said. “With all of the unrest around institutional racism, in a place not only on our campus but on the campuses around Arkansas and the United States, this will be a step toward trying to heal what has happened on the campus.”
Bowden and other BAS members met with Fayetteville City Councilman D’Andre Jones, who holds the Ward 1, Position 2 seat. They worked with Steinmetz and city planners to formulate a way to honor the legacy of the philanthropist and coach, Jones said.
“I’m very appreciative for the city of Fayetteville recognizing that and making sure that we’re able to do what we can to recognize Nolan in the way that he deserves to be recognized,” Jones said. “I think for the entire community, for UofA, for Fayetteville and the African American community, I think this represents unity, I think this represents a form of healing.”
Richardson led the Razorbacks to their first and only national championship in 1994 against Duke University. During his time coaching from 1985 to 2002, Richardson’s teams competed in 13 NCAA tournaments — three of which resulted in Final Four appearances. In 1996, Richardson built the Yvonne Richardson Community Center on Rock Street in memory of his daughter, who died at 15 after a battle with leukemia.
Jones said he hopes current and future students will be inspired by Richardson’s impact on the UA and Fayetteville communities and that his legacy will continue to encourage future residents.
“When we tip away at racial tension, it unites us, and we know that we can’t change the past, but we can certainly have a better tomorrow and we can make things better right now,” Jones said.