Over the past two years, living under COVID-19 mandates, attending virtual services for those who have passed away, the words “we’ve got to meet under much better circumstances” have been regularly expressed.

So we are fortunate to be able to once again hold celebrations in-person. This past Saturday was one of those special occasions. Friends, family and local elected officials were among the many that came together at Melba’s Restaurant on 114th and Frederick Douglass Boulevard for the 81st birthday gathering of Robert McCullough. Known affectionately as Bob, McCullough has been a longtime legend in Harlem.

McCullough and sons, Bob Jr., Malik and Marvin, greeted guests that attended to pay their respect, fellowship, partake in the delicious food, and sing Stevie Wonder’s version of “Happy Birthday.” Among them were newly elected Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine, State Senator Cordell Cleare, NYS Assemblyman Al Taylor, and Jackie Rowe Adams, founder of Harlem Mothers-SAVE.

Laughter ensued after McCullough was asked “how old are you this year?” After he replied “81, 81,” someone let out: “didn’t he celebrate his 81st birthday a few years ago?”

From his days as an All-American basketball player at HBCU Benedict College in South Carolina, a fixture at the famed Rucker Pro Tournament going up against some of the best NBA and street basketball greats ever, to being inducted into the New York City Basketball Hall-of-Fame, McCullough’s on-the-court resume is sterling.

But he is also in the Harlem Hall-of-Fame for not just basketball, but his work as a community leader, educator and youth advocate. A founder of the Each One, Teach One program, today McCullough continues his work as a commissioner of several basketball leagues and tournaments, including the Urban Assembly Tournament, currently taking place on Saturday’s at Global Commerce High in Harlem.

He is also in the planning stages of the March Madness High School Basketball Tournament, which will be held at the end of this month.

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