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Charles Holton

Former Harlem Globetrotter Charles Holton was born on September 3, 1930 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin to Alice and Frank Holton. Holton attended St. Benedict School in Milwaukee, where he was a good athlete and played basketball. He graduated in 1948 at the age of eighteen. Holton was the first black to graduate from St. Norbert College in De Pere, Wisconsin with a B.S. in economics in 1952. Holton became a member of the Harlem Globetrotters, the then Chicago-based basketball franchise headed by legendary coach William “Pop” Gates.

Invited to tryout for the Harlem Globetrotters at Chicago’s St. Anselm’s Gym, Holton became a member of the Abe Sapperstein’s Globetrotters, the popular barnstorming Chicago-based basketball franchise. He became a Harlem Globetrotter during their glory years (between 1951 and 1957) and witnessed first hand the passing of the comic basketball star baton from Reese “Goose” Tatum to Meadowlark Lemon. Holton made the Southern Harlem Globetrotters, one of three traveling squads. His teammates included Leon Hilliard, Junior Lee, Chico Burrell and Babe Pressley. In 1954, Holton and the Globetrotters were warmly welcomed in Europe and later in South America. Holton left the team at the age of twenty-seven in 1957.

Holton began working in social services as an administrator for Milwaukee County the following year, a position he would retain until 1966. In 1967, Holton obtained his M.S.W. degree from the University of Michigan and began working for the State of Wisconsin as a social services administrator, where he would remain until 1996. In 1997, Holton became executive director of Milwaukee’s House of Peace, a Capuchin Franciscan Ministry that Holton would lead until retirement in 2000.

Holton lives with his wife, Carol S. Oakes, whom he married in 1969. His daughter is Miss Lori the public television children’s host and his uncle is Chicago police commander and award winning mystery writer, Hugh Holton.

Holton was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on November 29, 2007.

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St. Benedict School

St. Norbert College

University of Michigan

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Door County, Wisconsin

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Be Good To Yourself.

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Barbecue (Ribs)

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Social service administrator and basketball player Charles Holton (1930 - ) played with the Harlem Globetrotters from 1951 to 1957. He then became social services administrator for the State of Wisconsin. In 1997, Holton became executive director of Milwaukee’s House of Peace, a Capuchin Franciscan Ministry, where he remained with until his retirement in 2000.


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<a href="">Tape: 5 Charles Holton recalls his work for the House of Peace in Milwaukee, Wisconsin</a>

<a href="">Tape: 5 Charles Holton talks about his health</a>

<a href="">Tape: 5 Charles Holton reflects upon his life</a>

<a href="">Tape: 5 Charles Holton describes his hopes for the African American community</a>

<a href="">Tape: 5 Charles Holton reflects upon his legacy</a>

<a href="">Tape: 5 Charles Holton talks about his family</a>

<a href="">Tape: 6 Charles Holton reflects upon his experiences with the Harlem Globetrotters</a>

<a href="">Tape: 6 Charles Holton remembers Nathaniel "Sweetwater" Clifton</a>

<a href="">Tape: 6 Charles Holton talks about the contemporary Harlem Globetrotters</a>

<a href="">Tape: 6 Charles Holton recalls a challenging basketball game on the East Coast</a>

<a href="">Tape: 6 Charles Holton describes his daughters and granddaughter</a>

<a href="">Tape: 6 Charles Holton describes how he would like to be remembered</a>

<a href="">Tape: 6 Charles Holton narrates his photographs</a>







Charles Holton describes his experiences with the Harlem Globetrotters, pt. 2
Charles Holton talks about playing with the Harlem Globetrotters in Europe
Well, all those games are tough, you know, that pounding and we played every night and sometimes twice a day with the Trotters [Harlem Globetrotters] and that pounding eventually takes its toll on the body. Played in some interesting places, we played in some wonderful places. There was a, Vancouver, British Columbia [Canada], you hit that floor and it was like bouncing off a mattress, it was so springy, a new gym that they had built. We hit a lot of new gyms, even high school gyms that were very nice and held quite a few people. I--and there, you know, it wasn't all fun and games, you hit that bus and you had to go to the next town and try to be ready. We didn't have, you know, laundry service, we had to wash out our own uniforms.$$So where would you do that? I mean, if you're on road?$$In the hotel.$$In the hotel--$$Yeah.$$--just in the sink?$$If you were in a town long enough--$$Yeah.$$--the team would send 'em to the laundry. But most of the times you were in a town, gone the next day, so.$$And did you ever play the next day in a dirty uniform, I mean, in the (laughter)--$$Oh, yeah, yeah, all the time (laughter). You know I had a roommate, Jesse Coffey, who, who would wash out that uniform every night. And it would get a little crusty (laughter) after a while. But, you know, we didn't have a trainer. If you, if you got an injury, you know, you found a doctor in the town you were in and then got treated that way. But it was--I mean these guys--. We didn't get, we didn't get meal money when we played in the states. And now (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) So it just came out of your salary?$$--you read about these guys getting what, fifty dollars a day meal money, and then they're making millions, when we went overseas we got five dollars a day. Now, in all honesty you could take that five dollars, eat heartily and still have a couple of dollars for souvenirs (laughter). But, you know, to hear these players getting whatever it is for meal money is unbelievable when you think about the salaries they make, what do they need meal money for? You could take that money and donate it to the old timers, you know. So many things it's, things change.$Yeah, was it refreshing to be over there and be treated differently than (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Yes, yes, and, you know, they would look up to us [Harlem Globetrotters] like we were nine feet tall and (laughter) you know--we were compared to them, I guess, we were considered tall. But they enjoyed the basketball and that was the interesting thing. You go to those foreign countries and they enjoyed the basketball maybe more than the showmanship, and maybe they didn't understand some of the showmanship, but they did understand good basketball. Interesting thing was there were no teams in Europe. You know, you would have a few here and there, but basketball was not the sport, the worldwide sport that it is today. Later on when we went to South America we were amazed at how well some of the South American players played, had it all over the Europeans, and now it's, it's probably just the opposite. Rome [Italy] was an interesting place and being Catholic it was, it was interesting to have a chance to see the pope who had just come off an illness, I think it was Pius XI or XII [Pope Pius XII], so I went to St. Peter's Square [Vatican City] and--some of us went there. And we've had, subsequently we've had, and before that we've had private audiences with the popes who were in office at the time but I was never at one of those opportunities. Played in bull rings, swimming pools.$$Played in swimming pools?$$Yeah. You just take the water, take it--with the water out (laughter). And, you know, they set up the court, we had to carry, we traveled on buses over there, and we had to carry a portable floor. Played in--$$Was, was it made out of some kind of a hard rubber or something or what was it?$$No, it was wooden.$$Wooden?$$Plywood I think.$$Okay. Okay.$$'Cause, you know, dribbling wasn't always fantastic. But it was interesting to get a windy day or a night and have to--well, sometimes the wind was so strong you had to shoot the ball here (gesture) for it to go there and that was, that wasn't easy. But most of the games were on, you know, on like a, an open field and they'd lay the court down and it's and we'd perform and then they'd take it up. 'Cause it wasn't real popular sport in Europe in those days.