Hilton White Playground
Hilton White Playground
This playground is named in honor of local hero Hilton White (1932-1990), whose outreach and commitment to under-privileged athletes left a lasting impression on this Bronx community. In his role as basketball coach, he trained a host of young men and women from Morrisania to be great players, leading many to college athletic scholarships and professional lives.
Born in Harlem in 1932, Hilton White attended Dewitt Clinton High School in the Bronx and went on to graduate from Benedict College in South Carolina. After several years in the service, he returned home in the early l960’s. The NYC Department of Parks & Recreation hired him as a recreation supervisor at this site, then called Cauldwell Playground, at which time he founded a local basketball team called “the Falcons.” As a coach and mentor to local kids who played for the team, White emphasized excellence in school as well as on the court, and many of his players went on to play college basketball while they earned their degrees. As a direct result of his guidance, three players from the Falcons – Willie Worsley, Neville Shed and Willie Cager -- received athletic scholarships to Texas Western University, where they played on the team which won the 1966 NCAA Finals against the University of Kentucky, a perennial basketball powerhouse. This game marked the first time a championship team started with an all African American line-up, and, in this case, they were playing against an all-white Kentucky team. The game spurred recruitment of African-American players and coaches – particularly in colleges in the South which wanted to remain competitive. It also increased the number of athletic scholarships for minorities, and changed the face of the game. Hilton White played a key part in this development.
In his role as educator, White espoused the philosophy “Each One Teach One”, encouraging kids to pass on to each other what they learned so as to build community through education and sports. White’s values echoed the work of Harlem basketball coach Holcombe Rucker (1926-1965), a Parks’ employee from 1948 to 1964, who trained young blacks to play their way to a college scholarship. Both Rucker and White used coaching as a way of preparing kids for life, and had an impact not only on their own communities, but beyond.
Previously named Cauldwell Playground in honor of local baseball star and long time public official William Cauldwell, this parkland was near the site of the first recorded baseball game in Bronx history in 1853, when Cauldwell’s team, the Unions, defeated a team from Brooklyn, the Mutuals. On August 1, 2009, the site was rededicated Hilton White Playground with the support of Community Board #3, Council Member Helen Foster and numerous protégés and admirers of White.
Parks acquired this land between 1930 and 1932 in order to build a playground for the former P.S. 10. On September 23, 1936, the playground opened. It was closed for a year in 1958, so that the old school could be demolished and P.S. 140 constructed. The playground reopened for the students of the new P.S. 140 in the following year. In 2000, City Council Member Reverend Wendell Foster allocated $268,000 to improve the playground. No longer a basketball court, today the playground contains swings and other play equipment, a red brick comfort station, and two handball courts. The area is dotted with oaks (Quercus spp.) and London plane trees (Platanus x acerifolia).