FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — The Fayetteville City Council passed a resolution to change the name of Leroy Pond Drive, one of the busiest roads on the University of Arkansas campus, to Nolan Richardson Drive on Tuesday (March 16).
Leroy Pond Drive sits in front of Bud Walton Arena, the home of the men's and women's Razorback basketball teams.
The University of Arkansas Black Alumni Society has requested that the Fayetteville City Council rename Leroy Pond Drive for Razorback Basketball Coach Nolan Richardson. If passed, a section of Meadow Street between Stadium Drive to Graham Avenue will be renamed Leroy Pond Drive.
Nolan Richardson coached the men's Razorback basketball team for 17 years, from 1985-2002, and is currently the only head coach that has lead the team to an NCAA Division I Basketball Championship. He was inducted into the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame in 1998, the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame in 2008, and the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2014.
"Coach Nolan Richardson is truly valued in the Fayetteville Community," The University of Arkansas Black Alumni Society wrote in their proposal. "As head coach of a National Champion basketball program, Coach Richardson was a source of leadership for the black community in Arkansas. After his departure from the University, he chose to remain in Fayetteville and has showed many African American students that this was a place they could call home. Coach Nolan Richardson embodied and empowered the growing diversity of the University of Arkansas."
Pond was born in Fayetteville in 1917 and graduated from the University of Arkansas in 1938.
He joined the army in 1941 and rose to the rank of captain. Capt. Pond saw his first combat in the war on D-Day. He led a rifle company whose ship sank after hitting a mine, and the survivors swam to shore under heavy gunfire along the northern coast of France. It's said that Pond gained the respect of his men and commanding officers that day for his leadership and combat skills.
Pond died during the war after being injured in Germany in December 1944.
In memory of his sacrifice, Camp Leroy Pond was created on the University of Arkansas campus south of Razorback Stadium, where Bud Walton Arena is now located. The camp served as a housing area for male students who were returning home after the war.
The City of Fayetteville owns Leroy Pond Drive, not the University of Arkansas.
When asked for a statement on the street name proposal, the Unversity of Arkansas commented:
The university does not currently have plans to request changing the name of Leroy Pond Drive, a street named after the University of Arkansas graduate and distinguished World War II veteran who participated in D-Day and received the Distinguished Cross, the Silver Star, the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart and the French Croix de Guerre with Palm Leaf for his service. After the war, the University of Arkansas constructed a small camp, near where Bud Walton Arena is now located, to house WWII veterans who would become students. The camp was named after Pond and later, the street was named after him.
The university has traditionally recognized the accomplishments of its former national championship coaches with the naming of fields/courts etc. at specific sport venues. We were honored in 2019 to name our basketball court after Nolan Richardson, in addition to previously honoring him in numerous ways including with a banner in Bud Walton Arena and celebrating both his College Basketball Hall of Fame and Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame inductions.
The university has also named the football field at Reynolds Razorback Stadium after Frank Broyles and the outdoor track as John McDonnell Field in recognition of their coaching accomplishments and national championships at Arkansas, but the university has not yet recommended naming a street after any of the five Razorback coaches who have won national championships at the U of A: Broyles (football), Richardson (men's basketball), McDonnell (men's indoor and outdoor track and field, and cross country), Chris Bucknam (men's indoor track and field) and Lance Harter (women's indoor and outdoor track and field, and cross country) – a roster of national champions we expect to grow in the future.
Following the passage of the resolution, the Univesity said:
We appreciate the City's efforts to honor Nolan Richardson while also maintaining the legacy of WWII veteran Leroy Pond. The proposal does just that and the university looks forward to continuing to work together with the City on this project.
Leroy Pond Drive will be moving about a mile to Government Avenue which is in front of the Fayetteville National Cemetery. The city hasn’t finalized plans for making the changes but the University Black Alumni Society hopes to do it in April.
“We talk about diversity, equity and inclusion and making things equitable and fair for everybody and that was something we really thought was important in doing this and renaming the street for coach Richardson,” Synetra Hughes, University of Arkansas Black Alumni Society member, said.