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Stanley ‘Stan’ McKenzie, former NBA player who supervised missionary work for the African Methodist Episcopal Church, dies

Stanley “Stan” McKenzie, pictured in 1997, played in the NBA from 1967 to 1974.
Stanley “Stan” McKenzie, pictured in 1997, played in the NBA from 1967 to 1974. (Algerina Perna)

Stanley “Stan” McKenzie, the first male supervisor of missions in the African Methodist Episcopal Church who played for the old Baltimore Bullets and other NBA teams, died in his sleep after a brief illness July 21 in Dallas. The Ellicott City resident was 76.

Mr. McKenzie was living temporarily in Dallas, leading a team of missionaries serving in Texas.

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Born in Miami and raised in nearby Hollywood, Florida, he was the son of Luke E. McKenzie, a Bahamas-born church deacon, and his wife, Olive, a deaconess and evangelist.

He attended Northwestern Miami High School and earned a degree at New York University, which he attended on an academic scholarship. While an undergraduate he competed with European basketball teams. He was later inducted into the NYU Athletics Hall of Fame in 1984. He scored more than 1,000 points in his college career.

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The Bullets picked Mr. McKenzie in the 11th round of the 1966 NBA draft, though he did not play that season. He gained experience by competing in Italy in the Italian Industrial League of the European Cup Championship.

“Unlike the pomp and circumstance of today’s draft, Stan found out he had [been selected by] a professional team thanks to a sticky note left on his dorm room door,” said his daughter, Joi-Marie McKenzie Lewis of New York City.

After Mr. McKenzie played a year overseas, Bullets coach Gene Shue gave him a chance to play for Baltimore.

“He showed me he can play defense. We played one-on-one,” Mr. Shue said in a 1967 Sun story. “McKenzie played right up to me. He has good size, 6-4 and a half and he’s quick too.”

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Mr. McKenzie spent a season with the Bullets and then played for the Phoenix Suns in 1968-69 and 1969-70 and for the Portland Trail Blazers from 1970-71 to early in the 1972-73 season, when he was dealt to the Houston Rockets for Greg Smith. He retired the next season.

For his career, Mr. McKenzie, who was a shooting guard and small forward, averaged 9.0 points, 2.8 rebounds and 1.5 assists. He had a career high of 31 points for the Trail Blazers on Nov. 19, 1971, in a 118-105 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers.

While in Baltimore, he met his future wife, Vashti Smith, who would later become pastor of Payne Memorial AME Church and in 2000 ran successfully to become the first female bishop in the African Methodist Episcopal Church.

“My friend, who was dating Earl Monroe [the Bullets player known as “Earl the Pearl”], wanted me to go to a game with her at the old Civic Center,” Bishop Vashti Murphy McKenzie said. “I went to the game, met Stan and the rest is history.”

They married in 1968.

After retiring from the NBA, Mr. McKenzie worked in personnel and human resources for Career Blazers and HireONE Staffing.

In 2000, when his wife was consecrated a bishop in the AME Church, Mr. McKenzie was named the first male Supervisor of Missions and Children’s Work of the Women’s Missionary Society.

Mr. McKenzie and his wife left for Maseru, Lesotho, a mountain kingdom surrounded by South Africa, where she had her headquarters. According to a family biography, Mr. McKenzie worked in Lesotho, Botswana, Eswatini (formally Swaziland) and Mozambique.

“Supervisor Stan was instrumental in implementing an entrepreneur program to teach youth and young adults business skills to help them in a failing economic environment. He provided start-up funds for seven new businesses such as chicken farming along with brick and candle making in southeast Africa,” a family biography said. “The profits helped build new churches and mission houses as well as helped expand existing church infrastructure.”

His family recalled his work with children and youth.

“My father formulated a ministry strategy to meet the needs of youth and adults in every Episcopal District he served,” said his daughter, Vashti-Jasmine Saint-Jean of Dallas. “Thousands of missionaries and young people participated in programmatic engagement centered around community service, spiritual development, and social mobility.”

When he returned to the U.S. he served the 13th Episcopal District, the states of Tennessee and Kentucky. He supported community service projects, fostered entrepreneurial programs and was instrumental in helping to fill 11 tractor-trailers that went into Mississippi and to Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina, the family obituary said.

On his final assignment in the 10th Episcopal District, which covers Texas, Mr. McKenzie became a supporter of Paul Quinn College, and championed a $10,000 scholarship to a graduating high school senior in the AME Church, the family said.

He was also an adviser to a nonprofit, TenthFuture, which helped raise funds through an annual golf tournament for scholarships for Paul Quinn students.

He also worked in missionary ministry to gather emergency assistance food drives, walks, soup kitchens and holiday basket distributions. Paul Quinn College awarded him an honorary doctorate in 2015.

Mr. McKenzie was an active member of the 100 Black Men, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, the NAACP and the National Basketball Players Association.

He received many honors and awards, including the Jesse Owens Life Time Achievement Award from Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity.

Mr. McKenzie was an avid golfer.

Survivors include his wife of 52 years, Bishop Vashti Murphy McKenzie; a son, Jon-Mikael McKenzie of Baltimore; two daughters, Vashti-Jasmine Saint-Jean of Dallas and Joi-Marie McKenzie Lewis of New York City; and two grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held at noon Saturday at Bethel AME Church, 1300 Druid Hill Ave.

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