Larry “Gator” Rivers, a pioneering athlete who played with the Harlem Globetrotters before going home to Georgia to become an elected official, died on Saturday, a colleague confirmed.

Chester Ellis, the chairman of the Chatham County board of commissioners, told the Savannah Morning News that Rivers had died from cancer. He was 73.

As a high schooler, the 6-foot-1 Rivers made his name as a member of the Beach High Bulldogs of Savannah, the all-Black team that won the first integrated Georgia High School Association basketball tournament in 1967.

He joined the Globetrotters and spent 16 years as a player and coach for the famed exhibition team. Returning to Savannah in 2008, Rivers worked as a community volunteer, mentoring young players through his Gatorball Academy.

He was elected to the Chatham County board of commissioners as a Republican in 2020. In a statement hailing Rivers as a “hometown basketball legend,” Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp said, “He led a life of accomplishment and chose to spend much of that life serving the people of his community.”

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