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Former Miller basketball standout left enduring legacy at high school, Hillcrest community

Randy Washington, who led the 1973-74 Buccaneers to within one victory of the state tournament as a senior, was killed early Saturday morning in Houston after a car
Credit: David Flores

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Much of the Miller High School community is in mourning after the death over the weekend of one of the best basketball players in the Buccaneers’ history.

Randy Washington was killed early Saturday morning in Houston after a car struck him while he rode his bicycle, according to police. Washington, who died at the scene, was 64.

A 1974 Miller graduate, Washington had lived in the Houston area since going to work for Exxon in the late 1970s. He retired in 2012 as an executive after a 34-year career with Exxon.

Washington was riding alone when he was struck by a car, police said. The collision occurred at about 5:30 a.m. near Loop 610 and Braeswood Boulevard. The driver of the car did not stop, according to police, leaving Washington on the street. There were no witnesses.

An avid cyclist, Washington was training for the 65-mile Conquer the Coast Race in Corpus Christi in September when he was killed.

Washington was about a mile and a half ahead of the group he usually rode with, said Jerome Powell, a 1976 Carroll graduate and longtime friend of Washington. A retired DPS trooper and former Carroll basketball standout, Powell has been riding in the same group with Washington since the outbreak of the coronavirus.

“Randy was the one who got me started (in cycling),” Powell said. “He taught me the ropes. Randy was working on his speed Saturday. He was riding solo and passed us up. We were going to the same place, MacGregor Park.”

Powell, who was riding with the group Saturday, was the first person on the scene after the collision.

“It was devastating,” Powell said. “I’ve known Randy all my life. He was in my wedding in 1987. He was an outstanding man, a good guy. He never had a bad thing to say about a person. He brought his mother up here and was still taking care of her. Randy was a mentor to me.”

Powell said that the driver of the car that struck Washington surrendered to Houston police later Saturday. He is an 18-year-old man, according to Powell.

Washington died on what going to be his youngest son Randy Jr.’s wedding day, Powell said. He also became a grandfather for the second time last Wednesday.

A Corpus Christi native, Washington helped lead Miller to the District 27-4A basketball championship and a berth in the regional final as a senior. Miller finished 29-6 in its first season under coach George Hillman, who is deceased, and fell a victory short of the state tournament after losing to San Antonio Jefferson in the Region IV title game.

The district’s leading scorer as a senior, Washington earned 27-4A MVP and All-South Texas MVP honors. He also was named third-team All-State.

Washington attended Kilgore College for two years on a basketball scholarship and went on to play two seasons at Northwestern Oklahoma State.

“Randy was a good guy,” said Keith Lewis, who played with Washington for two seasons before graduating in 1973. “He was always there for me and for other people. He always had a smile on his face. He was a warm-hearted person.”

A forward, Washington had a feathery shooting touch and was deadly from the corner.

“That was his sweet spot,” said Lewis, who lives in Corpus Christi.

Ronney Heslip, who graduated from Miller in 1974 and played football for the Bucs, was one of Washington’s closest friends. Washington, Heslip said, embodied the best of his generation in the Hillcrest community on the city’s northside.

“The people who grew up in Hillcrest, we had no hope anyway,” Heslip said. “Whatever we did, we pushed ourselves. We weren’t supposed to be in the position we’re in today. When we were in elementary (school), they would take the boys out of the classroom and we would help the custodians, like sweep up trash, clean up the cafeteria, put soap in the bathroom, teaching us janitorial skills. They would take the girls and put them to work in the cafeteria.”

Heslip, a retired CCISD coach and teacher, is now an art teacher at Incarnate Word Academy.

“Growing up, there was no such thing as going to college for black kids,” Heslip said. “I told somebody the other day that no one talked to me about college until I got to be a junior in high school. We had been written off years ago.

“You look at Randy. He put in 34 years at Exxon. He started off working on the pipeline in the field. We went from the pipeline to driving 18-wheelers, transport trucks. After that, they promoted him to training the transport drivers. Then he went all over the country giving safety meetings for transport drivers.”

Washington’s death sparked an outpouring of sympathy from other former classmates, teammates and people throughout Corpus Christi.

“All our classmates and people who aren’t our classmates, all the Hillcrest community, that have heard of him passing are shocked and heartbroken,” said former teammate Andrew Bridges, who lives in Corpus Christi. “It’s sad. A lot of people can’t believe it. Randy was always our leader. He was just a real decent, honest kind of guy.

“You never heard him talk bad about anybody or get mad at anybody. Another thing I’ll always remember about him is his humor. He always said something that made you laugh. When he’d come into town and we’d go out to eat with some of the guys, we knew we were going to hear stories from the past and Randy was going to say some funny stuff.”

Troy Nickelson, a senior guard on the 1973-74 team, said Washington would have been a dangerous three-point shooter in today’s game.

“There’s no telling how many points he would have averaged if we’d had the three-point shot back then,” Nickelson said.

Bridges played with Washington at Kilgore for two seasons before continuing his career at Southeastern Oklahoma State.

“Kilgore came down to look at Randy and took me with him,” said Bridges, who graduated from Miller with Washington and earned All-South Texas honors as a senior in 1974.

Washington was the leader of what is arguably the best ninth-grade team in Corpus Christi, the 1970-71 Driscoll Rangers, who averaged a remarkable 110 points (without the three-point shot) and went unbeaten in winning the city championship. Washington was the team’s leading scorer, averaging 37 points a game.

“What I can tell you about Randy was that he was always happy,” said former Driscoll basketball teammate Tony Rios, who went on to be a stellar football player at Miller. “He was a very personable person, always smiling. You always felt comfortable around him. You didn’t have to be on guard.”

The Rangers’ championship freshman team was so good that it probably could have beaten many high school varsity teams.

“Randy was special,” said George Dunson, who coached Driscoll’s 1970-71 team. “We had a good nucleus of players, but Randy was the leader. He was a quiet leader. He wasn’t boisterous. He was a gentleman at all times.

“He was dedicated and he understood that if you give respect, you get respect. All those kids on that team were like that. They were respectful. On the court, they were advanced and way ahead of other kids their age.”

Washington, who lived in Missouri City near Houston, is survived by his mother, two sons, a daughter and two grandchildren. Funeral services are pending.