It was Wednesday, December 18, 2013, when I began to pen this “Point,” and former NFL linebacker and Pastor Ken Hutcherson had breathed his last a few hours previously. As is always the case when a believer slips away, I was sad and I was glad. Sad because we had lost a warrior, glad that his brave, 13 year battle with prostate cancer was finally over and he was, indeed, “free at last.”
I had a soft place in my heart for “Hutch” because he had been successful on several fronts. He played for the Seahawks in the expansion years when I still lived in Seattle, and when a knee injury ended his career, he went on to become the Senior Pastor of Antioch Bible Church in Kirkland, WA. He was bolder than bold in regards to his unwavering stands on the volitional aspect of homosexuality as well as overcoming racism, but he was a man full of love and humor.
Ken Hutcherson was born in 1952 in Anniston. His mom was not married, and they were dirt poor. He is very transparent about the way he grew to hate white people, and in 2012, before the Washington State House Judiciary Committee hearing on same-sex marriage he said the following: “I was born and raised in Alabama where blacks and whites didn’t get along very well, and I tried being one of the main reasons they didn’t. I was extremely discriminatory towards whites,” he said. “The only reason I played football was so I could hurt white people legally,” he added. Part of his rage was fueled by his uncle, who said, “there’s no good white person expect a dead one,” a quality of saying usually attributed to whites only.
He even hated Dr. Martin Luther King because he was too nonviolent. Anniston was the place where the first freedom bus was burned when he was nine years old, and his hatred for everyone, really, including himself, only deepened. But God was at work, and was going to use specific white folks to begin the healing process. In that we had something in common. When I was a little girl, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans were “all that and a bag of chips,” and when I had only been able to read for a short while, I read a book called Angel Unaware, the story of their daughter, Robin, who had Downs Syndrome and had died. I was deeply affected by that book and its gospel message, but did not give my heart to the Lord until December of 1970.
By contrast, when Ken was five, he saw Roy and Dale speak on TV not long after Robin died. In 1969, when he was 16, he was sitting in a high school assembly, and told God the following: “God, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans said I’ve gotta face you one day, and this is going to be the day. If you’re real, here I am. I’m yours. And you’ve got a chance to do whatever you want with me.” Part of that included his being one of the founders of Antioch, an integrated church in the mostly white Seattle suburb of Kirkland. Their church motto was “Black and white in a grey world.”
Ken’s faith only deepened as the cancer grew, and he “flew home” in peace. In this season of gift giving, I think it should be remembered that Ken took God’s gift of salvation, and God took Ken’s gift of himself and used him powerfully. Today, the “wrapping” was removed and the “box” of his life was opened in heaven. I will be glad to join him one day and see just what was in it. Maybe he’ll even introduce me to Robin.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner