AP NEWS

Skip Henderson pens letter to Elmore; Cledus T. Judd delivers message

March 25, 2019

HUNTINGTON — Cledus T. Judd, the early morning radio show host on WTCR 103.3-FM in the Tri-State, delivered a letter and a message last week to Jon Elmore and the Marshall Thundering Herd.

The letter came from Judd’s friend, former Marshall men’s basketball player Skip Henderson, who is imprisoned for life without parole in Georgia after a 2001 incident when he hijacked a car at gunpoint, briefly kidnapped the driver, robbed a store and threatened the store clerk with the gun.

“It’s a tragic story what happened with Skip,” Judd said.

Henderson was Marshall’s all-time scoring leader with 2,574 points in his career from 1984 to 1988 and wrote the letter to Elmore who was on the verge of breaking the mark. Elmore’s new record is 2,577 points.

In the letter submitted to Elmore before he broke the record Tuesday in a CollegeInsider.com Tournament game at Cam Henderson Center he congratulated the Herd senior on his career. Henderson said records were meant to be broken, so go out and break it.

Elmore’s next attempt to increase his record point total is Tuesday when Presbyterian College (20-15) plays Marshall (20-14) in the CIT quarterfinals at 7 p.m. in Cam Henderson Center.

Judd, a 54-year-old country comedian and song parody writer living in Proctorville, Ohio, grew up at the same time as Henderson, 53, in Cartersville, Georgia. They played basketball for different high schools Judd at Cass, Henderson at Cartersville and developed a relationship.

Henderson communicates with Judd (birth name Barry Poole) through the prison email system and sent one saying he knew Elmore was getting close to his record. Judd’s return email said he would be the liason to get Henderson’s message to Elmore.

“It was sincere,” Judd said. “It was kind. I felt sincerity. I felt some passion.”

Judd said he got in touch with John Sutherland, executive director of the Big Green Scholarship Foundation at Marshall, and a meeting with Elmore was arranged. Tuesday afternoon before the game Judd met with Elmore and some other Herd players in the Hartley Room at Cam Henderson Center.

“Coach (Dan) D’Antoni said, “Jon, you can read the letter out loud,”′ Judd said. “Jon read it verbatim. I could tell he was touched by it. I was just as touched because it came from a great friend in my hometown.”

Judd said he also talked with some other players in the locker room before the game.

“I told them there would come a time in their lives when the applause was going to fade away and they were going to be faced with the quiet time,” he said. “They’re going to face the forks in the road and they can go one way or the other.

“Skip is having to pay a hefty price for his mistakes. If it happened to Skip Henderson, it can happen to anybody.”

Elmore said the letter caught him off guard and it was cool to have Henderson wish him good luck. Knowing Henderson wanted him to get the record was meaningful, Elmore said.

Judd is a former addict who has been clean for 14 years and said he’s not about to turn his back on someone. If God allows, he want to use Henderson’s story to help other people.

He didn’t know how big Henderson was in Huntington until arriving about eight years ago and meeting former Marshall player Josh Perkey at Davis’ Place on Eighth Street. Judd said Perkey asked where he was from. When Cartersville was mentioned Judd said Perkey lit up like a Christmas tree.

“Perk is a big fan of Skip and hates what happened,” Judd said. “Over the course of seven or eight years I’ve been here the story of Skip was embedded in me. I want to make sure Skip’s memory didn’t die in vain.”

Henderson was “the guy” in Cartersville when it came to basketball, Judd said. Judd said Cartersville was about the size of Ashland then and schools from the high schools all knew each other well.

Judd, who played basketball for one year at at Reinhardt University in Waleska, Georgia, recalled facing Henderson in a high school game.

“When I say played against him it wasn’t much playing,” he said. “Their coach at the time put Skip on me because I was so slow and he didn’t want to wear him out. The first three times I went to the hole it wasn’t blocked, Skip pinned it.

“I felt like a complete idiot and I didn’t play very much more that night.”

He also remembered going to a motel that had cable TV to watch a Marshall game and said it might have been the day (March 4, 1988) when Henderson set the Herd record with 55 points against The Citadel.

Judd said he prays that his friend will someday be a free man able to tell his own story. Until then, he’ll use the story to help others.

“My prayer for Skip is someday he’ll say, ‘Barry, you don’t have to talk any more because I can,’” he said.