Growing up in poverty in Houston, Ernest “Red” Andrews literally sang for his supper. He lived on the city streets as a singing newsboy scraping together just enough pennies for his next meal. After fighting in World War I, Andrews landed in Oklahoma City where he made his way first as a boxer and later a boxing referee and promoter. While promoting an event at the Stockyards Coliseum in 1947, Andrews noticed that many of the people working his event were no better off than he had been as a boy. As he got to know them better, he learned some of them lived in mere huts along the nearby river. Remembering a kindness done for him in Houston, he hosted a Christmas dinner open to anyone who was in need.
Andrews was inspired to become a state senator in 1952 and represented the inner-city neighborhoods of Oklahoma City for the next 20 years. He continued to host the Red Andrews Christmas Dinner in Oklahoma City annually for 30 years, and his foundation has carried on this Oklahoma City holiday tradition which provides food, coats and toys to thousands of people each year.
The municipal gymnasium here is named for legendary amateur basketball coach Johnnie L. Williams who coached some of Oklahoma’s greatest basketball stars like Wayman Tisdale, Richard Dumas and Mark Price. Williams was as much mentor as coach and made a difference in the lives of hundreds of young men over his 40 years of coaching.
This park was named for Ernest “Red” Andrews by proclamation of the city council in 1974. The municipal gym was named in honor of Johnnie L. Williams in 2003.