A Community Thanks You

Joe GContributor INovember 24, 2009

6 Feb 1999: Owner Abe Pollin of the Washington Wizards talks to the crowd during the game against the Washington Wizards at the MCI Center in Washington,D.C. The Wizards defeated the Raptors 98-97. Mandatory Credit: Ezra O. Shaw  /Allsport
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Asad Naqvi/Facebook
Courtesy Asad Naqvi/Facebook

Where else do you start but saying Thank you.

A man who had two dreams in life, one to own a sports franchise and the other to help impoverished children all over the world, today can rest peacefully after fighting corticobasal degeneration that over the past few years had left him confined to a wheel chair. Mr. Pollin's legacy however will live on forever as not only did he accomplish his lifelong dreams, but he exceeded them ten fold.

A graduate of The George Washington University in 1945, Mr. Pollin went to work for his family’s construction company for 12 years before starting his own company and, as a local contractor, built several large apartment houses and office buildings.

Asked what started Mr. Pollin in his real estate journey, he recalled the following story...

I worked for my father, and once I was carrying bathtubs and hurt my back. I ruptured three discs and was not eligible to serve during World War Two. So my father decided that it was time for us to go into the building business. He came to me one day and said, "Son, I just bought 60 lots, and I'm leaving for Florida." I said, "You what?!" He said, "I'm leaving for Florida and you're going to build these 60 lots."

My older brother was in the service in England, so I had to build these 60 lots myself. I didn't know much about building houses, plus during the war, there were no building materials available. All the established builders in Washington said it's impossible to build, so they didn't build.

But I was a dumb kid so I went ahead building anyway. I would call the contractor and say, "Okay I'm ready for the concrete," and he would say, "Are you kidding, kid? There's no concrete here." So I had to go out and find my own cement. Then I'd tell the bricklayer to come, and he would say, "Are you kidding? There's no bricks. No mortar. No cinder block."

I finally built the houses -- three bedrooms, full basement, and full backyard -- for $10,000. They were the first houses built in Washington after the war and we sold those 60 houses in three hours. So that's how I became a builder in the Washington area.


Many people know of the obvious things Abe did in his life, but most do not know the pain he endured within his own family. Mr. Pollin lost two children to major heart disease and spoke of the devastation he and his wife endured. He was quoted as saying that he was so depressed to the point where he gave up his business.

However, finally realizing that he still had a family to take care of, Abe decided to build a memorial to his daughter. This building block—literally, the Linda Pollin Memorial Housing project, was a non-profit for poor people in southeast Washington. Abe credited building that project in her memory for getting him back to life. This was simply the start of a life long endeavor to give to those who didn't have.

This is a man who thought like this...

"Those of us who are fortunate enough to be on the giving end, rather than the receiving end, are very lucky. Because the more we give, the more we get back. And it's hard to believe, but in America, the richest country the world has ever seen, there are almost five million children who go to bed hungry every night. That's a disgrace. So I believe that for the people who are in a position to give, it's incumbent upon us to help."

I lead with all of this because as fans we need to understand that Abe Pollin's success as a man, as a human being, is not only far more important than what he ever did as an owner but should be remembered and told to generation after generation.

Luckily anytime anyone steps foot on Abe Pollin Way, into the Verizon Center, or simply enjoys Chinatown, they will be forced to remember a man who built an arena with his own money at a time when nobody wanted anything to do with DC construction, a man who single handedly revitalized an area that was simply dire. Pollin was quoted at the time, “I had two goals when I decided to build this building,” said Abe Pollin. “The first was that if I was building in downtown Washington, the nation’s capital, it had to be the best building of its kind in the country. The second was to be the catalyst that turned the city around.”

We must also remember that this was not the first arena Abe and Irene Pollin purchased. Thirty-six years ago, the Pollins opened the Capital Centre in Landover, Maryland, the new home for their Baltimore Bullets, and applied for a National Hockey League expansion franchise. The Capital Centre opened on December 2, 1973, and it was what Verizon Center is today—a state-of-the-art sports and entertainment facility that became the standard for new arenas throughout the world.

Capital Centre/US Air Arena
Capital Centre/US Air Arena

Among his many accomplishments, Pollin was awarded the Duke Ziebert Capital Achievement Award for his efforts in revitalizing downtown Washington, DC. He has also been the recipient of the Distinguished Civilian Service Award, presented by the US Army, the 1996 Robert F. Kennedy-Martin Luther King, Jr. Award, presented by Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, the 1996 United Cerebral Palsy Achievement Award and the 1997 Jewish Leadership Award. In 2006, Pollin was honored for his contributions to the world of sports and his community when the United States Sports Academy tabbed him for their Distinguished Service Award. On December 3, 2007, Mayor Adrian M. Fenty proclaimed “Abe Pollin Day” in the District of Columbia in honor of Abe Pollin’s 84th birthday and all of his contributions to the city. In addition to proclaiming Abe Pollin Day, the Mayor unveiled F Street between 6th and 7th Streets NW as “Abe Pollin Way.”

Abe Pollin's pinnacle moment in his second passion, sports, came in 1978 when he delivered DC's only NBA Championship.

Some will want to talk about the mismanagement, the bad years, the trials and tribulations of the last 30+ years that have passed since that June day in 1978 but WE will simply take the time to remember the Great Man that was just taken from us.

I would rather remember Abe Pollin as the man who provided us with these great memories...


You will never be forgotten Mr. Abe Pollin, and WE salute you and your lifetime of achievements.

Thank You from WE.


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