From his earliest years as an adolescent growing up in one of the first African-American families living in Los Angeles’ Lincoln Heights community to his accomplishments as a high school sports superstar on both the diamond and gridiron, Kenny Washington was truly a neighborhood hero.
From an early age through high school, Kenny grew up in a small one-story house at 240 S. Avenue 19 with his Uncle Roscoe “Rocky” Washington and his Aunt Hazel. His athletic career began in the sandlot next to Our Lady Help of Christians church down the street from the Washington’s home where his love of baseball and football was usually on display for all the neighborhood kids to see – Kenny was a regular participant in the church’s Cub Scout sports leagues. His natural athletic feats were temporarily derailed when at age 10 he broke both knees in a bicycle accident. Kenny’s problematic knees would be a source of pain throughout his athletic career.
In his adolescence, Kenny grew up long and lanky, with an occasional bit of awkwardness. He was considered too weak to play football at Lincoln until his junior year in school, concentrating instead on baseball where he developed into an outstanding player. But when finally allowed on the gridiron, Kenny Washington became an unstoppable force on the football field during his final two years of high school.
As a junior in 1934 he was credited with a pass that flew 60 yards in the air before it hit its receiver. He also ran a 95 yard interception for a touchdown and was credited with a 70 yard offensive run from scrimmage. In his final season with the Tigers in 1935, Kenny lead his team to their only undisputed City Championship and a perfect undefeated season. In a memorable performance in the championship game held at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum against Fremont High, Kenny was responsible for all but 6 yards of offense for the Tigers, while also playing with the first team on defense.
The climax of Kenny’s baseball career at Lincoln High was just as impressive as he led the Tigers to a Los Angeles City Championship in 1935 after winning the City batting title and hitting a home run in the championship game.
During his playing days in high school, Kenny’s athletic achievements were extraordinary while his presence on the baseball diamond or football gridiron was simply dominant. Twice he was named to the All-City Teams in both football and baseball. His abilities were summed up best by the words on his 1948 pro football trading card while a member of the Los Angeles Rams. It simply states: “Considered by many as the greatest high school player in Southern California history”.