Manute Bol Dies

Manute Bol, who became a basketball sensation in the 1980s as a skeletally thin shot-blocking giant with the Washington Bullets and other professional teams, and who devoted his post-basketball life to improving the lot of his fellow natives of Sudan, died June 19 at the University of Virginia Medical Center in Charlottesville. He was 47.

His cousin George Bol said Mr. Bol had internal bleeding and other complications from Stevens-Johnson Syndrome, a rare skin disease that he contracted from a medication he received in Africa.

Manute Bol, a towering Dinka tribesman who left southern Sudan to become one of the best shot blockers in the history of American basketball, then returned to his homeland to try to heal the wounds of a long, bloody civil war, died Saturday at the University of Virginia Medical Center in Charlottesville, according to Sally Jones, a spokeswoman for the hospital. He was 47 and lived in Olathe, Kan.

The cause was severe kidney trouble and complications of a rare skin disorder known as Stevens-Johnson syndrome, said Tom Prichard, who runs Sudan Sunrise, a foundation that is building a school near Bol’s birthplace in Turalei. Bol had been hospitalized since late May when he fell ill during a layover on a trip home from Sudan, Mr. Prichard said.

The memorial service for Manute Bol was held on Tuesday, June 29, 2010, at 10:00 a.m. at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. Bol's body lay in an eight-foot-long, specially built casket.

Bol was given tributes by United States Senator Sam Brownback from Kansas, Former National Security Advisor Robert McFarlane, Sudan's Ambassador to the United States, Dr. Akec Khoc Acieu and Bol's Uncle, Mr. Bol Bol Choi, Vice President of the National Basketball Association Rory Sparrow.

Sparrow rembered Bol as "a giant off the court" who should be remembered for humanitarian work and his basketball career.

Senator Brownback recalled that “He literally gave his life for his people. He went over (to Sudan), he was sick. He stayed longer than he should have. He probably contracted this ailment that took his life while in Sudan, and he didn’t have to do that. He was an NBA basketball player. He could have stayed here and had an easy life. I’ve never seen anybody use his celebrity status more nor give his life more completely to a group of people than Manute Bol did. It makes me look at efforts that I do as not enough."

Dr. Akec K.A. Khoc, Ambassador of Sudan to the U.S said that "Manute had a very great heart for his country and people. He did everything to support anybody in need of shoes, blankets, health service, food, and people who were struggling. He went to see them and to encourage them to continue their struggle for their rights, for their freedoms. Manute embodied everything we can think of in Sudan. Reconciling warring groups between the north and south, in Darfur he was working for reconciliation between Darfur and the south and between Darfur and the rest of Sudan. So Manute was a voice for hope."

Sudan Sunrise founder, Reverend Canon Tom Prichard, says Bol's work to reconcile former enemies lives on."Manute's legacy and vision of education and reconciliation, his determination to grow grassroots reconciliation - whether that reconciliation is expressed in a country that divides or holds together, wherever the boundary lines are drawn. Manute stood for grassroots reconciliation,"

Reverend Pritchard went on to say "There’s no question Manute gave his life for his country.”

Manute Bol's family patriarch, Bol Bol Chol, said, "This man is not an ordinary man. I believe this man is a messenger like other messengers who were sent into this world - to do something in this world. He has accomplished most of his mission, and so God took him and left the rest of the work to be done by others,"

A number of members of Bol's immediate family, including his sons, were at the service.

Manute Bol's remains were buried in Sudan.