Larry ‘Gator’ Rivers, Chatham County commissioner and former Globetrotter, has died

Published: Apr. 29, 2023 at 1:00 PM EDT|Updated: Apr. 29, 2023 at 9:26 PM EDT
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CHATHAM COUNTY, Ga. (WTOC) - The Chatham County community is mourning the loss of a public servant and local basketball legend Saturday.

Larry “Gator” Rivers, a sitting member of the Chatham County commission, Beach High School basketball player, and Harlem Globetrotter has passed away.

Governor Brian Kemp, Congressman Buddy Carter, Savannah Mayor Van Johnson, and plenty of other community members have been sharing their memories of Rivers and condolences to his family across social media.

The news was announced during an annual Association of County Commissioners of Georgia meeting here in Savannah- heartbreaking news to Rivers’ colleagues, who were gathered there.

”To get the call this morning that he had succumbed to it, and talking to his son to let us know that that’s what transpired, it was kind of disheartening,” Chester Ellis said.

Chatham County Commission Chairman Chester Ellis says Rivers had been battling cancer for some time even sitting out recent Commission meetings.

Ellis adds he’d known Rivers since they were kids- competing against each other in sports, and eventually, serving together on the Commission.

Rivers wasn’t just a colleague to Ellis- but a friend.

”I don’t know when we weren’t friends. Being off the East side, then being on the West side together, then coming to serve together on the County Commission, it was a joy. He was a legend.”

Before his time in public service- Rivers played basketball for Beach High School- where he earned All-City, All-Region, And All-State honors. He went on to play for the Harlem Globetrotters- and was inducted into the Greater Savannah Athletic Hall of Fame in 1999.

But even when his playing days were over- Ellis says that Rivers focused his time on serving his community, in part through his non-profit youth mentorship organization Gatorball Academy as well as serving as the District 2 Commissioner in Chatham County.

”He was an advocate for what we were doing as far as where children were concerned. That was a big part of him: giving to the children that’s behind him. Like he said, ‘Somebody gave to me, and so it’s my job and my responsibility to give back.’ And that’s going to be missing a whole lot.”

Ellis says the priority right now is talking with Rivers’ family and figuring out memorial arrangements. After that’s taken care of- then they’ll focus on the future of the Commission, and what will happen to the vacancy left behind by Rivers.