This scene brought back painful memories–many described it as a chapter out of a slave auction.
President Trump has a full house of props. Omarosa Manigault, Ben Carson and Lynne Patton.
For those of us who are familiar with black history, politicians have been using black props for over 400 years. We first appeared at the slave auctions, but in modern times this latest prop-up by the Republicans was the worst that I can ever remember. Especially, with social media and a camera and microphone in every nook and cranny recording our every move. Their strategy backfired as it should have.
The appearance by Lynne Patton reminded me of how the white slave owners use to bring their designated slaves to the auction block for sale. For those of you who think going through an airport security check is an ordeal, its a cake walk compared to what slaves had to endure on the auction block. Patton was treated similarly to the slaves–she was not allowed to speak.
It is nothing unusual for most white folks who are in power to have favorite blacks on their jobs or in their community that they can point to and say, “she or he is my friend!” This as close as it gets to be called a “House Nigger.”
I have been there and done that in the political arena in Washington, DC. I went from a NE outhouse in 1940 to the Pennsylvania Avenue White House in 1969 as a guest of the President of the United States of America. How did I get there?
My wife Hattie and I visited the White House in 1969 as a guest (Prop) of President Richard M. Nixon and Attorney General William Rogers. Nixon much like Trump was under fire as a racist President.
In 2017 Hattie and I visited the Nixon Library and Museum in Yoba Linda, California. The Library was on our “Bucket List” of things to do. February 2017 marked 50 years since I first met the President in 1957 at Burning Tree Golf Course. The visit was a wake-up call for me. There were few black visitors (mostly Asians) and black faces on exhibit were few, far and in-between. It was Black History Month so there was a photo of Rev. Martin Luther King and President Nixon together (Prop) at the entrance of the museum. I had to search for other blacks in the administration it was almost like looking for a needle in a haystack. There was a photo and a video presentation by Bob Brown (HNIC).
I was really disappointed not to see any mention of my friend Arthur Fletcher (Prop) a real warrior for civil rights in the Nixon administration. He was the Chairman of the United States Commission on Civil Rights. Arthur was known as the Godfather of “Affirmative Action.” He put his life on the line several times traveling from union city to union city. He faced hostile white union leaders who didn’t want to hear anything about Affirmative Action and threaten his life if he didn’t get out of town.
There were no photos or mention of my mentor, White House Communications Director Herb Klein (my go to guy). He was the most honorable man I met in the Nixon White House. His honesty would cost him his position in the administration when Watergate hit the front pages of the Washington Post. President Nixon felt Herb could not be trusted to go along to get along and he left quietly. I had lunch with Herb years later (early 80s) at Union Station here in DC. He was in town on newspaper business representing the San Diego Union-Tribune. The hurt was still there. He was loyal to Nixon and I could tell he felt betrayed.
Herb was headed to New York City for another meeting but before he boarded the train he said, “Harold Bell I am proud of the way you used me and the administration to help your community. You were a bright light for this White House and you should send your newspaper clippings and your memorabillia to the new Nixon Library in Yoba Linda so that they can put them on display. I will mail you an address and contact person when I get back to San Diego.” He boarded the train and that was the last time I saw Herb Klein. He was true to his word and mailed me the address and contact person for the new library. Herb died July 2, 2009 in San Diego of heart failure (broken heart). I mailed my newspaper clippings and memorabillia to the address and contact person as Herb had suggested and I received the ‘thank you’ letter seen below.
Needless to say there was nothing on display saying “Harold Bell lives here!”
In 1994 Senator Bob Dole (R-Kan) proped me up again in the Congressional Record on the House Floor to recall my relationship with the late President Richard M. Nixon.
The list of black props who found their way to the Richard Nixon White House reads like a Who’s Who in Black America: Sammy Davis, Muhammad Ali, James Brown (soul brother No.1), Duke Ellington, and Jim Brown (NFL). Jim is the richest prop ever. He recently accepted a 50 million dollar check from Trump disguised as “Prison Reform.”
My journey to the White House started in Kings’ County Hospital in Brooklyn, New York in 1938. My mother Mattie was a country girl from Sumpter, SC. She was six months pregnant with me when she decided to follow my father Alfred (Papa Was a Rolling Stone) Bell a native Washingtonian and playboy to the Big Apple.
Two years later she found her way back home to DC alone with me. My father had officially become a “Rolling Stone and where ever he roamed was home!” Some way somehow she found a one bedroom shack and an outhouse on Douglas Street, NE. She would call this shack, home. One year later the shack had burned to the ground. One cold morning with me sleeping (she thought), she left me with my dog Billy to go to the corner store for bread and milk. When she returned fire engines were all over the street and I was sitting in the yard crying with Billy standing over me. Evidently, one of us had knocked over the kerosene lamp. The firemen had no clue how I managed to get out of the house and the dog refused to talk.
My mother took me to Grandma Bell’s house where my older brother Alfred Robert had already claim residence.
Amy Tyler Bell aka Grandma Bell, matriarch and my hero. The three tall guys in the back are my brothers, Alfred, Earl and me. Next to me is cousin Carole and her sister Ronnie standing in front of her and cousin Tommy standing on the right next to Grandma Bell.
Grandma Bell laid the foundation for her grandchildren to be of high character, to include, honesty, integrity and always tell the truth because a lie will change a thousand times but the truth never changes. The best advice I ever got.
The grandchildren spend a lot of time in Mount Airy Baptist Church located in the shadows of the Nation’s Capitol on North Capitol and L Streets, NW. My great-grandfather the Rev. Alfred Tyler Bell laid the first brick to build the church in 1893. The Tyler House a senior residence one block north of the church is named after my great-uncle the Rev. Earl Tyler.
In 1945 my mother came to gather her three boys up that now included my brother Earl. She was working at the General Accounting Office as a clerk typist and had qualified for public housing in a NE housing project called Parkside. Before heading out to our new home Grandma Bell made her an offer she could not refuse. Mother could take me and Earl but Alfred the oldest would continue to live with Grandma. Earl and I cried our eyes out because we wanted to stay with grandma also. It was deal or no deal–done deal.
The move to Parkside ended up being a great move for Earl and me. We were free at last from the apron strings of Grandma Bell. The celebration didn’t last long, two years later our mother had lost her good government job. It had something to do with “the last hired-the first fired.”
It was an uphill battle to survive after that. Earl and I became juvenile delinquents. We both were trying to go to hell in a hurry. Mother had already visited my middle school twice about my unruly behavior. Yet she received another note from Principal William B. Stinson. This time he warned her if I didn’t get my act together I would not live to get out of high school. My younger brother William Sterling Bell was born before Earl and I had graduated from middle school bringing the total to three knuckle heads in the house.
To help my mother make ends meet I started to carry groceries on the weekends at the Safeway food store on the other side of the railroad tracks that separated the black community from the white community. Earl and his crew of bandits started to do strong-arm robberies and hit cash registers left unattended in the H Street NE corridor.
I remember one evening mother had gone out to play cards somewhere in the neighborhood. Earl and I were left to babysit our younger brother William. There was no food in the house and we were hungry. William must have been 3 or 4 years old. We put him to bed and told him to stay there until we got back. It was a Wednesday or Thursday night and we headed to the Safeway to see if we could earn a few dollars to get something to eat. We both knew our chances of earning some money on a weekday evening were slim and none.
I entered the store by the back door and Earl entered by the front door. As luck would have it the store was pretty crowned. We walked around the store for a few minutes asking customers if they needed help, but there were no takers. We then stuffed lunch meats and cheese into our coats and pants. We disappeared into the night with our dinner. As we were approaching our railroad track exit to the other side a cop car jumped the curb and cut us off. Two white cops jumped out screaming with guns drawn “you two niggers hold it right there” and we did. They threw us in the back of the car and pulled off with sirens blasting. We were scared as hell as one cop held his gun on us the entire ride.
When the cop car pulled into the 6th District Police Station on Benning Road NE. Earl and I had put our ill-gotten goods under the back seat of the car. We figured someone had seen us and snitched. We were hustled into the station and found this little old white lady waiting to identify us, but she screamed at the top of her lungs, “Those are not the two niggers who snatched my purse.” Nigger never sounded so good. The cops pushed us out the door and told us to walk our black asses home. As we were taking a shortcut through the woods known as G Man Diamond it struck us that our food was still under the seat in the police car. We circled back on our hand and knees and got our food. We were now happy to begin the journey home with our bellies full and our lives intact.
My mother later became a housing project entrepreneur and started to sell bootleg liquor and dinners on the weekend. Poker games (cards) were added to the weekend entertainment at 715 Kenilworth Terrace, NE. She would cut five-cents on every dollar won and that could really add up to a great weekend of profits to include dinners and alcohol sold. Things were looking good as the money started to roll-in at Club 715. I had made the transition to Spingarn High School by then.
I never gave up my job of carrying groceries at the Safeway on the weekends and my brother Earl was still causing havoc on the H Street NE corridor.
Mother was doing well at Club 715 and she added a number book (today’s lottery) to her project repertoire. There was a number backer in the nearby community called Deanwood and it was there Mr. Billy Jackson was Lord and King. My mother was lucky when it came to hitting the numbers. She could dream a number one night and hit it the next day. Mr. Jackson thought it best to give her a book for the projects.
Her heart was as big as the housing project and anyone with a sad story she would help them out financially–bad move. Envy and jealousy followed and suddenly the cops started to raid our house in the wee hours of the morning–someone was snitching. My brothers and I watched as our mother was led from our home in handcuffs while we sit on the steps crying. She would always look back and say, “You kids go back to bed I will be back in time to get you ready for church in the morning” and she always would return as promised. But it took a toll on her and she had a nervous breakdown and would spend the next 30 years in and out of St. Elizabeth’s a mental hospital. During that time she was away from home we had to fend for themselves. My younger brother William was taken in by our next door neighbors Ms. Winniefred Powell and sons, Gaylord and Sonny. Earl was shipped off to juvenile detention by a DC Juvenile Court Judge and my new home became my Aunt Doretha’s parked car and my Aunt Evelyn’s basement (both were my mother’s cousins).
Against all odds her four boys still made an impact in their community;
The Bell boys: Harold-Mommy B-Earl and Alfred
Robert Alfred Bell would graduate college and work for 20 years as a United States Marshall.
Sgt. Earl “Bull” Bell
He would graduate from Spingarn high school and become a Military Policeman in the U. S. Army and an All-Army Heavyweight Boxing Champion in Germany. He returned home to become a DC Top Cop for 14 years rising to the rank of sergeant against all odds (Thin Blue Line & Code of Silence) before an untimely automobile accident ended his career and eventually ended his life.
“Bull Bell” U. S. Army heavyweight champion working out on heavy bag
William Sterling Bell
aka Puddin/Billy/Tyrik served in the U. S. Army and was a lead photographer for boxing promoter Don King.
Harold Bell / Athlete–Pioneer-Youth Advocate-Hero-Author
In 1965 after chasing unsuccessfully my dream of playing in the NFL I returned home to DC. The United Planning Organization hired three Neighborhood Workers, my mentor Petey Greene who would later become a legendary radio and television talk show host, Civil Rights icon H. Rap Brown (Chairman of SNCC) and me. In the summer of 1965 on the campus of Howard University, I would meet The Greatest Muhammad Ali. We would become lifetime friends. See DVD interview from 1974
In 1968 I walked the streets in the Cardozo/Shaw community the worst hit during the riots. I had nothing but a DC police badge for protection as I tried to save young lives. The riots nearly destroyed my hometown. When the tear gas and smoke had cleared I found my non-profit organization, Kids In Trouble, Inc. My wife Hattie and I coordinated 45 straight years of Christmas toy parties for needy children without grants or loans. The NFL, NBA, MLB, and the NHL have all copied my reach-back community programs. NFL great Willie Wood and NBA great Dave Bing were the first pro athletes to join the Kids In Trouble team in 1968.
In 1971 I organized the first Celebrity Tennis Tournament for the Congressional Black Caucus Weekend at the Hilton Hotel on Connecticut Ave. NW. On Bolling Air Force Base in SE DC, I found the first ever half-way house for juvenile delinquents on a military installation. I crossed over on both sides of the political aisle to make it happen.
Military history: Department of Defense teams up with DC government to open a half-way house for juvenile delinquents on Bolling Air Force Base. As a DOD Domestic Actions coordinator, me and Bolling base chaplin, Col. Charles Reider spearheaded the project.
Hattie and I honor Senator Strom Thurmond on his 90th birthday
Nike rep Laura Brown and I present Congressman Walter Fauntroy with a pair of running shoes to help him prepare for his next run for Congress.
In 1971 CBS/NFL Films video tape first ever promo for national television.
Washington Redskin and NFL MVP RB Larry Brown and LB Harold McLinton teach water safety at the Kids In Trouble Saturday Program as I look on.
In 1972 I became the first black to host and produce his own radio sports talk show in the Nation’s Capitol on W-O-O-K Radio. My Inside Sports talk show format is now copied around the world.
NBA legend Red Auerbach co-host Inside Sports
In 1974 Congressman Lou Stokes (D-Ohio) cited me in the Congressional Record on the House Floor for my work with at-risk children and youth gangs in DC.
In 1975 I became the first black to host and produce his own television sports special in prime time on NBC affiliate WRC-TV 4 in Wahington, DC. My special guest, The Greatest Muhammad Ali.
In 1980 Washingtonian Magazine named me “Washingtonian of the Year.” The honor made me the first sports broadcaster ever recognized by the magazine.
“Washingtonians of the Year” Redskin QB Joe Theismann and I shared the honored
In 2010 Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton honored the late boxing historian and Washingtonian Bert Randolph Sugar for his work with Kids In Trouble. On Saturday March 19, 2011 she declared “Bert Randolph Sugar Day in the Nation’s Capital.”
Hattie T, Bert and HB celebrating his day in DC
The benefactors of Kids In Trouble/Inside Sports before their 15 minutes of fame read like a Who’s Who:
John Thompson Georgetown basketball/ the first black to win an NCAA Division One basketball championship. Before Thompson’s 15 minutes of NCAA basketball fame when he could not win a game I gave him 5 minutes to promo Georgetown basketball on W-O-O-K Radio every Monday.
Georgetown Coach John Thompson co-hosting KIT toy party with Washington Redskins at the Twin-Bridges Marriott in Arlington, Virginia. Future Georgetown coach John Jr. seen under his father’s right elbow looking up to him. Santa’s helper Redskin Harold McLinton in white cap standing behind John.
Georgetown players led by Captain on left Merlin Wilson help serve the children.
Sugar Ray Leonard won Olympic Gold in 1976 but didn’t have two pennies to rub together. He lost his self-esteem after his hometown media called him out for having a baby out of wedlock. He refused to come out of his house until Harold Bell was asked by his trainer Janks Morton to intervene. I became his mentor. Results; the first pro boxer to earn 100 million dollars.
Boxing Roundtable: Sugar Ray Leonard, HBell, Don King and Larry Holmes
James Brown NFL/CBS Studio host, I welcomed him to be a part of the Kids In Trouble/Inside Sports team when he was nothing but a Xerox salesman. He was the host for his 9th Super Bowl in 2019. His hometown newspaper The Washington Post proped him up in a front-page story in the sports section leading up to the Super Bowl. The story was titled, “Black Santa” in February, Black History Month, “he went along to get along.” He has definitely forgotten.
Michael Wilbon, Washington Post/ESPN/when he joined the staff of the Washington Post as a writer and columnist he sought my advice and I gladly gave it. He lost his way and according to his two-faced colleague John Feinstein he is the biggest ass kisser in sports media and from my up close and personal relationship, he is also the biggest liar–he forgot.
Cathy Hughes, owner of Urban Radio & TV One / She was a receptionist at WHUR Radio when she asked me to be a “Big Brother” to her son Alfred. She made a deal with the owners of the Washington Post, Katerine and son Donald Graham to sell out the community for a piece of her “Pie in the Sky.” She forgot.
Dave Aldridge, Washington Post/TNT/The Atlantic– a nice guy who is in over his head. In 1987 in his debut as a Washington Post sportswriter he followed his colleagues and became a contributor on Inside Sports. He didn’t forget, but he thinks I trash pro athletes whom he considers “Sacred Cows” aka John Thompson!
Doug Williams, in 1986 was introduced to me by his friend Grambling alumnus the late Bob Piper. Bob said, “Harold Bell will protect your back from all the DC Free Loaders!” In 1988 He became the First black QB to win a Super Bowl and MVP–he forgot.
Tim Baylor, Kids In Trouble benefactor, Cardozo High School and Morgan State graduate. He was drafted by the Baltimore Colts and also played for the Minnesota Vikings. I was a member of his wedding party and named the Godfather of his first child. He later told a friend in a social gathering, “You know Harold Bell is stealing money from the kids!” This is a brother that became an entrepreneur after his NFL career owning several McDonald’s restaurants but still never brought a toy to a Kids In Trouble Christmas party or sent a kid to camp or college. KIT has never received a grant or donation, whose money was I stealing? Baylor now lives in Minnesota and for the past 10+ years he has disappeared without a trace.
Tim Baylor receiving KIT Community Service Award during KIT Celebrity fashion show.
Dave Bing, up close and personal during his high school and playground basketball days. In his face and jock strap from one end of the court to the other end. After being named “NBA Rookie of the year”, it was during a chance meeting at a DC restaurant, I congratulated him and he said, ‘Harold Bell you help prepare me for the NBA.’ He came back and then forgot our high school coach Rev. William Roundtree.
Adrian Dantley, I alerted him that his sports agent David Falk was using his money (several million) to invest in his own personal projects. He had to go to court to get his money returned. He never said, “Thank you” or donated a toy to KIT.
Adrian Dantley receiving KIT Community Service Award from TV 4 anchor Fred Thomas.
Cornelius Greene, DC Dunbar High School and first Black QB at Ohio State. Kids In Trouble/Inside Sports paid tribute to him and his teammates and Coach Woody Hayes at the Shoreham Hotel in DC. I gave him his first experience in broadcasting. He was my broadcast partner at RFK Stadium for the DC Public High School championship game. The game was broadcasted by W-O-O-K radio. He forgot and became a con man and shakedown artist.
L-R Coach Woody Hayes, Cornelius Geene, Woodrow Roach, Archie Griffin, Lenny Willis and HB.
Other benefactors with selected amnesia and two-faces: Olympic gymnast Jair Lynch / NFL Lamont Jordan / NBA Adrian Branch / NBA Olden Polynice/ Michael Jackson’s Publicist: Raymone Bain /ESPN Kevin Blackistone / Actor Robert Hooks / Federal Judge Alex Williams.
My entire career in sports talk radio spent on the AM dial, the weakest signal in the radio format. Despite that obstacle, I was able to campaign successfully to get two pro athletes inducted into their hall of fame after being blackballed. NFL great Willie Wood of the Green Bay Packers was finally inducted in 1989 and NBA pioneer Earl Lloyd was inducted in 2003.
I combined my radio format with my political contacts to get several playground legendary athletes released from jail early. They were DC playground basketball legends Bernard Levi, and Jo Jo Hunter and NFL Hall of Fame running back Jim Brown.
The benefactors of Kids in Trouble/Inside Sports number in the thousands, but there are few who standout like Lonnie Taylor that makes the time spent worthwhile. Lonnie was a Hillcrest Saturday Program participant. He later became the first black chief of staff for a white congressman on Capitol Hill. See his letter dated August 1, 1989.
In 1974 sports columnist J. D. Bethea of the Washington Star-News wrote a column titled simply “Harold Bell,” ‘If success is measured in terms of financial reward, here is a man who hasn’t made it. But there are hundreds of inner-city kids who will vouch for the success of Harold Bell. He may be the only black guy living who ever grew up in a ghetto, in real poverty, but never learned to play the game, that great American pastime.
Everybody plays the Game to some degree. That is what success is all about. Playing the Game. Being alternately malleable and assertive with the right people at the right time. Bell never learned. If he had, given his drive and single-mindedness of purpose, he would probably be dangerous (Spook who sat by the door).’
Gene Kilroy Muhammad Ali’s business manager said something similar, he said, “Harold if you had played the game you would be a millionaire and they would have been calling Howard Cosell the black Harold Bell.”
Others have given similar advice, but I look around me and see millionaires that came through me or by me and I look at their selfishness and their selected amnesia of who they are and where they came from and I still say, “Hell no to playing the game!” How can one play a game where no one is playing fair but the underdog?
The common denominator these guys share, they all started out as decent human beings. The problem, success handled them and they didn’t handle success. Fortune and fame in the black community is often our worst enemy and not white folks. I base my success on the premise I saw human beings and not Republicans or Democrats or black and white, still I never said I was color blind!
If I had to come back this way again I would not make any changes, simply because my peace of mind is not for sale.
Important Foot Note: Even though I say that the Inside Sports talk format changed the way we report and talk sports in America, sometmes I wonder. And then I heard this guy Dale Hansen out of Dallas, Texas. He not only talks the talk, but he walks the walk. When I heard his commentary on how he walked away from the radio broadcast team of the Dallas Cowboys (America’s team) I was stunned. He told one of the NFL’s most powerful owners, Jerry Jones, “I thought you were a good man, but I don’t know you any more.”
I started to check him out on You Tube. His commentaries on White Priviledge were off the chart. I have often said, “some white folks don’t know that they are racist, but how can they know when they have never walked in my shoes.” This guy sounds like he has been there and done that. He writes commentaries like my friend the late great WRC TV 4 anchor Jim Vance once did. There are the sounds of a rhyme and rhythm to all of Hanson’s commentaries. I am a fan and I hope he keeps lighting up the airwaves. My opinion his commentary on the hiring of Pac Man Jones is one his best. Dale Hansen is living proof that I was correct in how I closed my talk shows when I coined the phrase in 1972, “Every black face I saw was not my brother and every white face I saw was not my enemy.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P8rZmPENqU4/