HAROLD BELL A PHENOMENAL MAN:


Posted: February 24, 2019/ Re-visted August 27, 2019

By Gary Johnson with contributor Christopher Johnson

November 2019 will mark the 45th anniversary of “The Rumble in the Jungle.” The never to be forgotten fight between the undisputed and undefeated Heavyweight Champion of the world George Foreman and The Greatest, Muhammad Ali. The fight was held in Zaire, Africa.  Ali stunned the boxing world when he knocked out Foreman in the 8th round. When the dust had cleared and Ali returned to the United States, the first media personality he called was his friend, Harold Bell.  He asked Harold to meet him in New York City for the interview he had promised him in Chicago before flying to Zaire.

 

It took 45 years to just get “The Teaser” of the1974 Ali interview to the Big Screen, but on June 4, 2019, the Miracle Theatre on Capitol Hill was the host of “We Remember Muhammad Ali”.  Family and friends traveled as far away as Louisville, New Orleans, and Charlottesville, Virginia to pay tribute to The Greatest!  It was recently discovered that Congressman William Lacey Clay (D-Missouri) is a cousin of the Greatest!

As we head into February Black History Month 2020, one can say, if you’re going to be fact-based about our history, then you can make an argument that “good things come to those who wait.” This article was posted in February 2019, but I felt a need to re-visit.  On November 24, 2019, the complete Ali interview will be seen in a Red Carpet Documentary titled “Ali & Harold Bell: Uncovered and Uncrowned” at the Miracle Theatre.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l3I8zZFubB0

For tickets (limited seating) and more information: 240 334-7174

 

The late Ron Sutton of WHUR radio and Harold add a little color to the press table during a Washington Bullets game in Landover, Md. in the 70s.

This is not a blog about whether or not people like Harold Bell.  Spoiler Alert: Harold Bell believes when you help others you help yourself.

The “I Don’t Like Harold Bell” line is LONG but invisible because it is based on he say, she say. Especially when you ask those who have benefited from his good deeds in the DC community.  Former NFL Running Backs Larry Brown and NFL Hall of Famer Jim Brown, former NBA Star and former Mayor of Detroit Dave Bing, radio and television owner Cathy Hughes, former Georgetown basketball Coach John Thompson, Boxer, Sugar Ray Leonard, NBA Adrian Dantley, Redskin QB Doug Williams, CBS/NFL James Brown, NFL Tony Paige, Boxing Promoter Don King and more–but none will go on The Record! They have all benefited from his good works in the community and his pioneering efforts in broadcast media.  The benefactors read like a Who’s Who! There may be something to the metaphor, “Crabs in a barrel!”

 

When Larry Brown arrived in DC in 1969 as a rookie running back for the Washington Redskins it was Harold Bell who convinced him, Roy Jefferson, Harold McLinton and Ted Vactor to join Green Bay Packer great Willie Wood and NBA All-Pro Dave Bing on his non-profit organization team of Kids In Trouble. They were instrumental in his enhancing the growth and development of inner-city kids. He traveled to meet Larry’s parents who were living in the legendary “Hill District” of Pittsburgh. He helped to find jobs for Larry’s brothers and advised him about the drug environment he was caught up in before Coach George Allen called him on the carpet. When Jim Brown was the NFL poster boy for Domestic Violence and was arrested again in 1999 it was Harold Bell he called to campaign for his early release from jail. This was not the first time Harold had to bail Jim out of a sticky situation. Dave Bing after being named NBA Rookie of the Year in 1966 said, “Harold Bell you help prepare me for the NBA.” Georgetown basketball coach John Thompson was the first black to win an NCAA Division One championship. When he took over the Georgetown program in 1972 he could not win a game. It was Harold Bell who gave him and his players 5 minutes on Inside Sports every Monday to promote Georgetown basketball. Doug Williams arrived in town in 1986 and his friend former DC Public High School coach Bob Piper advised him, “Stick close to Harold Bell he will protect your back!” In 1988 Williams became the first black to win a Superbowl and be named the MVP.  When legendary sports agent Dave Falk pick-pocketed Adrian Dantley’s account to the tune of several million dollars without his knowledge, it was Harold Bell who delivered the bad news to Adrian’s mother, Virginia.  Adrian wasn’t the sharpest knife in the draw.

ABA/NBA player Roland ‘Fatty’ Taylor–Larry Brown & Petey Greene participating in Kids In Trouble Saturday Community Program Larry Brown running for daylight

Sugar Ray Leonard, when he won his first World Championship by defeating Wilfred Benitez he called Harold Bell live on Inside Sports (WYCB radio) and said, “Harold I am the welterweight champion today because you were there when no one else was and I thank you.” Leonard went on to become the first pro boxer to earn over 100 million dollars in prize money. Cathy Hughes while working as a receptionist for WHUR radio asked Harold Bell to be a Big Brother to her fatherless little child, Alfred!  James BrownHarold Bell has been an inspiration and motivation for me and a lot of other black broadcasters.” Tony Paige, his mom, dad and him all came through Inside Sports. His first radio talk show experience was on Connecticut Ave. on W-O-L. His dad was a legendary DC athlete and his mom was ahead of the curb on prison reform back in the day. Tony got lost in the bright lights and big city of the NFL, a common thread when it comes to the black athlete. 

Sugar Ray on Inside Sports before the 100 million

When the media was calling Don King a killer, a theft, and mob-connected, it was Harold Bell who was defending his right to a second chance in the Game Called Life in print media and on national television. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nygALb50FV4

I am trying to figure out “Where is the beef with Harold Bell?” Who are you going to believe “The Player-Haters or your lying eyes?”  

That’s not the point of this blog because in 2019 he is still helping others and making history.  Harold Bell is now in his 80s.

Harold Bell is a complicated individual. He is both polarizing/galvanizing because he is principled in his truth. He is relentless to prove his point and defend his position when it comes to our children regardless of their race, creed or color.

His advocacy for children can move him to tears when he sees them being neglected and mistreated. He has used his “microphone” to give voice to the voiceless.

He has been honored at the White House by President Richard M. Nixon and on The House Floor by Congressman Lou Stokes (D-Ohio), Senator Bob Dole (R-Kan) and DC Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton for his work with youth gangs and at-risk children.  He was the first sports talk show host to be honored as Washingtonian of the Year by Washingtonian Magazine.

Redskin QB Joe Theisman and Harold Bell “Washingtonians of the Year”

And finally, at times, Harold Bell can be his own worst enemy only because people want to hear the truth when it is about someone else, but never about themselves!

 

I told you the man is complicated—but his mission is clear we could use more Harold Bells.

 

Despite being in the public eye for over 50 years, I can make a compelling argument that Harold Bell is deserving of wider recognition, but he seems to care less about the recognition.  According to Harold, “My success is based on not getting stuck on stupid with stupid people.  I give all the glory to God and the strong black women who raised me.” 

Amy Tyler Bell aka “Grandme Bell”

Let’s take a brief look at Harold’s career and read why I wrote this blog.

Harold Bell is a fourth-generation Washingtonian.  His great-grandfather the Rev. James Tyler laid the first brick to build historical Mount Airy Baptist Church in 1893.  The church is located on North Capitol and L Streets, NW in the shadows of the Nation’s Capitol.  There were 4 Bell boys, he was the only one born in Brooklyn, NY.

In high school, he was an all-around athlete at Spingarn where he thought he was the straw that stirred the drink (1956-58).  He was a frequent resident of  his coaches’ “Dog House.” One game his coach Dave Brown locked him in the school bus at half-time, simply because he wanted the ball when the game was on the line.   Spingarn was also the home of NBA Hall of Famers, Elgin Baylor, and Dave Bing. 

Harold and other student/athletes saying “Thank You” to coach Dave Brown and his family during Nike/Inside Sports tribute in his honor.

 

As a teenager growing up in a single-parent home, Harold Bell was a “Caddie” on the weekends at the exclusive all-white Burning Tree Golf Course in Bethesda, Maryland. He took on this task to help his mother to make ends meet (food and shelter). In 1957 t he began a friendship with club member Richard Nixon. Yes, that same Richard Nixon who went on to become President of the United States. Years later Bell was quoted as saying Nixon “was the first white man that ever acted as if he cared about me.” Harold Bell is a fourth-generation Washingtonian. His great-grandfather the Rev. James Tyler laid the first brick to build Mount Airy Baptist Church in 1893. The church is located on North Capitol and L Streets, NW in the shadows of the Nation’s Capitol.

 

In 1963, after leaving Winston-Salem State College before graduating he spend two years in the minor leagues chasing his NFL dreams without any success.  He returned home to work for the United Planning Organization in 1965. The organization hired three Neighborhood Workers for its self-help program –Petey Greene, H. Rap Brown and Harold Bell.

In 1967 Harold Bell met Muhammad Ali on the campus of Howard University as he mesmerized several hundred students as he explained why he refused to be drafted into the U. S. Army and the topc of racism in America.  He volunteered to take Ali on a walking tour of the Georgia Ave. NW corridor and the rest is sports media and community history.

In 1968, Harold was caught in the middle of the riots that rocked inner-cities all around this country after the shooting death of our Prince of Peace, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.  For three days he walked the U Street NW corridor with nothing but a DC MPD police badge. The badge was issued to him by his friend Assistant Chief Tilmon O’Bryant to help get him through the police and military barricades set-up around the city.

 

In 1969 he was in the right place at the right time again when President Richard M. Nixon was touring the riot-torn area in Shaw/Cardozo in NW DC. He later contacted the President via a written letter to the White House. He received a Presidential Appointment to the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports. 

 

He coordinated and organized recreation and mentoring programs for troubled youth on area military installations.   He moved over to the Department of Defense (DOD) one year later.  He found the first-ever Half-Way House for juvenile delinquents on a military installation in 1971 on Bolling Air Force Base in SE DC. He recruited DC Superior Court judges, pro athletes to mentor the kids in the half-way house.

Bolling Boys Base (Bolling AFB SE DC)

 

Bell’s reputation was such that his friend local radio and TV host Petey Greene, (the “coolest” dude in the city) gave him 5-minutes on his WOL Sunday radio talk show “Petey Greene’s Washington,” every Sunday evening he and Petey would talk sports.  In 1972 Bell ventured out to become the first black to produce and host a sports talk show, “Inside Sports.”  The show ran for decades primarily on black gospel radio stations, W-O-O-K, WYCB, W-U-S-T, and WPFW radio. The Inside Sports format changed the way we talked about sports in America and the world.  Harold Bell was the first to blend sports and politics into a sports talk show format.

In November 1975, he became the first black to host and produce a television sports special in prime time.  The show aired on NBC affiliate WRC-TV 4 on November 23, 1975.  His special guest was The Greatest, Muhammad Ali.

Harold Bell was the first sports radio host to play message music and host media round tables. He changed the way we talked about sports in America and around the world.  DC Sports columnist Dick Heller called him “The Godfather of sports talk in America.” 

Dale Hansen is a nationally known sportscaster and author of a commentary on “White Privilege” in America. He said, “Harold this is Dale Hansen in Dallas. My accomplishments in sports broadcasting are nothing but peeling off the wall of White Privilege compared to your accomplishments.” See link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mTWMUhYG0Y8/

I find it rather strange how Mr. Hansen could adopt the Inside Sports talk format and become a hero.  His commentary relating to “White Privilege” had him in demand on national television all over the country.  In the meantime, Harold Bell had difficulty being invited on a local podcast (White Privilege)!

The “Inside Sports” format featured topics on racism in sports and America. This format was frowned upon at that time. ESPN just returned to “The Good Old Days” after following Harold Bell’s lead for over 4 decades of blending sports and politics, ESPN’s new President Jimmy Pitaro send out a memo to all of his broadcasters and talk show host telling them to “Stick to Sports!”  ESPN will no longer will tolerate “Freedom of Speech” over its airwaves!

 

Harold Bell never conducted a “softball” interview. If you went on his show or agreed to be interviewed you better be ready for hard and honest questions that dealt with the issues. The man studied and did his homework in advance. Don’t take my word for it. Go back and listen to his interviews with Muhammad Ali, Red Auerbach, George Foreman, Don King, Andre Agassi, Jim Brown, Sugar Ray Leonard, Dr. Harry Edwards, and the late boxing historian Bert Randolph Sugar.

Harold campaigned to help get Green Bay Packer great Willie Wood inducted into the pro-Football Hall of Fame in 1989. In 2000, Harold hosted functions during NBA All-Star weekend in Washington, DC for Earl Lloyd.  Lloyd was the NBA’s first black player with the old Washington Capitals. The purpose of the event was to get Lloyd the attention needed to get him inducted into the NBA Hall of Fame.  He made his NBA debut in 1950.  He retired in 1960 and was finally inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2003.  Thanks to Harold Bell and the late NBA legend Red Auerbach and Washington Times sports columnist the late Dick Heller.  Wille and Earl were able to make it in while they could still smell the roses.

NFL and Green Bay Packer great Willie Wood inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in 1989

NBA pioneer Earl Lloyd inducted into the NBA Hall of Fame in 2003

 

Harold didn’t stop at getting people inducted into their Hall of Fames, he helped get people out of jail.  Just ask NFL Hall of Famer Jim Brown and local high school and playground legends, Jo Jo Hunter and the late Bernard Levi and numerous other athletes.  Harold also helped athletes who were deserving of wider recognition. There were athletes like Gary Mays, a multi-sport star at all-black Armstrong High and a local Washington, DC, playground legend despite having lost his left arm in a childhood gun accident. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gf50v2egyNk

 

Harold and his wife Hattie were married in 1968 and started a foundation for at-risk children, “Kids In Trouble”, thousands of children have benefited from their annual toy party leading to successful and productive lives for hundreds.  He and Hattie were the host and coordinators of 45 straight years of Christmas toy parties without grants or loans. The NBA, NFL, MLB and NHL have all followed his lead in reaching back into the community.

CBS/NFL films videotape Redskins RB Larry Brown and LB Harold McLinton teaching water safety to inner-city kids. This was the first-ever NFL community promo. The promo took place at the Kids In Trouble Saturday Program in NW DC. 

 

There are times I am led to believe that Harold Bell goes into a phone booth and changes into a Super Man costume. For example; In 1969 he walked into the indoor swimming pool at his Kids In Trouble Saturday Program and found one his kids lying face-down on the bottom of the pool.  He jumped in and pulled him out only to discover that no one knew how to administer CPR (Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation).  He picked the child up off the pool floor and ran two blocks soaking wet to Children’s Hospital to save his life.

 

In 2007 he arrived at the Potomac Avenue subway station in SE DC to find a young girl lying on the subway tracks with folks just looking on.  As he started to jump on the tracks to rescue the child a wise subway employee told him that would not be a smart move. He said, “There is a live rail that could electrocute you and the child.”  He and the employee decided to lie down flat on their stomachs and reach out to the young girl to try to convince her to reach out to them. The child did not respond and just stared back at them.  Suddenly Harold notices the lights were blinking under him indicating a train was arriving at the station maybe just a minute out. With sweat running down his face and scared as hell, he yelled at the child at the top of his voice, “Give me your Goddam hand girl.” She reached up and they pulled her to safety seconds before the train arrived. He later found out the child was 14 years old and Autistic.

 

I’ve seen Harold Bell interact with children. He doesn’t publicize a lot of what he does to encourage children to grow up to be good citizens. I’ve seen what he’s done with my son. Together, they do a YouTube show.

 

Whether you like him or not, Harold Bell has proven to be a man of great character and integrity.  He is a man for all seasons and all people. The bottom-line; Harold Bell went where there was no path and left a trail for others to follow–that is my two cents.

Here are some other notables and what they have to say about Harold Bell.

“Harold and I have a lot in common. He too has persevered and stood fast for the principles in which he believes.” — Muhammad Ali

“Harold I am so proud to see you have returned to work with young people whose lives once resembled your very own.” — President Richard Nixon

“Harold, you help prepare me for the NBA” — Dave Bing (NBA Hall of Fame)

“Harold Bell has always provided a platform for those without one” — Jim Brown (NFL)

“Harold, I am the Welterweight Champion of the World today because you were there when no one else was.” — Sugar Ray Leonard, Boxing Hall of Fame

“Harold has always been a voice for people who didn’t have a voice. He has always called them as he saw them. He has been an inspiration and motivation for me and a lot of other black broadcasters.” — James Brown (NFL CBS Sports)

“Harold you have always been a voice for the people and we love you for it.” Judge Luke C. Moore — (DC Superior Court)

“Harold Bell is a unique sportscaster, former athlete, youth leader and social critic all Rolled into one.” — Bill Taaffe, (Washington Star/Sports IIIustrated)

“Harold Bell and Inside Sports makes sense.” — Red Auerbach (NBA Hall of Fame)

“Harold Bell maybe controversial but I have yet to hear anyone call him a liar.” — Earl Lloyd (NBA Hall of Fame)

“Harold Bell is a One Man Community Action Program. I don’t think I have ever met anyone like him. ” — Nicholas Blatchford (Columnist Washington Star Newspaper)

“Harold I thank you and my office staff thanks you for allowing us to be a part of your annual Christmas toy party for needy children.” — Senator Strom Thurmond (R-SC)

“Harold Bell is the Godfather of sports talk—the good kind.” — Dick Heller, Washington Times

“Harold Bell is the Heavyweight Champion of sports talk.” — Don King (Boxing Hall of Fame)

“Sports talk as you see it today all started in Washington, DC with Harold Bell and Inside Sports.” — Johnny Sample (NFL Legend)

“Harold you can be a tough man sometimes but your work with children is commendable.” — John Thompson, (Georgetown University)

“Harold Bell if you had been white you would be a millionaire. People would have been calling Howard Cosell the black Harold Bell.” — Gene Kilroy (Ali Business Manager)

“As his own success took him out of the projects, he could not forget who he once was and where he came from.” — Lou Stokes (D-Ohio)

“No one is indispensable, but there are some people more necessary than others, Harold Bell is one of those people.” — Washington Star Newspaper Editorial

“Harold you are my hero” — Dave McKenna City Paper

“Harold Bell is a One Man Community Action Program and this city is far better place for him remembering where he came from.” — Washingtonian Magazine

“Harold, I have always admired the warrior inside of you. If we had more journalists like you, we would own this town instead of letting all the cheer-leading media scam artists have their way. People are just too weak minded to resist. That’s sad, but true.” — Sports Columnist Rick Snider

“Harold, I want to personally thank you for being my champion” — Willie Wood NFL Hall of Fame

“Harold, congratulations, your archives are valuable and should be given the broadest possible exposure. Your discs and videos of your programs belong in the new Smithsonian Institution of the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC). A wing of the new museum will be dedicated to the struggle in sports and will be titled “Leveling the Playing Field”. Your work was a major force over the years in leveling the playing field, especially in terms of the struggle to define and project “Our Truth!” Dr. Harry Edwards  

 

 

 

 

 

RACISM HIGHLY QUESTIONABLE?

by Chris Johnson

ESPN’s Dan Le Bartard host of Highly Questionable says, “This isn’t about politics it’s about race.” He questions ESPN’S motive, “Let us just stick to sports”, the ultimatum issued by its new president.

In 1972 the Original Inside Sports talk show made its debut on W-O-O-K Radio in Washington, DC and sports talk radio and television have never been the same. Harold Bell and his Inside Sports talk show format changed the way we talk sports in America and around the world–no question about it!

Along with that success came “White Privilege” owners Katerine and her son Don Graham of the Washington Post who stole/kidnapped his tag Inside Sports. The Inside Sports Magazine was published in New York City by News Week a subsidiary of the Washington Post IN 1979. They never match the popularity of his radio talk show and folded and disappeared two years later after losing several million dollars.

Harold Bell was the first personality to blend sports/politics into a sports talk show–unheard of in radio and television in the 70s and 80s.

William Taaffe radio and television critic for the Washington Star Newspaper (later Sports Illustrated Magazine) wrote in 1980 eight-years after the Inside Sports talk show made its debut, “Most radio sports talk shows do not contain intimate bits of verse set to music (Wake Up Everybody, One Day We Will All be Free, Respect Yourself, Black and Proud, etc.).

Neither do most shows feature stimulating discussions (media roundtables) about drug use in sports, racism within the NFL, abuse of naive athletes by agents (Adrian Dantley and Dave Falk, etc.) and inspirational messages about life on the streets of Washington, DC. But then Harold Bell is a unique–sports announcer, former athlete, youth advocate and social critic all rolled into one.

Inside Sports rules the roost because of content, freshness and a crusading kind of honesty. As bell says, ‘Most people love to hear the truth so long as it is about someone else’. 

He set the ground rules and format for his show from the very beginning. He reminded us that we are all in this struggle together. He closed his shows saying, “Every blackface I see is not my brother and every white face I see is not my enemy.” 

The Auerbachs, Dotie, and Red were among the first high profile celebrities to embrace Inside Sports and Kids In Trouble.

Virginia Sailor teammate Joe Mona and Harold are seen sharing the ball during a team photo opt

Unlike today’s sports radio and television talk show host, he was a community legend long before he became a sports talk show legend. He was truly a brother in the struggle trying to save the lives and enhance the growth of young people regardless of the color of their skin or ethnicity throughout the District, Maryland, and Virginia.

A rainbow of elementary school children enjoyed the annual KIT Christmas Toy party at the Marriott Hotel in Crystal City. He says, “Children are not born racist–racism is taught.”

In 1972 NFL Films/CBS taped the first-ever community promo at the Kids In Trouble Saturday Program in Washington, DC. Redskins’ RB Larry Brown and the late LB Harold McLinton are videotaped teaching water safety. NFL, NBA, MLB, and NHL all followed Kids In Trouble and Inside Sports into the community.

New ESPN President Jimmy Pitaro threw his entire talk show host and writing team under the bus in July when he said, “I understand my on-air talent feeling compelled to speak out. But I also recognize that when I or one of our on-air personalities speak publicly that is received as the opinions of ESPN, and that cannot be. We look at what our fans are telling us.” 

With that statement, he gave Skip Bayless, Shannon Sharp, Jason Whitlock, and the other sports talk show host outside the lines of ESPN the upper-hand in sports reporting.  Using a disclaimer was highly questionable!

For anyone to say sports and politics don’t mix don’t know their history and the struggles of boxing great Jack Johnson, Paul Roberson, Jesse Owens, Jackie Robinson, Curt Flood, Tommie Smith, John Carlos, and Muhammad Ali.

Presidents who led this great nation depended on sports as an outlet from the everyday grind of the White House. Dwight Eisenhower was an avid golfer, Richard Nixon played college football and golf. He was also a big fan of NFL Redskin Coach George Allen. He visited Redskin Park during his tenure at the White House. Gerald Ford played college football at the University of Michigan, Barack Obama loved to play pick-up basketball and Donald Trump plays golf around the world. When was it that sports and politics didn’t mix?

The weekend of August 3, 2019, will go down as one of the bloodiest weekends in American history. The residents of Dayton, Ohio and El Palso, Texas were blinded-sided by gunmen who committed mass murder in their small towns. The two gunmen have been described as “White Supremacist”! 

In 1972 Harold Bell and the Original Inside Sports’ format set the bar pretty high for talk radio and television none have matched his common sense, book sense and street sense approach to covering sports from the playground to the White House and beyond.

The hottest topic in America today is “Guns” everything else is a distant second. There are more guns in America then there are people! More people are murdered in America by guns than any other place in the world included war.

ESPN’s “Highly Questionable” host Dan Le Batard is back on air after he questioned the role of President Donald Trump and ESPN’s role as it relates to racism in America. His voice was the loudest after Trump’s followers in a campaign rally in North Carolina broke out with chants of ” Send her back” when Trump continued his cry relating to the four Democratic freshmen congresswomen, including Somalia born IIhan Omar. Earlier, Trump had tweeted and reaffirmed in pubic appearances that the four women should “Go back” to their “totally broken and crime-infested countries “, even though three are U. S. born citizens.

In the meantime, ESPN talk show host Dan Le Bartard a 50-year-old son of Cuban immigrants called the rally “un-American” and said it exposed a racial division in this country that’s being encouraged by the president.”

He also said, “ESPN doesn’t talk about what is happening unless there is some sort of weak cowardly sports angle that we run it through. This isn’t about politics its about race. There is a racial division in this country that’s being instigated by the president. It is so wrong what the president of our country is doing, trying to get reelected by dividing the masses at a time when the old white man, the old, rich white man feels oppressed being attack by minorities, black people, brown people, women—that’s who he is going after now.”

These are similar words used by NBA superstar LeBron James during his HBO special in a barbershop setting. He quickly had to eat his words and apologize to those he called, “Old NFL white men owners who were running their teams like plantations.”

The latest, the Russians are taking notes and running paid ads on social media to fan the flames of racism in America. It is “Highly Questionable” where will we go from here?

 

Chris Johnson is a writer and contributor to Black Men in America blog/www.blackmennamerica.com 

 

 

 

ATHLETES AND POLITICIANS: CHILDREN ARE STILL NOT FIRST–GUNS ARE!

In December 1968 Kids In Trouble host its first Christmas toy party.  Santa Claus is my Virginia Sailor teammate, the late LB George Kelly.  The Sailors were a minor league football team for the Washington Redskins.

Santa’s Helpers: Redskin LB Dave Robinson–LB Harold McLinton (Santa)–WR Roy Jefferson listen as DC Superior Court Judge Luke C. Moore gives the welcome address during the annual KIT toy party.

In 1968 NFL legend and Hall of Fame player Willie Wood of the Green Bay Packers along with U. S. Marshall in-Charge Luke C. Moore and I walked arm in arm down the U Street NW corridor during the 1968 riots. Our goal was to save as many lives as possible in one of the worst riots in DC history.

Little kids looting during the riots and today are dying in those same streets

Young people’s blood is flowing in the streets in DC and nearby Baltimore at record rates.  Today, 50 years later I have lost count of how many young people I have lost (gun violence, jail, drugs, incarceration, etc.) too many to count.  DC and Baltimore are on track to add to its data base a record number of homicides.  Guess who the victims are!

I am more familiar with how many lives I have saved at this stage of the game.  It seems like they are popping up everywhere.  Robert Glen a young man who lived across the street from my mother-in-law in Suitland, Maryland.  He is a graduate of Morehouse College.  He is in the class where billionaire philanthropist Robert F. Smith paid off 40 million dollars in student debt.  Little Robert was a 12-year-old hotshot basketball player in the neighborhood with a hoop attached over his garage door.  He challenged me one day and I took him to hoop and beat him.  He was in shocked.  He asked me to play another game and I refused (I was 70 years old).  We played friendly games of H-O-R-S-E thereafter.  He recently thanked me along with his parents for being a role model to him.  I guess he never got over the shock of an old man beating him. You never know who is watching.

In June I encountered another one of my young men driving a UPS truck on a busy street corner on Capitol Hill.  I was there preparing for my “We Remember Muhammad Ali” tribute at the Miracle Theatre.  He was once a young wannabe thug hanging out on the corner of 7th & T Streets, NW.  I was trying to be a mentor, but he disappeared without a trace and no one seems to know his whereabouts.  He told me he had been locked up in jail for the past 8 years and he had just been released a year ago.  UPS gave him a second chance to get his life back on track and he wanted to thank me for reaching out to him when he was a knucklehead.  I cannot remember his name if it would save my life!

Antonio Logan-EL was a two-year-old kid hanging out with his grandfather when I met him.  I watched him grow into a 300 pound promising All-American football player at Forrestville High School in Forrestville, Maryland.  The story of how he got from Point A to Point B (elementary to high school) is interesting.

Three-year-old Antonio Logan-El is front and center sitting on a Baby Grand Piano at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in downtown DC.  The occasion, the Kids In Trouble Life Time Achievement Awards.  His proud grandfather a recipient is standing on the left George Logan-El.

Santa’s helpers (NFL, NBA, MLB) have played important roles in my community endeavors, for example; Marc Logan is a 10-year vet and a former NFL RB he played with the Redskins from 1995-1997.

Antonio and his Little League teammates were the guests of Marc Logan at Redskin Park in 1996 and his guest as he co-hosted several KIT toy parties.

Antonio’s grandfather the late Dr. George Logan-El was my friend and partner in the community.  He was a native Washingtonian, a dropout, former ex-con, junkie and well-known drug abuser in The Hood.  George is the best example of someone who pulled himself up by his bootstraps without the straps.  He led by example, he cleaned himself up and went back to school and earned his GED, college degree and his Ph.D. in social work.  He helped find “The Untouchables” a group of at-risk young men in the Alexandria, Virginia school system.

In the meantime, George a single parent was trying to go to school and raise his daughter Nichole a single parent with a young son named Antonio and nephew Chris.

The late Dr. George Logan-El and Grandson Antonio Logan-El today.

Marc was an inspiration to Antonio and KIT youth.  He reached back with no strings attached.  He didn’t just talk the talk, he walked the walk.


Marc congratulates pro boxing Featherweight Champion Mark ‘Too Sharp’ Johnson. L-R DC Boxing Commissioner the late Dr. Arnold McKnight, NFL legend Lenny Moore, NFL RB George Nock, NBA legend Sam Jones and I look on.

Antonio’s grandfather died of cancer before he was supposed to make his ill-fated college football debut at Penn State.  I promised George on his death bed that I would keep a close eye on his grandson, but sometimes you have to let go and let God (see link below).

https://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/highschools/former-top-penn-state-recruit-antonio-logan-el-finds-peace-beyond-football-as-openly-gay-man/2014/05/28/c384abe2-e0f9-11e3-9743-bb9b59cde7b9_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.7c223998da0b/

Despite failed NFL dreams, a few hiccups in his life’s journey, Antonio graduated college and has followed in his grandfather’s footsteps.  Today he is somewhere working with at-risk children in the DMV.

Marc attends KIT gospel concert at Bible Way Church in NW DC as Apostle James Silver makes a presentation as I look on.  He picked up where former Redskins left off, the late LB Harold McLinton, Roy Jefferson, Ted Vactor, Dave Robinson, and Doug Williams.  Marc is back home in Lexington, Kentucky with his eyes on the prize.  He is looking for a building to open a Charter School.

President Trump’s recent attack on Baltimore and its popular congressman, Elijah Cummings didn’t go over well but it had some merit.  In Baltimore, there were 175 victims with fatal head wounds in 2018 which accounted for 57% of the homicides.  More than 150 people have been killed through the end of June of 2019 a 17% increase in homicides over the same period last year.  Counting non-fatal gunfire more than 500 people were shot–an increase of more than 25%.  Their neighbor 30 miles to the south Washington, DC the homicide rate is up 5% from 93 in 2018 to 98 in 2019.  There is a “Health Crisis” in DC and Baltimore in the black community, but no one seems to care, especially the black athlete.  There is one exception in DC, meet Washington Mystics’ player Natasha Cloud.  She has more balls than most male role models and superstars Bradley Beal and John Wall of the Wizards.  In a video she called out Mayor Muriel Bowser and leadership in Ward 8 one of the most dangerous communities where the Wild-Wild West is played out on any given night.  Leadership is pretending to be deaf-mutes to the violence surrounding them, but it all starts at the top! (see link).  https://wjla.com/news/local/wnba-player-demands-answers-after-dc-school-shooting?fbclid=IwAR2z0qQ5SHA33OAvFefxjjhOEug_2O3LNB0w_ipcvHyPEDQoWsAnyOr3jbM

I remember it was 1974 because of the violent overtones of the name Washington Bullets, the late owner Abe Polin wanted to change the name before moving the team to DC from Landover, Maryland.  After much debate the new name would be Wizards–still 45 years later the murder rate has skyrocketed–much to do over nothing.

The Wizard’s organization and its players are under the impression of going into the community and giving away toys, and turkeys will help bring the crime rate down in the community.  A recent press release read, “NBA All-Star John Wall and the John Wall Family Foundation (JWFF) will host a Back to School Backpack Giveaway on Saturday, Aug. 3rd. This is the sixth consecutive year that Wall and his foundation have held this event.  After this year’s event, the JWFF will have donated over 6,500 backpacks to students in the Washington, D.C. and Raleigh, NC areas.

It is too bad that John and the Wizard’s organization didn’t think to make the backpacks equip with bulletproof vests.

I hated to see Paul Pierce leave the organization he could have help these young guys grow into men.

The organization is clueless for example, their PR staff had a racist leader in charge and he despised blacks in media including me.  The Roundball Report a PG County cable television show had made a request for press credentials for several of their female reporters including Christy Winters Scott (now a Wizard’s contributor).  The PR guy gave them a hard time and the run around on several requests.  Andrew Dyer the host and producer of the show ask me to see what the problem was.  I requested a meeting with the PR guy.  Instead, I meet with another member of the staff, Scott Hall and one of his go-fers by the name of Darren Jenkins.  Problem solved, but I smelled a rat.  They fired the problem PR guy and put Scott Hall in charge, years later they bring the racist PR guy back through the “Back Door” (he now works for the Mystics).

I have said on many occasions that some white folks don’t know when they are being racist because they have never had to walk in a black man’s shoes—meet Ted Leonis and Scott Hall all this BS starts at the top and filters down.

The organization recently fired GM Ernie Grumfield after 16 years of FREE money and no progress (White Privilege).  With Grumfield gone Ted Leonis decided to restructure the Wizard/Monumental Sports with a new leadership team.

According to Leonis, “We have formed a new leadership team with a forward-thinking structure to adapt to the ‘new NBA’ that requires every possible strategic advantage to compete and win.  We are building a leadership brain trust with deep Wizards/NBA experience and with sports professionals from inside and outside the NBA to challenge our thinking and adapt to an ever-increasing competitive environment.”

The New Brain Trust: Ted Leonsis, Tommy Sheppard, Sashi Brown, Daniel Medina, John Thompson III, and Mike Thibault.

When I saw the name John Thompson III I knew it was the blind leading the blind (‘Today’s Good Old Boy Network’ welcomes a few token blacks).  Anyone in bed with John Thompson II could careless about people of color.  Thompson was quoted in the Washington Post Magazine saying, “My favorite color ins green”!

Pro basketball fans in the DMV have little or no opportunity to see NBA championship basketball in their lifetime.  Racism is so thick in today’s America you could easily cut it with a knife.  I received the press release relating to the organization structure the day after the event.  It was emailed to me by one the team’s designated Go-fers, Darren Jenkins!  Did anyone notice they quietly slipped Dwight Howard out that same “Back Door” hoping no one would notice!   They finally realize he brought too much baggage to the organization and everyone seem to know but Ernie Grumfield.

PR man Scott Hall tried “Back Door” me by sending Howard to one of our juvenile facilities to talk with at-risk kids.  The entourage included, a Washington Post beat writer and former Washington Post/NBA TNT analyst Dave Aldridge.  I immediately called Hall out for No. 1 assigning Howard with all his baggage to talk with young black boys who maybe aware of the baggage he brings with him.  No. 2 he assign his in-house media who had no history of working in the inner-city with at-risk young boys, and had never been in a juvenile facility in the DMV!  The visit and photo opt never took place, Howard developed a strange problem with his ‘Backside’! 

P. S. When they didn’t resign play by play man Steve Buckhantz, I was through with them.  Steve was the best play by play man to ever step in the building.  He was a class act for 22 years and he carried himself accordingly.  Steve I wish you nothing but the best.  You deserve better.

 

 

 

 

ESPN TURNS CLOCK BACK TO BLACK AND WHITE TELEVISION: “STICK TO SPORTS”!

Legends of Inside Sports (1972):  Richard Nixon and Muhammad Ali two of the most controversial personalities in American history.  A time when politics and Inside Sports collided was no coincident.

ESPN President Jimmy Pitaro just sold his entire staff of broadcasters and writers out to pro sports owners with his latest ultimatum “Stick to Sports”!  It is going to be very interesting to watch and hear ESPN broadcasters and writers dance around trying to keep their balance while trying to talk sports and not mix politics.  Most of these guys cannot chew bubble gum and walk a straight line.

Talking sports and politics were unheard before Inside Sports.  The Inside Sports talk show format made its debut on W-O-O-K radio in 1972 in Washington, DC.  Sports talk radio, television and print media has never been the same.  Inside Sports changed the way we talk sports in America and around the world.  The Original Inside Sports was the first sports media format to successfully blend sports and politics.  Every radio and television sports talk show heard and seen in the world today is a copy of the Original Inside Sports. The format has often been imitated but never duplicated!

First, the Washington Post newspaper and owners Katherine Graham and her son Donald kidnapped the tag Inside Sports, it was much like Christopher Columbus discovering America.  In 1978 the mother and son carried the tag to New York City and published “Inside Sports Magazine”.  They then copyrighted the tag making it officially their very own.  The magazine failed losing several million dollars before the Grahams closed shop saying, “No Mas”!

ESPN was the first broadcast media to copy the Inside Sports format.  A fired Community Relations Manager from the NHL Scott Rasmussen watched as the Inside Sports Magazine failed and decided to try the format on television.  Sports Center was the original vehicle, Out Side the Lines, 30-30 and East 60, etc all followed.

Inside Sports was Out Side the Lines and Real Sports long before Bob Levy/ESPN and Byrant Gumble/HBO Real Sports.  It was unheard of to play message music or have media roundtables with different journalist participating.   In 2019 forty-seven years later new ESPN President Jimmy Pitaro has sent out a memo to the entire ESPN staff saying, “Stick to Sports”!  This will make the ESPN format the leader in “FAKE NEWS”!  ESPN has decided to make sports talk a dictatorship.

The bottom-line, I set the table for sports talk in America.  My talk show format was unique because I was a community legend long before I became a sports talk show legend.  My work in the inner-city with at-risk children got its start with the self-help community organization UPO (United Planning Organization).

In 1965 UPO Director/CEO Jim Banks hired three Neighborhood Workers to patrol the Shaw/Cardozo corridor of NW DC.  Our assignment was to assist and enhance the lives of inner-city youth.  I learned politics from the ground up watching the first Black Mayor Walter Washington and Mr. Banks maneuver and play a game of chess with white politicians on The Hill who controlled the DC budget.  They were trying to get our fair share from a group of politicians who could have cared less–sound familiar!

Mr. Banks hired the late Petey Greene, H Rap Brown and yours truly.  Petey Greene would later become a legendary radio and television talk show host.  He would open his show saying, “I will tell it to the young and tell it to the old, there will be no lying and signifying”.  H Rap Brown would become a Civil Rights icon when he became the 5th chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinator Committee (SNN).  He later moved on to become the Minister of Justice for The Black Panther Party (his story is still on-going).  I parlayed my UPO experience into a winner when I met Muhammad Ali on the campus of Howard University in 1967.  UPO later gave a grant to the DC Department of Recreation and Parks to hire additional Roving Leaders for their elite youth gang task force.  I was made a part of the grant package.

In 1967 against all odds ex-con Petey Greene became a radio talk show host on W-O-L Radio.  Every Sunday afternoon Petey Greene’s Washington became must listen to radio in the black community.  He gave me 5 minutes to talk sports (Redskins).  I remember I was hanging out in the U Street corridor one afternoon and I encountered Petey.  He said, “Your man is down on 7th street touring the riot area”!  My response, “My Man”?  He laughed and said, “The President of the United States Richard Nixon”.

Petey and I both were caddies at the Burning Tree Golf Course in suburban, Maryland in the late 50s.  Nixon was then Vice-President and a member of the exclusive all-white golf course.  There were no blacks or women allowed membership.  I became a caddy on the weekends for Nixon and William Rogers who was then the Secretary of State.  In 1969 thanks to Petey I was able to parlay that 7th street encounter into lunch at the White House and a Presidential appointment.

In 1972 I parlayed my 5 minutes on his talk show into my own sports talk radio show “Inside Sports” aired on W-O-O-K radio.


Politics & Sports:  Here I am seen with Mayor Walter Washington and with my high school Coach Dave Brown.  I am thanking coach for saving my life.  In high school, I was trying to go to hell in a hurry!

While ESPN calls itself the World Wide Leader in sports there has been much criticism which includes, accusations of biased coverage, conflict of interest and controversy with individual broadcasters and analysts–former ESPN talk show host Jemele Hill was suspended for calling President Trump a white Supremacist.  This is par for the course in this cut-throat business.

In January 2016 ESPN had been seen in 91,405,00 paid television households (78.527 of household with at least one television set).  The Nielsen ratings (the bible for radio and tv advertising) reported a much lower number in 2017, the number of subscribers fell below 90,000,000.  ESPN was losing more than 10, 000 subscribers a day.

The network hit the panic button this was interfering with their bottom-line (MONEY).  When they discovered the problem causing them to lose their bottom-line was the black athlete (Colin Kapernick), all hell broke loose.  NFL owner Jerry Jones led the charge and was joined by President Trump.  His slogan and battle cry became “Fire the son of a bitch”.  In pro sports when it is green vs black or black vs white—black is usually the loser.  NFL players are no longer seen on their knees and Kapernick is rumored to have sold out for 10 million dollars (NFL petty cash).

The NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, Pitaro, ESPN and President Don Trump fail to understand their bottom-line problem is not the black athlete—it is racism which is embedded into the fabric of pro sports!

The bottom-line; I sit the table for sports talk in America.  ESPN has decided to make sports talk a dictatorship and take us back to television and America heard and seen in black and white!

Dan LaBartard of ESPN maybe the first casualty of this guideline written into the ESPN bylaws “Stick to Sports”!  He pulled the covers off of White Privilege in America when he called out Donald Trump on his chant “Send Her Back” as it related to four Congresswomen of color who disagreed with his racial policies.

This commentary you would never hear from any black radio or television sports talk show host working for ESPN.  In an impassioned response to Donald Trump’s chant “Send them back” LaBartard said, sports broadcasters must comment on race relations–in particular what he called un-American “Chants of sending them back” directed at Democratic congresswoman IIhan Omar, a Somali refugee, and an American citizen.  The Plantations continue!  Click on the link below and pay close attention to the in-studio staff as LaBartard makes his case against Trump and racism in America.  ESPN’s slogan will soon be known as the leader in Fake News World Wide.  Stay tuned.
https://www.usatoday.com/…/espn-dan-le-batard-re…/39702219/

https://deadspin.com/new-espn-president-jimmy-pitaro-is-rea…

 

WHILE KIDS DIE—I REMEMBER CALVIN WOODLAND!

 

 

Eleven year old Karon Brown was among seven people in a period of 5 days shot dead in DC.  Every child that dies by gun violence in DC, Maryland and Virginia, I consider them a personal lost.  I am all in when it comes to our children no matter their ethnicity.

Karon’s violent death hit close to home.  He attended Stanton Elementary school and he was a member of the Woodland Tigers football team, once known as the Woodland Raiders.  The team was found by my partner, youth advocate and DC boxing legend the late Calvin Woodland.

The Woodland Raiders practiced on the field adjacent to the school.  Calvin was the CEO and coach of the team.  He ran the team with an iron fist (sometimes literally).  I was his assistant coach and I had his back and he had mine.

The kids and their parents trusted, loved and respected him.  The Woodland Raiders became legends in the community and were the pride of SE Washington.  I remember when his son little Alexis was born and became the apple of his father’s eye.  Big Calvin was a great all-around athlete, football, basketball, baseball and his first love boxing–he excelled in them all.

Little Alexis grew up to be a decent athlete but nothing like his father.  Sometimes Calvin pushed him a little too hard not wanting to show favoritism and little Alexis would rebel.  When Calvin suffered a stroke and died suddenly in January 2010 it shook up the community and especially little Alexis.  Calvin was 60 years old.

I tried to become a mentor to little Alexis, but he was stubborn like his father and I eventually lost him when I moved to Bowie, Maryland.  Someone shot and killed him in the streets of SE DC.

That is me with my left arm wrapped around little Alexis and my right arm wrapped around gospel singer Robin ‘Sugar’ Williams.   We were the guest of gospel artist Ed Gerald on his gospel television show on TV 7 in NW DC.

That is little Alexis standing front and center at my annual Kids In Trouble Christmas toy party.  NFL legend Jim Brown is Santa’s Helper at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in NW DC.

Children from all walks of life enjoy a Kids In Trouble toy party at the Marriott Hotel in Rosslyn, Virginia.

Calvin Woodland is seen here with me and Don King.  He stood 5’3 but walked around in his SE neighborhood like Wilt Chamberlaim.  There was no Napoleon complex with him.  The likes of Calvin Woodland has been replaced by hustlers and frauds claiming to “Make Children First”!

This is for the kids who die to include eleven year old Karon Brown and the late Alexis Woodland all black young men.  It does not matter whether they were killed in the streets of DC or in Chicago by a cop’s gun or in the halls and classrooms of Sandy Hook, Columbine and Parkland by a classmate’s gun, but kids are certainly dying. There are good cops and bad cops, the good cops go along to get along. Their problem, they lack courage to say, “Enough is enough”.  The old and rich will live on awhile, as always, living in their gated communities, eating caviar and lining their pockets with gold, while letting little kids die.

Kids have died in the swamps of Mississippi organizing sharecroppers, kids have died in the orange groves of California just for telling others to organize and stick together, but kids have certainly died.

While, blacks, whites, Latinos, and Mexicans all kinds of kids will die because they don’t believe in stealing other people’s ideas and making them their own while becoming wealthy, selfish and dysfunctional, or the Capitol Hill gun lobbyist who tell lies, and bribe anybody and everybody at any cost.

There are politicians on both sides of the isle who are there to serve themselves and not the people—all the reasons while kids have died.

The wise of course and the learned will pen Fake News editorials in the papers, and the ladies and gents with Dr. in front of their names, white and black will live on pretending not to know or understand what is going on—while kids die.

There will be surveys and written reports with words to smother the kids who die.

And the sleazy courts and sleazy attorneys, and the bribe-taking police, and the blood-loving generals, and the money-loving preachers, will all raise their hands against the kids who will die, beating them with made up laws and clubs and bayonets and bullets, to frighten the people.

For the kids who die are like iron in the blood of the people—and the old and rich don’t want the people to taste the iron of the kids who die. They don’t want the people to get wise to their own power to believe in our youth of today, or even get together and listen to kids who die—Maybe, there will be no monument for them except in our hearts.

Maybe their bodies will be lost in swamp or a prison grave, or the potter’s field, or the jail where they are hung by their necks and they will call it suicide.

But the day will come—you can be assured that it is coming—when the marching feet of the masses will rise up for the kids who died with a living monument of love, and joy, and laughter. And black hands and white hands are joined together, with a song that reaches the sky—the song of the life triumphant–for the kids who died.  

 

 

THE BELLS: FLYING LIKE EAGLES AT 80 AND STILL MAKING A DIFFERENCE!

photo by Fred Shepard

L-R Hattie and I during the screening of “We Remember Muhammad Ali” on the big screen at the Miracle Theatre on Capitol Hill June 4th.  The debut made us the first husband and wife team to produce Muhammad Ali on the big screen.  Next photo celebrating her 80th Birthday July 6th.

I remember decades ago my Spingarn High School Coach Dave Brown explained to me the difference between chickens, turkeys, and Eagles.  Unbeknownst to me, I had just encountered a group of chickens and turkeys during a high school hall of fame induction banquet.   The DC Coaches Association was honoring DC High School Coaches in 1976.  The banquet was being held at the Fountain Blue Banquet Hall in Prince Georges County,  Coach Brown was an inductee.

The chickens, turkeys and the Usual Suspects were all high school coaches, teachers and administrators in the DC Public School system (they all know who they are).  Decades later, little has changed.

This group of men and women were entrusted with leading and showing our children how to be responsible and caring adults—not to be envious and jealous player-haters like most of them.  Leading the group were the Usual Suspects, Spingarn High School coaches the late Frank Parks, John Wood, and my friend Cardozo/HD Woodson coach Bob Headen.

Coach Dave Brown (hat in hand) and his staff.  L-R: Community volunteer, Mr. Chisholm, coaches, Roper McNair, and Ray Hammond.

Coach Brown who was a little under the weather had asked me if I would accept the induction award in his place—no problem.   My wife Hattie a former teacher in the system was by my side during the awards ceremony.   When it came time to accept the award on behalf of Coach Brown I was told by Mr. Parks I could not accept the award.  He did so without explanation, but while walking away he said, “Your wife can accept”.  I just looked at him and smiled!  Hattie accepted the award.

On my next visit to see Coach Brown at his home in NE DC to give him his award, I told him about the action and position taken by the DC Coaches Association.  He chuckled and reminded me that I would be encountering numerous chickens and turkeys in my life time.   He said, “Son your best bet is to fly like an Eagle above the clouds and avoid them”.

Still, I was so what surprised by the chickens and turkeys that I would encounter in the Game Called Life.  During my playing days as an all-around athlete at Spingarn High School, I thought I was the straw that stirred the drink.  Whenever I was on the field of play (Football, basketball, and baseball) I thought I was the best until the guy in front of me proved me wrong.  I never saw a football I could not catch, a basketball I could not shoot or a base I could not steal.  I play the Game of Life the same way–to win and not at all cost!

When the game was in doubt I wanted the ball and this kept me in hot water with my teammates and coaches.  Head Coach Dave Brown was the exception he looked the other and kept calling my number.  He did put his foot down in a game against our rival Phelps Vocational High School to let me know he was still in charge.  Phelps was our next door neighbor on “Education Hill”, located at 24th &  Benning Road in NE DC.

We were playing Phelps at Eastern High School on a Friday evening.   The game was important for us to win and maintane our hold on first place in the division.  The score was tied 0-0 headed into half-time with 30 seconds left on the clock.  The ball was in our possession in the Red Zone and Coach Brown called my number.  QB Donald Wills hit me with a perfectly timed down and out pass for the score, but I was off-side.  I jumped before the ball was snapped and the play was nullified.   As we were headed toward the bus for a half-time chat I verbally beat up my QB blaming him for not calling the signals loud enoug for me to hear.  I had no clue Coach Brown had heard my verbal beat down of my teammate.

On the bus, he went over some of the mistakes we made in the first half and then asked me what happen on the touchdown that was called back?  My feeble defense, “Wills was not calling the signals loud enough for me to hear”!  Coach’s response was short and quick, he said, “Son your position on the field as a wide receiver allows you to look down the line and watch for the snap of the ball”.  It was so quiet it seems like everyone was holding their breath waiting to exhale.   Coach broke the silence with, “Bell you keep your seat here on the bus son, and we will try to win this one without you”!  I could not believe my ears, he said, “Win without me”.  I could not wait to see this happen.

The scene on the bus reminded me years later when Denzel Washington played a crooked cop in his Academy Award winning performance in “Training Day”.  I wish I could have told Coach what Denzel told the residents in the Hood he patroled after they refused to assist him and held him at gun point until his righteous partner got out the Hood safely.  He said to the residents, “Do you know who the f–k I am, I am the police”.  I look back thinking that is what I felt like saying to Coach Brown when he locked me on the bus, “Do you know who the f–k I am, I am the best wide receiver on the planet”.  My dumb ass would have been walking back to Spingarn.  By the way, they won without me 6-0.  Wills ran a punt back 63 yards to win the game.   I had to suck up my pride and apologize to the coaching staff and my teammates for my selfish and bad behavior.  It was a lesson that was well learned—proving no man is truly and Island.

QB Donald Wills and me, Donald was the best all-around athlete on the football, basketball and baseball teams in 1957.  In memory, Melvin ‘Weasel,’ Jackson (Phelps) was a close second.

I think back to that moment at the DC Coaches Association Banquet, Bob Headen, Frank Parks, John Wood, and the Usual Suspects, out of all of them Headen should have known better.  Parks and Woods were two nobodies trying to be somebody.  I remember I was also critical of the coaches’ banquet being held in PG County instead of Washington, DC home of our public schools.

Headen and I had a long and storied sports history.  We both were outstanding all-around athletes and rivals in high school.  That rivary continued at HBCU schools, Winston-Salem State and St. Agustine Universities.  After college, our sports history brought us back to our hometown of DC.  We were teammates on the most successful and celebrated minor league football team to ever play in the Nation’s Capitol–the Virginia Sailors ( affiliate of the Washington Redskins).

John Cash, Bob Headen and me celebrating a Sailors’ championship win in Mobile, Ala.

During that Virginia Sailors era, Headen became the head football coach of Cardozo High School and I became a Roving Leader for the Department of Recreation & Parks (Youth Gang Task Force).  Headen recruited several teammates on the Sailor team as assistants for his high school team and I was one of them.

In the meantime, I was recruiting my wife Hattie a teacher and swimming coach at the school to say “I do” and to be my lawful bride.  We were married in November 1968 shortly after the riots nearly destroyed DC.

As Wide Receiver coach for the 1970 West All-Star Team.  Here I am showing and telling DC Public High School All-Stars, Wilson’s Wagner and Cardozo’s Stovall to catch ball in your hands and not their chest.

Alethia McCauley a teacher at Cardozo and Bob were married shortly after us.  I was named the Godfather of their first born, Robert Headen, Jr.  After the Sailors, Bob and I would become teammates on a touch football team calling themselves Bergman’s Laundry (sponsors).  The team would become one of the most feared in the Montgomery County Touch Football League.

In 1972 Bob would leave Cardozo and continue his legendary football coaching career at the brand new HD Woodson High School in NE DC.  In 1974 I became the first black to produce and host his own radio sports talk radio show in Washington, DC.  “Inside Sports” aired on W-O-O-K Radio.  The Inside Sports format changed the way we talk and report sports in America.  Bob would develop a powerhouse football team at HD Woodson.  His players were bigger than the NFL Washington Redskins and some thought they were better.  In some circles, they were known as “The Monsters of the Inter-High” as they ran through and over the competition.

There was one game that got my attention and I found it rather disturbing; HD Woodson was at least 60 players strong against a Phelps team who had less than 20 players in uniform.  When the final whistle was blown Bob still had his starters on the field.  The final score was HD Woodson 90 and Phelps 7.   I found this unacceptable coming from my friend and teammate.  What ever happen to sportsmanship and fair play taught by our coaches, Sal Hall, and Dave Brown?

The next day I called him out on my radio sports talk show “Inside Sports” for setting a bad example as a teacher and coach of young men.  This was definitely over kill!  He called me and ask for equal time to explain his position and reason for having his starters still in the game until the final whistle.  I granted him equal time and his rationale to this day still makes no sense.  He said, “I wanted my team to become the first DC Public High School to score 100 points against an opponent”!  I would guess the snub at the coaches banquet was his and the Usual Suspects’ revenge!

Let me name some of the local yokels who became chickens and turkeys in aphabetical order who have flowed in my airspace, Tim Baylor (NFL), Dave Bing (NBA), Kevin Blackistone (Washington Post/ESPN), Adrian Branch (NBA/ESPN), James Brown (CBS/NFL), Adrian Dantley (NBA), Cathy Hughes (Urban Radio & TV One), Cornelius Greene (Ohio State), Lamont Jordan (NFL), Sugar Ray Leonard (Boxing), Tony Paige (NFL), Donnie Simpson (BET/Urban Radio One), John Thompson (George Thompson), Mike Wilbon (ESPN), etc.

There are a few wannabees who are still hiding in the closet and think they are flying under my radar like Richard Evans and Clement Troutman (frauds).

Richard Evans in-closet con man and fraud

There are so many chickens and turkeys flying in limited air space in the DMV they need a flight plan and an air traffic controller to keep them from colliding in midair.

I thank coach Brown for forewarning me, I learned to fly like an Eagle.

WOW—Thank you Zang Auerbach for making our birthdays one to remember.  Zang was a former cartoonist for the Washington Star Newspaper and the brother of our friend NBA legend Red Auerbach.

You can read the complete stories of these chickens and turkeys in my new book titled “Harold Bell’s Walk through American Sports History With Champs & Chumps”.   The second edition is  ‘The Commemorative 45th Anniversary of The Rumble in the Jungle’ @ http://www.blackmeninamerica.com/ click on Books and Book Reviews.

 

 

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO A PHENOMENAL WOMAN AND ROLE MODEL!

by Chris Johnson


Hattie T was the first born in Orangeburg, S. C. to Civil Rights icons the late Dr. Charles H. Thomas, Jr. and Elease Thomas.  Her mother was a school teacher and her father taught psychology at South Carolina State University.  He was also the President of the local chapter of the NAACP and he marched with Dr. Martin Luther King in the early 50s.

This is a faded Christmas card received from Dr. King to the Thomas family during the holidays.  Dr. King is seen sitting on the left and Dr. Thomas is seen standing on the right in the home of the Thomas Family.

Dr. Thomas is a graduate of Dunbar High School in Washington, DC

Dr. Thomas coordinated the first ever student-registration drive on the campus of South Carolina State University that quickly spread across the state of South Carolina.  He was inducted into the Black South Carolina Hall of Fame in 2007.


In the meantime, his oldest daughter Hattie and her siblings followed him and his wife Elease to the picket lines to protest racial discrimination in the city of Orangeburg.

Dr. Thomas rescuing his children, Hattie T in sun glasses, Reggie and Loretta from the Orangeburg jail.

Hattie is a graduate of Allen University in Orangeburg and received her Masters Degree at Indiana University.  She landed her first teaching job in Greensboro, NC at the HBCU Bennett College.

In 1967 she moved to Washington, DC which she considered her second home and accepted a job in the DC Public Schools at Cardozo High School in the NW Shaw/Cardozo community.  The school was located several blocks from the historical U Street corridor.  Her first teaching assignment—girls swimming coach.   It was here she met Civil and Human Rights and youth advocate Harold Bell her future husband.  He was volunteering as the wide receiver coach for the Cardozo football team.  HB with DC Public School’s Inter-High West All-Stars with show and tell of the proper technique of catching

HATTIE SWIM CLASS HILLCREST SWIM CBS

Top Photo: Hattie with beginners in the Cardozo HS pool and me with Redskins’ RB Larry Brown and the late LB Harold McLinton at the Kids In Trouble Hillcrest Saturday Program.  NFL Films/CBS Sports videotape the first ever national television community promo for the NFL.  Larry and Harold are seen here teaching water safety to inner-city youth.

Hattie became engaged to Harold shortly before the 1968 riots in April and watched him take to the dangerous streets of DC as a Roving Leader and Youth Gang Task Force member for DC Department of Recreation and Parks.  He had  nothing but a DC police badge for protection.  He was on the streets trying to negotiate peace between the armed cops and military personnel with inner-city residents.  Hattie and Harold were married in November 1968 and found Kids In Trouble, Inc. in December.  This was just in time for their first ever KIT toy party for elementary school children. 

Hattie was there when Harold’s Virginia Sailor football teammate the late George Kelly played the first ever Santa Claus.  Redskins’ LB Harold McLinton, LB Dave Robinson and QB Doug Williams would follow his lead.

She was there in 1969 when President Richard M. Nixon invited him to the White House to renew an old friendship established in the late 50s when Harold caddied for him at the Burning Tree Golf Course.

Hattie was there in February 1974 when Harold became the first black to host and produce his own radio sports talk show “Inside Sports” in DC.

NBA legend Red and his lovely wife Dotie were his first high profile in studio guest

She was there in 1974 when Congressman Lou Stokes (D-Ohio) read his name into the Congressional Record on the House Floor for his work with youth gangs and at-risk kids on the streets of the inner-city.

She was there when Muhammad Ali woke him up in the middle of the night inviting him to New York City to interview him after he stun the world with his 8th round knockout of George Foreman.  She was there when he became the first black to host and produce his own sports television special in prime time on NBC affiliate WRC TV 4 in November 1975.  His special guest was Muhammad Ali.

She was there when Washingtonian Magazine honored him as Washingtonian of the Year in 1980.  He was the first sportscaster ever honored.

Washingtonians of the Year–QB Joe Theisman and Harold 1980.  Kicker Mark Mosley looks on with wives.

She was there on June 4, 2019 as the Executive Producer against all odds for his on screen “We Remember Muhammad Ali”.

Harold and Hattie with friend Victor Perry outside of the Miracle Theatre on Capitol Hill for the screening of “We Remember Muhammad Ali”.

Happy Birthday to Hattie T. Bell “A Phenomenal Woman” and role model standing by her men, Dr. Charles H. Thomas, Jr. and Harold Bell.  Wishing you many more happy birthdays.