I REMEMBER THE FIRST LADY OF THE AFRO-AMERICAN NEWS PAPER
Thurgood Marshall receiving the NAACP Life Time Award from the founder of the Afro-American newspaper Mr. Carl Murphy the father of Frances Murphy.
The late Mrs. Frances Murphy was the patriarch of the Afro-American newspaper. She was a sister, mother, grandmother, aunt, cousin, friend and guardian of the black community. Mrs. Murphy was a giant in media and in our community. The Afro-American newspaper is one of the oldest Black newspapers in America.
She gave me my first opportunity to hone my skills as a writer when she allowed me to write commentaries and columns in the Afro-American in Washington, D. C. in the late 70s.
It all started when I gave Ms. Murphy one of my commentaries I had written on my pioneering radio sports talk show Inside Sports. We were attending a community meeting in the inner-city when we first met. I never thought I would see my commentary in the newspaper. Two weeks later there it was in the Editorial section of the Afro along with the typos and bad grammar all corrected.
The published commentary inspired me to continue to improve my writing skills. This was long before my commentaries and columns appeared in the Washington Post and other print media outlets around the country. She gave her approval for me to continue to write and reveal the darker sides and controversial sides of sports that included stories on our so-called heroes and sheroes in our community. She published stories on Georgetown basketball coach John Thompson and boxing icons Sugar Ray Leonard and Don King, heroes in the black community. The only time these stories were hear or read in the media was on “Inside Sports.” Ms. Murphy provided a platform that allowed me to be something more then a cheerleader in the sports press boxes of the Nation’s Capitol.
These were stories the Washington Post would dare not touch until the Afro published them first. The Washington Post followed Inside Sports and the Afro’s lead when it came to reminding the black politician and athlete who he was and exactly where he came from.
The Afro-American published “The Real John Thompson Up Close & Personal” on January 22, 1999. The story was the talk of the town. On February 18, 1999 the Washington Post tried to make up for lost ground when they decided to published “Casino Executives and John Thompson Aligned.” Sub-title read, ‘Ex-GT Coach is partner in land deals’.
The Washington Post published the first of a two-part series on the basketball icon with the second part of the series never appearing in print. My sources in the sports department of the Washington Post told me the second series was too explosive. Word came down from owner Donald Graham to Sports Editor George Solomon, “hold the presses”. It was feared if the second part of the series was published the Georgetown athletic department would face sanctions from the NCAA. The investigative reporters discovered that Big John was also taking money under the table from sports agent David Falk. Falk ripped off a host of black athletes including Adrian Dantley for millions of dollars. John Thompson was a millionaire long before he stepped down from Georgetown.
Big John was involved in land deals with his “Girl Friday, Saturday and Sunday” Academic Counselor, Mary Finley. They brought and shared property together and slot machines at the airport were a part of the deal.
On April 11, 2011 two years later The Bleacher Report a popular blog website own by CBS Television published my follow-up story, “Will the Real John Thompson Stand-Up”? The story received over 30,000 reads in 2 days. http://bleacherreport.com/articles/658973-will-the-real-john-thompson-stand-up-for-jason-whitlock
If anyone tells you that crime does not pay be sure to point to Big John Thompson of Georgetown University. The school is in the process of building a sports complex in his name on the campus–can you blame them? He made millions not only for himself but also for the school.
Ms. Murphy and I would see each other in the community and we would pass each other like ships in the night. We would always speak and move on. In 1980 I would see Ms. Murphy at Face’s Restaurant on Georgia Ave. NW. having lunch. Face’s Restaurant was then a popular hang out of the movers and shakers in the black community. I stopped by her table as I was leaving to thank her for her support. She looked up at me and said, “Hi Mr. Bell, congratulations on being named Washingtonian of the Year, what a nice honor. I like what you are doing with our young people keep up the good work.” In 1980 I was the first sports media personality ever named Washingtonian of the Year by Washingtonian Magazine. I was honored again by Ms. Murphy’s kind and thoughtful words.
In February 2007 I was honored by Tom Joiner on his morning show heard in 142 markets throughout the country “As a Little Known Black History Fact”. I was also the featured story on Americablackweb.com during Black History Month. The story was titled “Living Black History: Broadcasting Icon Harold Bell the Visionary Behind Inside Sports.”
On November 15, 2007 I was involved in one of the breaking stories on the 4:00 pm and 6:00 pm news on NBC TV 4. The story was “Good Samaritan Rescues Child From Subway Tracks.” On November 26, 2007 again I was cited by Tom Joiner on his morning radio show and again I was the featured story on the Americanblackweb.com. The story was titled “DC Broadcast Pioneer Lauded For Rescuing Girl Who Fell Onto Subway Tracks.”
I pay tribute and say thanks to Ms. Frances Murphy “Three Times A Lady” for honoring and helping me to become all that I could be in the community and in sports media. She allowed me to take stands and make statements that others in print media dared not.
Ms. Murphy proved that no man is an Island and we all need a helping hand in this “Game Called Life,” her helping hand had no boundaries in the black community. Frances Murphy, “A Teachable Moment in Black History”.