This is a Black American History Moment
We are given little credit for living and get little or no credit in death for our life here on earth.
The Washington Post broke the mold during Black History Month on Thursday, February 6, 2020. In a story written in the obituary section titled, “Packer’s star defensive back key to Super Bowl l Victory!” In an unusual turn of events, the Washington Post gave native Washingtonian Willie Wood credit for living and dying in America, but it backfired on them.
The last DC Public School black coach/athlete whose obituary appeared in the Washington Post and whose name was not Joe Gallagher or Morgan Wooten, was my Spingarn High School coach, Dave Brown (Elgin Baylor), thanks to sports editor George Solomon I wrote his obituary. Legendary athletes and coaches like Fairmont Heights HS basketball coach, Kenny Freeman, Spingarn HS coach, William Roundtree (Dave Bing), Gary ‘One-Arm-Bandit) Mays (Coach Charlie Baltimore) are given no credit for their accomplishments in this Game Called Life. Mays for example, is the only one-armed baseball player to hit a homerun out of old Griffin Stadium in Washington, DC. He also did what was thought impossible, he helped to hold Elgin Baylor the greatest basketball player to ever come out of DC to 18 points. This was well below his 40 point average. The feat helped Armstrong to win the segregated Division II Public High School Championship. Roland ‘Fatty’ Taylor is a ABA/NBA trailblazer (Fairmont Heights HS). He is the only player out of DC to excel in both the ABA and NBA, and last but not least, James Ratif, Eastern HS was a first-team All-Met and All-American basketball player when he died in January 2020. The story of their demise never appeared in the Washington Post.
Gary Mays “The One Armed Bandit” Armstrong High School’s Boy Wonder
The Washington Post carried a story on the death of my Spingarn high school coach Dave Brown. He saved me and Elgin Baylor from the mean streets of DC. “Breaking the Faith” was a commentary I wrote in the Washington Post. This was a story exposing Pimps in our Church Pulpits and do-nothing politicians in leadership positions in the DMV.
My Inside Sports documentary was first reported in the Washington Afro by writer James Wright. I was a freelance writer for the Afro for over a decade.
The obituary story written on Willie Wood in the Washington Post was planted by a thief, his legal adviser and former college teammate (back-up QB), Attorney Bob Schmidt. He came out of hiding after 13 years to try to reclaim the spotlight that Willie stole from him in the 50s. He never forgot that it was Willie who sent him to the bench at the Universty of Southern California where he was the starting QB until Willie arrived. He tried to get revenge in 2007. He and his family scammed Willie out of $60,000 at a charity tribute held in Willie’s honor in Georgetown.
In the spring of 2006 a group of Willie’s boyhood friends, Frank Smith, Lester Lewis, Andrew Johnson, his sister Gladys, her husband Charles ‘Chink’ Hawkins and I were visiting Willie at The Manor Care Rehab and nursing facility. The facility was located in Hyattsville, Md. He had just vacated the best rehab center in the DMV at the Washington Hospital Center. The everyday regiment of rehab Willie found a little difficult–enter Manor Care.
During his stay at Manor Care, we became concerned about his mounting nursing home bills and his deteriorating health (the first signs of dementia). Bob Schmidt was also in the building along with Willie’s friend sports columnist the late Dick Heller of the Washington Times. The topic of discussion centered around a way to raise money to help meet some of the financial needs of a new nursing home for him.
We put our heads together and decided first, we needed to find another rehab facility in DC and organize a fundraising tribute. One month later a decision was made that Bob Schmidt and I would be the co-organizers for the fundraiser. In the meantime, Willie moved to The Residences an assisted living facility located on Massachusetts Avenue and Thomas Circle in NW Washington DC. It was a great facility.
Schmidt found a restaurant on the Georgetown waterfront to host the fundraiser and suddenly left town for almost a month leaving me with the day to day operations for the tribute.
Thanks to Dick Heller (PR) and committee members, Andrew Johnson, Frank Smith, Maggie Linton, and Lester Lewis we managed to make the necessary contacts to pull the tribute off. I must give an assist to the Gun Show that was being held in Chantilly, Virginia on that same weekend. Heller discovered that the gun show had invited several players from around the NFL to participate.
Their role was to sign autographs for the thousands of gun enthusiasts from around the east coast who would be in attendance. I thought I had hit the jackpot when I found out my friend NFL legendary running back Jim Brown was one of the guests for the gun show.
Bob Schmidt was not a happy camper when I told him that Jim would be our contact for NFL players participating in the tribute. He said, “I don’t think that is a good idea, Jim Brown is a troublemaker and he will try to take over the event!”
Players invited by Jim to participate in the tribute on March 16, 2007 read like a Who’s Who in the NFL. There was TE John Mackey (Baltimore Colts), QB Bart Starr, DE Willie Davis, RB Paul Hornung, and WR Max McGee, (Green Bay Packers), Lenny Moore (Baltimore Colts) Lance ‘Bambi’ Alworth (San Diego Chargers), LB Sam Huff, and WR Charlie Taylor (Washington Redskins). The event was flooded with NFL hall of Famers and All-Pro players.
Hazel Hawkins and Delores Pruden with NFL legends Charlie Taylor (Redskins) and Willie Davis (Packers) enjoy the evening.
Former Green Bay Packer great Paul Hornung pose for photo with Delores Pruden, Delores Sams, Salim Edwards and his son Ahmad.
The late comedian Dick Gregory shares a laugh with comedian Ernie Fields and his partner Cockroach the dummy. I turned to them to assist me with the entertainment part of the program and they came through with flying colors.
I turned to my Kids In Trouble Board of Directors, the late Michael Simpson and James Young my PR guys to contact DC Mayor Adrian Fenty for a proclamation declaring it ‘Willie Wood Day” in Washington, DC, they delivered.
Michael and I share the proclamation with Willie declaring it “Willie Wood Day” in the Nation’s Capitol
NFL legendary LB and NY Giants/Washington Redskin player Sam Huff bring a smile to Willie’s face. Sam has since become a victim of dementia.
Willie’s sister Gladys talks with friend Delores Sams while Willie greets a fan.
The evening of the event I was still trying to figure out a way to get Willie from the nursing home to the restaurant in Georgetown. Frank Smith and Andrew Johnson answered the call for help. When I arrived at the restaurant I notice that Bob Schmidt had his family on the front door taking donations for admission to the tribute. I still had a lot on my plate (the program for the evening, music, speakers, etc) so I was relieved to see that part of the program was taken care of and I moved on (I would regret).
To catch a thief–meet attorney, fraudulent legal adviser and former college teammate to Willie Wood–Bob Schmidt. He and his family made off with the proceeds ($60.000) from the Willie Wood fund raiser tribute. He was never to be seen or heard from again until Willie’s obituary appeared in the Washington Post on Thursday, February 6, 2020.
The following Monday after the tribute, Frank Smith, Andrew Johnson, Dick Heller, Lester Lewis and me visited Willie at his nursing home, The Residences. Bob Schmidt and Joe Johnson were invited but they were nowhere to be found. The first thing Willie ask was “Where is my money?” My response, “Willie your lawyer and friend Bob Schmidt has your money!” The look on his face was one of horror.
I placed a half-dozen phone calls to Bob Schmidt and his partner and friend Joe Johnson trying to get to the bottom of this charade. They never responded.
The next steps I took was to contact the NFL Players’ Union, NFL Hall of Fame, the Vince Lombardi Cancer Research Foundation on the campus of Georgetown University. Every contact was a Dead-End street none had heard of Schmidt. He had disappeared without a trace. Finally, Dick Heller called and said, “Your friend Bob Schmidt returned my call and said he will be holding a press conference to explain exactly how much money was raised and where the money is!” It never happened.
I then turned to my friend and partner in the community NF L legend Jim Brown. I explained to him what had happened as it related to the tribute for Willie Wood. He asked, “What do you want me to do?”
My solution was for him to call Schmidt with Willie’s sister Gladys on a conference call. I had heard all the rumors about Jim’s shady undertakings from family and friends, I had my doubts, but I could not see “The forest for the trees.” First, he thought he was always the smartest man in any room according to former Cowboy/Redskin RB Calvin HillI. I despise people who smile in your face and stab you in your back–meet Calvin Hill. He dropped his plate and made a quick exit from the restaurant when I told him I was going to tell Jim he had been talking behind his back. I was not surprised by his exit that is the M. O. of most cowards who talk behind people’s backs.
Calvin Hill and Jim Brown are not on the same page they are running from behind a different offensive line–both are off-side in the Game Called Life!
I met Jim in 1960 while I was a freshman student/athlete at Winston-Salem State University in Winston-Salem, NC. He was the guest speaker for our awards banquet. Bighouse Gaines made the banquet off-limits to freshmen, but I went anyway. I met Willie in the early 50s when he and my older brother Bobby were teammates on the Armstrong baseball team.
Brown Middle School was located on the Benning Road NE “Education Hill.” Spingarn High School was on one end of 24th street and Brown was on the other end of the block sandwiched in the middle was Phelps Vocation HS and Charles Young Elementary. When Armstong visited to play Spingarn baseball or football I had a front-row seat at the top of The Hill to watch my brother and Willie play. They were my first heroes. I was a freshman on the Spingarn football team in 1955 when we upset Armstrong and its legendary QB Willie Wood. The game was played in Cardozo Stadium. The final score was 13-7 for the DC Public High School East Division Championship. I didn’t play a down, but that game is still the crown jewel in my high school student/athlete career (two teams of great athletes). I was a knucklehead, but I went on to become an All-Star athlete in my own time and in my own mind (I never saw a football I could not catch).
Willie thanks Dick and me for our role in getting him inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame.
My ‘Street Sense and Common Sense’ kicked-in when it came to the conference call to Schmidt. Gladys would be my designated Checks and Balances during the call. It is always best to be safe than sorry. Jim Brown was my Kerner Report. The Kerner Report was a warning to Black America in the aftermath of the 1968 riots. The report said, “We are headed for two different Americas, one black and one white.” In 2020 here we are!
Calvin Hill had already told me about the time one of Jim’s friends caught him cheating on the golf course. He became so pissed off with the friend he beat him to a bloody pulp. The friend charged him with assault and carried him to court. He won a civil lawsuit against Jim. There was his friend Congresswoman Maxine Waters speaking at a forum at the Congressional Black Caucus. She advised the audience not to be like Jim Brown and pimp the community for his own financial gain. In a Black History Month forum with President Clinton, GT coach John Thompson and others on national television, former Olympic track and field star and three-time Gold Medal winner Jackie Joyner Kersey asked Jim, “Who are you to tell the black athlete where and how to spent his money?” For the first time in my memory, Jim was lost for words—-it was a priceless moment.
Last but not least former Green Bay Packer coach, Mike Holmgren was hired as President of the Cleveland Browns in 2009. Holmgren had the legendary Jim Brown run out of Cleveland. There are a lot of rumors of what happened to Jim Brown in Cleveland. First, Jim had a run-in with one of the Lerner brothers who were the new owners of the franchise. Holmgren didn’t like Jim hustling the players for his own financial gain via his Amer-I-Can Program. The sour relationship between Jim and ownership, left the door open for Holmgren to oust Jim. The big slap in the face for Jim came when he was left out of the Ring of Honor ceremony at the stadium in 2010. He was not a ‘Happy Camper.’ In a television interview, he claimed Mike Holmgren didn’t respect him. Respect has always been a BIG word in the vocabulary of the great Jim Brown. For example; when he got locked up in 2007 for domestic violence he asked his wife Monique to call me to start a media campaign to help him get his sentence reduced. He didn’t ask her to call Byrant Gumble, James Brown, Stephen A. Smith, Sonny Hill, or Howard Cosell, he asked her to call Harold Bell–how soon we forget!
Jim Brown calls a trick play for me and Dick Gregory. I discovered he is a man of many trick plays and secrets.
Three days later after the conference call, I would be ‘Sorry.’ I remember sitting by the telephone waiting to hear from Gladys or Jim, the telephone never rang. I took a deep breath and called Gladys, I asked her how did things go with Schmidt and Jim? Her response blew me away, she said, “Jim Brown demanded that I hang up the telephone and he would handle things with Schmidt and he would call me later.” He never called!
When I called Jim to ask him about the call between him and Schmidt, you would have thought I had just caught him cheating on the golf course. He called me everything but a child of God.
First, he wanted to know who in the f–k was I to be questioning him about Bob Schmidt and Willie’s money? I thought I had dialed the wrong number in Ward 8 in a phone booth on Martin Luther King Avenue in SE Anacostia. The next thing I thought of was the beating he gave his golf partner. I felt lucky I was on the other end of the telephone line. I would not be able to stand the ass-whipping he would be trying to give me. I would have refused to run. After a few choice words of my own, I told him what to do with his BS and hung up the phone.
By chance I would see him and his wife Monique in a hallway attending the Congressional Black Caucus Weekend here in DC a couple of years later, Monique smiled and waved, but he pretended he didn’t see me, but this is the same brother who is always talking about being a man and wanting RESPECT! He thinks that being a man and getting respect is a one-way street–for him only!
The bottom-line Jim Brown made a deal with Bob Schmidt and took a cut of Willie’s $60,000 from the tribute. According to Wikipedia, his net worth is $50 million he claimed he earned from real estate investments and the NFL? He is lying about the real estate investments and his base salary in the NFL never went beyond $60,000 a year. He must have been dead broke when President Donald Trump gave him 50 million dollars for prison reform. I wonder how does one add a cut of $60,000 from Bob Schmidt to 50 million dollars?
I also discovered Willie’s sister Gladys and friend Delores Sams and brother-in-law Chink discovered that Schmidt was still perpetrating a fraud that he was representing Willie. In 2012 Gladys and Delores took Schmidt to DC Superior Court and had a judge strip him of being Willie’s Power of Attorney and legal adviser. Willie Wood, Jr. was given that responsibility.
Schmidt evidently was surving on “White Privilege” he carried on this charade for five years after he stole the $60,000, but larceny caught up with him.
The Washington Post once again didn’t do their homework, they allowed a common thief to write Willie Wood’s obituary, they owe the family an apology. With their stamp of approval they allowed Schmidt to mis-represent the family. He claimed Gladys lived in Glen Arden, Maryland (wrong address), but he saved the worst for last. He claimed Willie’s first born and only daughter with his first wife, Lillian was from a previous relationship (wrong again). Willie we had your back despite the backstabbers RIP my man.
Inside Sports NFL Roundtable with Roy Jeffereson, Willie Wood, Sonny Hill, Johnny Sample and Jim Brown https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wzY5Mki8OVE