In February 1972 Inside Sports made its debut on W-O-O-K Radio in Washington, DC changing the way we talk sports in America forever.
December 1974 J. D. Bethea, a sports columnist for the Wasington Star-News wrote, “Harold Bell may be the only black guy living who ever grew up in a ghetto, in real poverty , but never learned to “Play the Game,” that great American pastime.
Everybody plays the game to some degree. That’s what success is all about. playing the game. Being alternately malleable and assertive with the right people at the right time. Bell never learned. If he had given his drive and single-miness of purpose, he would probably be dangeous.”
That was a great observation, but I was not going along to just get along. We were forwarned in 1968 by the Kerner Commission named after Gov. Otto Kerner of lllinois, they said, “America is headed for two societies, one white and one black, seperate and unequal” The all white commission turned out to be honest men selected by President Lyndon B. Johnson to investigate the unrest in Black America. They blamed the riots on lack of economic opportuunity, racism, failed social service programs, health care, poor schools, police brutality, and the white oriented media. After reading the report it is rumored President Johnson disappeared and got drunk. He could not believe what he had just read. President Johnson was living proof that some well meaning white folks don’t know when they are racist.
We can now add to that list “The Spooks That Sit by the Door” as part of the problem. These spooks bring us to 2020 fifty-two years later facing those same exact problems. Black leaders as a whole did absolutely nothing. They sat around on their hands waiting for white folks to give them their promised “40 acres and a mule, ‘Even Playing Field” or both!
My first home there was no 40 acres and a mule, it was more like a one bedroom shack, outhouse and a dog. The shack was located on Douglas street in NE DC. One cold early morning according to my mother I was about three-years old, she thought I was sleeping with my dog Billy lying close by. She decided to quietly slip out to the corner store for milk and bread with a kerosene lamp burning. When she returned there were fire engines everywhere. I was sitting in the yard crying with my dog Billy standing over me. The shack had burned to the ground leaving only the outhouse.
My mother thanked the firemen for pulling me to safety, but one said, “Mrs. Bell we found him sitting in the yard with his dog when we arrived”. My mother had no clue how I got out of the burning shack and my dog Billy was not talking!
In the early years, my older brother, Bobby, Earl, and I grew up in Grandma Bell’s house on Jay Street in NE DC. The lessons we learned from our grandmother, aunts, uncles, and neighbors on Jay street were the lessons that would shape our adult and athletic lives. Grandma’s daughters, my Aunt Sara lived next door, and my Aunt Helen lived directly across the street from grandma.
My uncles, Ralph, Hope, and Dwight lived with Grandma. My Aunt June was out on her own, and my father Alfred Robert Bell was a rolling stone and nowhere to be found. Today I still find it difficult to picture how Grandma Bell, my three uncles, and the three Bell brothers all lived in the same house that had no basement and no second floor! I remember there were two bedrooms, a bathroom, a kitchen, and a living room. We knew nothing of racism and being poor.
I now attribute that to the environment we grew up in. It is often said, “It takes a Village” Jay Street NE was our safe haven, the words, poor, racism, and police brutality were never heard–maybe whispered. Church was another santuary. My great-grandfather the Rev. Robert Alfred Tyler laid the first brick to build Mount Airy Baptist Church in 1893. The church was located on North Capitol and L Streets in NW DC in the shadows of the Capitol. We sometimes spent two to three days a week and all day Sunday at Mount Airy. Church on Sundays were like a revival.
What was so unique about Jay Street was much like our future home, and school environments, they were all “Villages.” We looked out for each other. What a difference a day makes, today we don’t know our next door neighbor. We are like passing ships in the night.
When Earl and I were 10 and 11 years old our mother Mattie came to take us to live in our new “Village” a housing project called Parkside in NE DC. Grandma Bell kept Bobby with her. The new home was where Earl and I were taught to be men early in “The Game called life”.
There was no “Big Brother”! I was ‘Big Brother,’ my younger brother Earl and I fought back to back several times a week. We took our share of ass wippings, but we never ran and hid. It was known if you kicked our asses and it was not a fair fight, you were expected to see us again in some dark alley. After we earned the respect of the neighborhood tough guys, they backed off and let us be.
The lesson learned was, the neighbor tough guys could kick our ass but no one from the outside better not come looking to do the same. The lines were drawn. We were a “Village” all for one and one for all!
By the time I reached Spingarn High School I feared no one but my grandmother, mother and Officer Ray Dixon, he was the law of all he surveyed on “Education Hill”.
‘The Hill’ was the most unique conglomerate set of schools in America. The schools started at the top of 24th Street NE and worked their way down to Benning Road pass Langston Golf Course. There were Brown Middle School, Phelps Vocational High School, Charles Young Elementary School and last but not least, Spingarn High School overseen by our Prince of Academics, Principal Purvis J. Williams. If you lived in Langston Terrace you never had to leave “The Hood” to complete your elementary/high school education requirements. If you wanted to be an educator or businessman you would choose Spingarn and if you wanted to study a skill or trade you would choose Phelps. There were educational choices for everyone who wanted them.
Some of the greatest athletes in the city came off ‘The Hill’. They had names like Mojo Icely, Rock Green, Maxwell Banks (Hollywod Max Julien) and the great Elgin Baylor (Phelps). There were Tony Washington, Walter ‘T Boy’ Thompson, Bill Mayor, George ‘Carlos’ Williams, Noochie Green, Lloyd Murphy, Dickie Wells, Duck Wills, Elmore Flye, Francis Smith, Marty Tapscott and the great Elgin Baylor (Spingarn). Elgin followed our coach the great Dave Brown from Phelps to Spingarn and the rest is DC basketball history. The best basketball coach ever bar none, and the greatest player ever. Most of these guys were multi-sports athletes.
The student/athletes, who later made a difference as graduates and alumni in the fields of education, law-enforcement, media, civil rights, and sports, read like a Who’s Who.
They are led by Elgin Baylor-NBA Hall of Fame (1954 class), Andrew Jenkins-Superintendent DC Public Schools (1954 class), Franklin Jennifer-President of Howard University (1956 class), Marty Tapscott-Law-Enforcement (1954), Otho Jones-Assistant Superintendent DC Public Schools (1955 class), Andrew Johnson-Law-Enforcement (1957 class), Lawrence Lucas -President of USDA Coalition for Minority Farmers (1957 class)), Byron Berry-Magistrate Judge (1957 class), Jerry Phillips-radio/television (1958 class), Harold Bell-radio and television sports talk show pioneer (1958 class), Earl Bell-Civil Rights U. S. Army & DC Police officer (1962 class), Bill Lindsey-founder of the Foxtrappe Club (1962 class), Ollie Johnson-NBA (1962 class), Dave Bing-NBA Hall of Fame (1962 class). Cecil Turner-NFL Chicago Bears (1964 class).
I saved the best for last, Ester Stroy was a track and field star, she participated in the 1968 Olymic Games as a 15 year old, she was the youngest competitor. Her specialty was the 100m-200m and the 400m (1970 class). Ester was one of many great athletes to come out the NE DC housing project known as Parkside. We all attended Nevell Thomas Elementary and Spingarn High Schools. A group of talented wide receivers followed me to the schools on the Hill, Spingarn and Phelps. They had names like Alphonso Lawson, Kenneth Springfield, Cecil Turner, Earl Bell, Roger “Shoes” Scott (Phelps), Gus Lee (Phelps). Everyone of these athletes were heads and shoulders talent wise above me-all I did was carry the torch and blaze the trail.
I had a front row seat to mingle and watch some of these great athletes in action when they met on the field of play during Spingarn home games. I would sit at the top of ‘The Hill’ and also watch my older brother Bobby playing second base, and future NFL Hall of Fame player Willie Wood playing centerfield for Armstrong High School.
I would day-dream that one day I would be playing on that same Spingarn field (dreams do come true). Brown Middle School was located directly across the street from the field Spingarn practiced and played on. In the evenings I would sit on the hill and watch George ‘Carlos’ Williams. He was a running back for the Spingarn Green Wave-my hero. After practice he would let me carry his helmet back to the school. I must have weight about 100 pounds soaking wet. He was big for a running back. He looked to weight about 200 pounds or better, but I would always remind him I was going to play for Spingarn one day. He would always smile and say, “yea I bet you will!”
He didn’t see me play until years later for the Virginia Sailors (a minor league afilliate for the Washington Redskins). He confessed and said, “Man if I had your heart I would have been playing in the NFL.” I was flattered to hear him say those words. My hero made my day.
As for having “heart” as an athlete growing up in NE DC in the Kenilworth Ave/Benning Road corridor, I despised cry baby athletes. We lived by the premise, “No harm no foul.” Real men took the licking and kept on ticking.
My day started every morning when I got off the bus and walked to the end of 24th street pass the historical Langston Golf Course to Brown. I enjoyed walking through the Spingarn guys and girls hanging out in front of the school. I would stop and try to be a part of the crowd for a few minutes, but officer Dixon would come along just before the 9 0’clock bell and clear the side walk. He would give me the evil eye like he knew I didn’t belong.
He controlled the entire hill without a walkie talkie, a horse, patrol car or motorcycle. He could smell a crap game in progress from Spingarn to Brown. The last thing you wanted to see was Dixon getting out of a cab or a bread truck and running your black ass down. He had sprinter’s speed and he never pulled his gun.
My middle school ‘crew’ had names like Hobo, Mickey, Teddy and Rhoma. We had a habit of slipping out of school during the lunch hour and shoot crap in the back driveway. One day Officer Dixon appeared out of nowhere (he was like a Genie out of a bottle), he walked about six of us to the Principal’s Office, Mr. William Stinson.
The next day my mother had to take off work (her good government job) and meet with Mr. Stinson in his office. It was here Mr. Stinson tried to get my mother to paddle my behind with his favorite in-house weapon. The paddle had holes in it. My mother refused and it was there he told my mother, “Mrs. Bell you won’t have to worry about Harold much longer, at this rate he won’t live to get to high school”. My mother would later say to me, ‘Boy what are you trying to do, go to hell in a hurry’?
My encounters with Officer Dixon would continue after I lived to get to high school. The man was legendary. I will never forget the day my Spingarn football teammate Tony Wheeler and I decided to skip class and go to his house near the mythical Kelly Miller Playground. He lived a bus ride from school near the landmark Shrimp Boat carry-out located on the corner of Benning Road and East Capitol streets NE.
Tony was an only child and he lived in a nice home that always had a refrigerator full of food and a color television, I had neither. The plan was we would slip out during lunch and get back to school in time for football practice. First, we had to figure out where Officer Dixon was hanging out. On that day we discovered he was meeting with the school Principal Dr. Williams in his office–perfect.
Tony and I slipped out the backdoor by the teacher’s parking lot and made our way through Langston Terrace for our big get away. We decided to catch the bus at 19th and Benning Road near Blow Elementary School blocks away from Spingarn. We caught the bus and laid back as it made its way down Benning Road pass Spingarn. No problem, all we had to do was clear Oklahoma Avenue and the Langston Golf Course and we were home free.
The bus rolls pass Sporty’s Carry Out and the Langston Theatre and across Oklahoma Avenue pass Langston Golf Course. We breath a sign of relief. As the bus crosses the Anacostia River it stopped at River Terrace a middle class housing community. We thought the bus was stopping to pick up a passenger. The bus driver opens the door and there stands our worst nightmare, Officer Ray Dixon–busted. He didn’t say a word it was nowhere to run or to hide! His mode of transportation, a Capitol Cab. The cab was a black own cab company and a landmark in the black community.
This was 1958 and this is 2020 and I still have not figured out how he knew of our bad intentions. He had me so paranoid I was thinking he somehow planned a tracking device on me while I was sleeping.
We were ushered back to Spingarn in the cab and into Assistant Principal William Davis’ office and the damest thing happen, Mr. Davis chewed us out and send us to class. It was like nothing happen. It was a funny thing because I was always kicking the can down the road (testing my teachers and coaches patience). I would discover years later they were the ones with a cop that had my back. I still had not given up on going to hell in a hurry.
I was an all-around athlete playing three sports, football, basketball and baseball. I was a starter on every team. My baseball coach Leo Hill kicked me to the curve when I stole home against Fairmont Heights High School with the winning run on base and was out by a mile. When he asked me to turn in my uniform he reminded me, the one and only Willie Mays was playing in New York City. I was no “Say hey kid”!
Dr. William Roundtree made me turn in my uniform for not abiding by team rules (I really had a bad attitude). On the basketbal team I had abandon my role as a defensive stopper to become a shooter. I barely survived football Coach Dave Brown.
He locked me on the team bus for the second-half against our next door neighborn and rival Phelps for bad on field conduct. I blamed my QB Donald ‘Duck’ Wills for not calling the signals loud enough so I could hear them. I jumped off side and caught a pass in the corner of the endzone at the close of the first half costing us the go ahead touchdown. I raised hell with him as we headed to the bus for half-time. Unbeknowst to me Coach Brown was listening. As we prepared to head back to the field for the second half, he stopped me as I was headed off the bus. He said, “Bell sit this half out and we will try to win without you” and they did 6-0.
When the bus arrived back to Spingarn, I had to apologize to my teammates for my bad behavior. It was that or spend the rest of the season in Rip’s Pool Room across the street from the school going to hell in a hurry!
Coach Roundtree would always tell folks what a great athlete I was. The real deal, I never thought I was a great athlete, but I didn’t want to second guess my coach. I would later learn my coaches were teaching me, ‘no one was indispensible’ and the game I played was a T-E-A-M sport and not a ME sport.
I was different from many of my teammates, when the game was on the line I wanted the ball in my hands. For me if there was a touchdown, a base hit or a jump shot needed, I wanted the ball. I hated losing and that pissed off some of my teammates and coaches. According to them, I was selfish.
I was the same way on the playground growing up, I never saw a football I could not catch, a base I could not steal or a jumpshot I could not make. In ‘The Game Called Life’ you win by knowing your limitations and not trying to fool yourself. You can fool everyone but yourself.
I often think about my teammates in my housing project, the ones I could not tie their tennis shoes as an athlete. Their problem, they never got beyond the projects.
I play “The Game Called Life” the exact same way when it comes to our children. I don’t just talk the talk, when it comes to making children ‘First’ I walk the walk.
I struggled to get out of high school because of a bad attitude. In 1958 I transferred to rival Eastern High School after I was kicked off the Spingarn team. The Eastern basketball team was loaded. They had great players like Jimmy Jones, James “Pretty’ Thomas, Bernie Chavis, Bobby Johnson, Robert Cephas, and Ronnie Bruce, but coach Mr. Bobby Hart welcomed me with open arms. Spingarn was next on their schedule and I was chopping at the bit to meet them. The day before the game Mr. Hart called me into his office and gave me the bad news, Spingarn had lodged a protest. There was a rule I could not transfer to a school in the same zone and be eligible to play in the same semester year. I was crushed and my feelings were hurt.
Coach Brown had my back, when the school year ended he found me in Rip’s Pool Room after he had talked with my mother. She was worried about me my class (58) had graduated and there I was on the outside looking in. The next year 1959 Coach Brown had me all set to finish my senior year at Fairmont Heights High School in Prince Georges County, Maryland. This thoughful gesture detoured the trip to hell for the moment. My marching orders were to play one sport (football) hit the books and graduate. The Fairmont Heights family reminded me of my Spingarn family–they cared. Mr. Gholson, Coaches Farmer, Freeman and Ms. Fentress (English) had my back and made sured I toed the line.
My next stop would be “Tobacco Road” Winston-Salem State University in Winston-Salem, NC. It was the home of the legendary coach, Clarence ‘Bighouse’ Gaines. I was still on track of trying to go to hell in a hurry.
I remembered walking on campus thinking I was the straw that stirred the drink. That was before Bighouse introduced me to WR Elwood ‘Mickey’ Robinson a product of Armstrong High School in DC. He could run like a deer, catch anything in the air and play defense if needed. The next introduction was to Cleo Hill from Newark, NJ. He had every shot known to man and at 6’3 he could jump out of the gym.
During the season we could not get into our own gym, white folks would travel from around the state to see Cleo play. He own Tobocca Road before Michael Jordan. Bighouse made it perfectly clear, he had only one football and it was for Mickey and the one basketball was for Cleo. They would both be gone the following year so I had to wait my turn. Bighouse allowed me to play in the alumni game against the varsity. I scored a game high 23 points. He shook his head and said, “No way”, to get my kicks, I played inter-mural basketball on Saturday mornings.
The Ram football team was off the charts. My teammates were the greatest group of athletes I have ever been associated with. We lost the the 1960 CIAA championship because of a homefield no-call. We lost to North Carolina A & T by one point. Dick Westmoreland returned a punt up the left sideline in front of our bench. He almost stepped on me while stepping out of bounds. That was the winning touchdown. Westmoreland went on to play for the AFL San Diego Chargers and the NFL Miami Dolphins. He still holds the record for most interception in a season for the Dolphins (10) in 1967.
My brother Earl hitched hike from DC to Winston-Salem for homecoming and I never got off the bench–I was in Bighouse’s doghouse. Earl came to tell me he was going to join the Army. I was happy just for him to get off the mean streets of DC. He had been locked up in a juvenile facility but he managed to get his act together and graduate from high school (Spingarn).
My brother DC cop Sgt. Earl ‘Bull’ Bell with the first black DC Chief of Police, Burtell Jefferson. Bull Bell was the Heavyweight champion U. S. Army in Mannheim, Germany.
“Trying to out run racism is like trying to out run the sun”, those were the words of NFL Hall of Fame player DE Bruce Smith on his trade in 2000 from the Buffalo Bills to the Washington Redskins. My brother Earl made the same observation in the U. S. Army.
Sgt. Bull Bell faced racism at every turn in the U. S. Army. In 1966 he tried unsuccessfully to have segregated off-base housing in Nuremberg declared off-limits to military personel but was rebuffed. In 1969 his relentless drive reached a climax at a segregated discotheque in downtown Nuremberg. He had been refused admission previously. He led 35 militant troops in a march that almost ended in violence, especially when his colleagues Military Police (mostly white) were rushed to the scene. He told Jet Magazine in 1969, “Next year, when I complete my present hitch, I am not going to re-enlist. I am giving up the Army because there’s too much racism.” Jet Magazine August 28, 1969. The more things change the more they remain the same.
Did you see the President of the United States Donald Trump in his first debate with former Vice-President Joe Biden? It was the worst presidential debate I have ever seen. Trump later was infected with the coronavirus after telling the American people it was a hoax for seven months. Lying has become the American way. In October 2020 over 8+ million Americans had been infected and 210, 000+ were dead–because of a lie coming out of the White House.
This segment of my book is titled “Spooks who Sit by the Door” was inspired by a blog sports talk show titled “Inside and Out of Sports” (sounded like a spin-off of Inside Sports). The host was Butch McAdams, he was interviewing several Spingarn High School athletes that included Dave Bing. Each one I had played with and against in pick-up basketball on the playgrounds in NE DC. Three of the five were unforgettable.
The reason I am writing this story is because it was brought to my attention to checkout the Fake News stories that were being told on the show. The host was one of my young men who called me his mentor, Butch McAdams. I watched him grow up in the U street corridor. He usually ends his talk shows stating, “Life is tuff, but it is tuffer when you are stupid”.
The biggest problems during that podcast were the lies and disrespect that four out of the five guest claimed they loved our high school basketball coach, the Rev. Dr. William Roundtree like a father–nothing could be further from the truth.
I know a lie when I hear one, I have told and heard my share. In several back to back podcast shows in September 2020 Butch didn’t take his own advice. His guest were five former Spingarn High School athletes-all basketball players. Maybe it was coincidental, but all five followed my appearance on the same podcast.
The lies coming from “In and Out of Sports” was much like the presidential debate, it was the worst I have ever heard in my 50+ years in sports media. Why so bad–the host Butch McAdams didn’t do his homework? He should have known better, he claims, Harold Bell as his mentor–I am officially relieving him of any such claims in the future. He can follow the lead of ESPN’s Michael Wilbon. When I called Wilbon out publicly for lie, after lie, he then proclaimed GT coach John Thompson as his mentor. Butch can now claim James Brown (CBS) as his mentor. Wilbon and Brown have the same “Pedigree!”
I can not remember when I heard sports talk take a fatal turn for the worst as I did listening to Butch McAdams during this particular podcast. He was hosting a platform honoring basically “Spooks who now sit by the Door”. These guys are the best examples of black men who are envious and jealous of the success of others. Unlike the author Sam Greenlee of the best seller, “Spook who sat by the Door”, his book was written to enhance the plight of blacks in America. These so-called brothers who now sit behind the door, their mission is to stump the growth and progress of Black America.
Today in the black community we honor thieves and liars. Butch had a fullhouse, he was honoring several liars with a joker.
We name streets and buildings after these liars and thieves. Their hand prints can be found on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, their names in the NBA, NFL, MLB and NHL halls of fame, statures of them can be found in the public square and in front of sports stadiums. There are streets and buildings named after them on college campuses!
These same liars and thieves can also be Mayors of our inner-cities and others nominated to the Federal and Supreme Courts for life and voted President of the United States! Adults are always asking, “What is wrong with our children”? The question should be, what is wrong with us the so-called adults?
I was embarrassed, when I heard the podcast In and Out of Sports host Butch McAdams allowing four of the five wanna-bees former Spingarn athletes play him like a drum. He knew absolutely nothing about DC playground basketball history played in the 50s-60s and 70s. Whatever he knew was all, ‘he say she say’. It was the blind leading the blind.
You can tell a lie on me and hope I don’t hear about it, but don’t tell a lie on a dead man when he cannot defend himself. Coach Roundtree is no longer with us–gone too soon (2005), because these same hypocrites did not support and help him to smell the flowers while he lived.
The former players, George ‘Dee’ Williams, Roy ‘Monk’ Wilkins, Ollie Johnson and Donald ‘Pom Pom’ Hicks and Dave Bing (The Joker in the deck) were the guest on the podcast.
Butch should have swore in each guest in like they do in a court of law, make them put their hand on the Bible and swear to “Tell the truth and nothing but truth, so help them God”! Four out of five were born liars and a stack of Bibles would have been in vain. One thing is evident, Butch didn’t learn from me, ‘When you don’t know you ask someone’.
The playgrounds we played on were Brown, Henry T. Blow, Carver, Watts, and Kelly Miller. It was the 50s and 60s and all five were younger than me, but listening to the interview you would have thought these guys had come down with a case of dementia. They were too young to have dementia and were too old to sound so stupid. I didn’t recall any of the BS that had Butch McAdams jumping up and down and sounding like a “Groupie”! Some of the lies that were being told you have would thought they played somewhere in the twi-light zone or on planet Mars far from the playgrounds in NE DC which were my domain.
These so-called legends, especially, Dave and Monk Wilkins, they played Butch McAdams like a drum. First, Butch didn’t do his homework and they took advantage of him because he didn’t know or understand the landscape of NE playground basketball.
My problem, I found troubling, Dave Bing using our Coach Dr. Rev. Roundtree’s name in vain.
For years Dave had answered all my calls when it came to the community. He was a participant on Inside Sports whenever I needed him, but some how he lost his way when it came to his former teammate and friend Bernard Levi. Coach Rev. Roundtree also came up short. He failed miserably when he did not reach back to to help those that knew him when he had nothing. Dave never seem to understand that the only thing in America a black man owns is his word.
Among the guest on In and Out of Sports, one is liar and he was also a petty theft, one is insecure because he never got a college education, one is a born cheerleader and was near a nervous breakdown while working in Detroit, one shot and almost killed his high school teammate while playing with a gun. The other is a nice guy who was a No. 1 draft of the NBA Boston Celtics. He was cut after he led the team in scoring and rebounding during the exhibition season. Despite Bill Russell, he refuse to finish last by reaching back to help others. Russell’s problem, he was pissed off because the player had broken every record he own at the University of San Francisco. His No. 32 jersey was retired in 1974 and Ollie Johnson was inducted into the school’s hall of fame in January 2014.
Ollie is the only one to get a “PASS” from me. He returned from a tour of playing basketball in Europe to take a job with Giant Food and for several decades proceeded to reach back to hire dozens of brothers and sisters from “The Hood”! His older brother Andrew filled the void of supporting our coach, Rev. Roundtree.
When Coach Roundtree retired from the DC Public school system he gave up the finer things in life and brought his ministry and his family to the inner-city on Good Hope Road in SE DC to enhance and improve the lives of young people. He opened the SE Youth Development Center for the neighborhood and held Church on Sundays. It was a pretty rough neighborhood. I would stop by to check on him from time to time and offer any support that I could. My non-profit Kids In Trouble and Inside Sports programs were well established in the DMV in the 70s, 80s and 90s.
My senior year at Spingarn I was homeless. This success would not have been possible without my coaches, teachers, the maintance workers and a beat cop who had my back. In 1986 I decided to host a ‘Thank You Tribute Luncheon’ for those unselfish core of public servants. Bill Lindsey was one of the founders and owners of the popular Foxtrappe Night Club and he was a track and field star and a Spingarn alumnus. He was now the owner of Mingles Restaurant located at 14th and L streets NW. He loved the idea and we moved ahead.
It was my most satisfying reach-back program. It was a great outing, thanks to Bill Lindsey and his staff–first class.
I met with my partner in all things community, friend and former high school teammate, Andrew Johnson. He had a successful and legendary career in law enforcement. He was a DC beat cop and a successful homicide detective. He retired as a supervisor for the DEA. Andrew joined me in supporting Coach Roundtree–we felt we owed him that much.
In the meantime, we had to locate our teachers, coaches, the maintance workers and the beat cop to invite them to the luncheon. Our principal Dr. Williams jumped right in and provided addresses for all the teachers and maintance workers who no longer worked in the system. Doc was a happy camper, he kept asking us whose idea was this? He was heard saying, “I have never heard of anything like this”.
Andrew tracked down officer Dixon and several other students and teammates. My wife Hattie mailed the invitations and made calls to former student/athletes. I made the call to Elgin Baylor (GM LA Clippers) and Dave Bing they were at the top of my list. Bing accepted the invitation and Elgin had the usual excuse when he was asked to come home and participate in a community event, “Harold, I am sorry I have a conflict”! Somethings never change.
“Happy Youngsters Flock to Roundtree City Mission”!
A reporter from the Washington Times Gail Campbell covered the luncheon. She interviewed several former students about how were they influenced by our teachers and coaches? There were several interesting paragraphs in the story describing Coach Roundtree and his impact. Her story read, “As coach of the school’s varsity basketball team , he made some of his lasting friendships—supporters who today are trying to help him raise enough money to expand the Southeast Youth Development Center into better quarters.
One of his most notable former students is Dave Bing, formerly a player for the NBA Detroit Pistons and Washington Bullets. Dave was quoted saying, ” I grew in Washington and my whole high school career was under him (Roundtree)”. Mr. Bing said from his office in Detroit where he is president of Bing Steel. “He inducted me into the Michigan Hall of Fame a couple of years ago (1984) .”
“It is too bad there are not a lot more Dr. Roundtrees,” Mr. Bing said. He had a very positive impact on my life. One of the things I can remember under his tutelage is that he tried to get me to develop to the fullest.”
“He always stressed how important it was to compete by getting a good education, not just athletically. It did not surprise me when he went into the ministry. He was never a macho kind of person. He was always very low key and straight forward, Mr. Bing said.
“I have promised him that I will support him financially for a new center and I fully intend to do just that. Famous last words!
Dave never kept his word, he never came back to the SE Youth Development Center or Rev. Roundtree, the man he once claimed was like a father to him! After one fi4nancial struggle after another, Coach Roundtree died in 2005 dead broke!
I was surprised, I was the first to introduce Dave on how to use his NBA notoriety to reach back into the community and help others.
In 1967 Bing’s rookie year in the NBA he was named to the NBA All-Star team. The game would be played in the Baltimore Civic Center in February. On Friday two days before the game there was a shooting after a high school basketball game between Spingarn and McKinley Tech on the campus of Spingarn. A Spingarn student was the victim but would live to tell about it. There was talk of revenge, I was a member of the DC Recreation Department Roving Leader’s Youth Gang Task Force.
I was assigned to go to the scene of the crime. The thinking was since I was a Spingarn alumnus and former athlete I might be able to quell the talk of revenge. When I arrived on the scene several students were talking loud and saying nothing that made any sense. The cops on the scene didn’t seem to have a clue. The student with the biggest and loudest mouth I pulled him to the side trying to figure out their next plan of action. He looked at me like I was crazy and walked away. This was a deadend street, I had to come up with my own plan of action.
I walked to the other side of Benning Road to an old student hangout, Sporty’s carry out. I ordered a hot dog and soda. It was a beautiful evening. I went outside and sat on someone’s front steps and enjoyed my hot dog and soda.
There were two’brothers’ standing at the bus stop talking basketball and one said to the other, “Man you know the NBA All-Star game is in Baltimore on Sunday!” He immediately got my attention reminding me Dave Bing was voted on to this year’s team–jackpot problem solved.
I had known Dave since he was a youngster growing up on the playgrounds of Watts and Kelly Miller in NE DC. I watched him go from a playground “crybaby” to a full blown All-American and NBA Hall of Fame player. Playground basketball in the 50s and 60s was played like a version of the NFL “bump and run” very physical, but seldom dirty!
Saturday morning I was headed to Baltimore to rendezvous with Dave. I arrived in Baltimore around 9:30 am and camped out in front of the Baltimore Civic Center player’s entrance. Dave arrived with his teammate Bob Lanier about 10:45 am. He was surprised and glad to see me. He introduced me to Bob and we sat outside to talk about why I was there. I updated him on the shooting at Spingarn and that I needed him to come to the school on Monday morning after the All-Star game to speak to the students. He agreed to meet me at the school. This was his first reach-back effort as an NBA player-perfect timing.
When he walked into the Spingarn auditorium on that Monday morning, the students gave him a standing ovation. They had just seen him on national television the day before playing in the NBA All-Star Game representing Spingarn High School. His words of wisdom quelled the talks of revenge and there would be peace in the streets until the next shooting! Dave came home that summer after being named “NBA Rookie of the Year”. I was sitting in my favorite restaurant ‘Franks’ on the U Street NW corridor having lunch and in he walks Dave with my childhood friend, Arnold George. We hug and shook hands and I congratulated him on being named NB Rookie of the Year. He says, “Harold Bell you help prepare me for the NBA”! I was lost for words and we just laughed.
I knew exactly what he was talking about. He was a crybaby and I went nose to nose with him when we met on the playground or in Spingarn’s annual alumni games during the holidays. I would call him out and say, “Stop crying MF and play”. During that era there were several who tried to intimidate you if you let them, but I was not an intimidator or one to be intimidated.
The intimidators had names like, Gene Strong, Pete Lee, Gary Mays, Earl Richards and big mouth Zack Malachi. I never backed down from them either. John Thompson’s high school teammate Tom Hoover tried to bring his Parkview playground bully tactics to Brown one weekend and I said, “Hell no” with Sandy standing nearby!
I will never forget there was one Sunday at Brown playground Sandy Freeman saved me from a good ass whipping from one my heroes, intimidator Earl Richards. Earl grew up in my Parkside neighborhood and he was a great all-around athlete at Armstrong High School and St. Augustine College in North Carolina. I looked up to him.
On this paticular Sunday we had gathered to play and Earl challenged me to a one on one until we had enough players to run whole court. I was shooting lights out then, I knew better than to drive to the basket on him, because there was the possibility my lights would be out.
If I remember correctly, I was up by two and Earl left an opening for me to drive to the basket and I did–big mistake. The next thing I knew I was getting up off the court bleeding from the mouth and he was standing over me. I picked myself up went into my pocket for my trusted razor and it was not for a shave. Thank God for Sandy Freeman, he jumped in between the two us. Sandy didn’t only protect John Thompson, he also protected fools like me.
In 1968 the DC Recreation Department sponsored a trip to Michigan State University for a youth and police seminar. I was among the Roving Leaders selected to make the trip. We arrived on a Sunday morning and Dave picked me up on campus that evening. The two of us had dinner and I spent the night at his home. On the ride back to campus the next morning, he talked excitedly about a basketball camp he would be having in the Poconos Mountains (Pennsylvania) during the summer. He invited me to bring some kids to the camp–done deal.
In that 1974 Washington Star-News paper story written by J. D. Beatha, wrote, “If success is measured in terms of financial reward, here’s a man who hasn’t made it. But there are hundreds of inner-city kids who will vouch for the success of–HAROLD BELL.
When Bernard got locked up I started to think about ways to get him out of the jail. One of the first things I did was to call Dave asking him to write him a letter to let him know he was not forgotten. I waited a couple of weeks and never got a response, but rumors started to circulate among his cheerleaders saying, “Dave didn’t want to be associated with any criminals”! I was not a happy camper hearing those rumors. I would use my White House contacts to connect me to Mr. Norman Carlson, the Director for the Federal Bureau of Prisons. Earl and I would later drive to Lewisburg Prison in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania to meet with Levi and later with Mr. Carlson.
Santa’s Helper Byron Kirkley stands next to his coach Rev Roundtree during Kids In Trouble annual toy party for the Youth Developement Center. Byron was the only one of the Spingarn team to return to lend a helping hand for his former coach.
The Levi family live several blocks from Mr. Jackson. On the way back home my mother would stop to visit Mrs. Levi. Bernard, Earl and I would use this time to walk over to the basketball court behind Carver Elementary School. We would play one on one until one of his sisters came to tell us my mother was ready to go home.
Bernard was facing 10 to 20 years for felony bank robbery. He was release after serving three years, thanks to Mr. Carlson.
The two-faces of Bing would resurface in the NBA when he and his teammates conspired to get NBA pioneer Earl Lloyd fired from his head coaching job with the Detroit Pistons. Earl should have been the the first black NBA hire, but imbedded racism in the Detroit Piston organization placed him second behind Bill Russell. Earl hailed from Alexandria, Virginia and played his playground basketball in DC (Parkview and Bannecker).
Earl and his first wife Ginny told me the story of the NBA munity led by Bing. It gets worst, when Dave made his NBA stop on the way out with the Washington Bullets, he brought some of that same baggage to DC. He has a history of bad mouthing his coaches. It all started with Earl Lloyd.
Dave changed his tune on In and Out of Sports, he claimed Earl Lloyd ‘The Best coach he ever played for’, and Dick Motto and KC Jones the worst. Meet the two-faces of Dave Bing. I would not buy a use car from this guy.
All of this backstabbing of K C came after a red hot Golden State Warriors’ team swept the Washington Bullets in four games in the 1975 NBA finals. Bickerstaff made similar statements around the league to several NBA referees that K C had no clue and he was actually doing the coaching. Bernie backstabbed his way around the league. He had several head coaching and front office jobs in the NBA, but never won a Championship. He brown-nosed long enough to get to the White House with the Chicago Bulls and get his son JB Bickerstaff a head coaching job in Cleveland in 2020 where he is now on the scouting staff.
I was one of the first to meet with Dave on his arrival in town. We met at his Marlborough House apartment in Hillcrest Heights, Md. He had been in town for less than a week and the first thing that comes out of his mouth was, “KC Jones is a drunk and he is over rated as a coach”!
I jumped all over him right then and there. My question to Dave, “Why don’t you sit down with KC man to man and talk it out, he has the utmost respect for you”? His response, ‘I think its a little too late for that’. This sounded like a carry-over from Bernie Bickerstaff. He stabbed KC in the back while he was on his coaching staff. KC hired this Negro with no NBA playing time or NBA experience. There is no loyalty among black men!
Dave repeated himself again on the Fake News show “In and Out of Sports” with host Butch McAdams, he claimed Bullet’s Coach Dick wanted him to change his style of play and he refused. Motto won an NBA championship in 1978 with the Bullets–Dave never won or played on a championship team.
Dave was so anxious to prove how successful he was after his career was over and done, he invited 30 of his teammates, friends, and family, mixed with several cheerleaders to Detroit. It was a “Show and Tell” about him. He paid for their roundtrip airfare and hotel lodgings.
Dave was so anxious to prove how successful he was after his career was over and done, he invited 30 of his teammates, friends, and family, mixed with several cheerleaders to Detroit. It was a “Show and Tell” about him. He paid for their roundtrip airfare and hotel lodgings.
He held parties for them at the hotel, and at his home in the suburbs. There was also a tour of his auto parts business in the city. Guess who was not invited to the tour with the rest of his high school teammates–their coach, Rev. Roundtree.
A guilty conscience and karma can and will comeback to hunt you. One of Dave’s ass kissers more than likely, Donald Hicks tried to talk Bernard Levi into making the trip, but Levi had not forgotten, how Dave had turned his back on him.
I was making plans to attend the hall of fame ceromonies when I stopped by the SE Youth Development Center to check on Coach Roundtree. I told him I was on the way to attend the Naismith Hall of Fame inductions this coming weekend. He took the high road, saying how happy he was for Dave and Wes Unseld the inductees, but he would not be attending!
This was a setback for me and I took it personal. Dave went on the record (newspaper) promising Coach Roundtree he would help to find him another center for the kids and he would support him financially. I watched Coach Roundtree struggle trying to hold things together and watched his health deteriorate.
My plans were to drive to Philadelphia and take a chartered bus to Springfield. The trip had been coordinated by NBA Hall of Fame and playground legend Sonny Hill. Earl Monroe a hometown boy was being inducted with Bing and Unseld. Earl and I had become close friends through our association with Winston-Salem State University legendary coach, Clarence BigHouse Gaines.
I called Sonny and told him I needed another ticket for the hall of fame and I would be bringing Coach Roundtree with me. He had three tickets left.
On our arrival in Springfield, Massachusetts it was beautiful sun shiny day. There were plenty of familiar faces, teammates, family and friends of the inductees. My first encounter was with Tim Bing a cousin of Dave. He wanted to know why Dave and I were beefing. I told him it was a long story and let it go at that. Trying to explain to someone’s relative why you are beefing with his kin is a no win situation–blood is thicker than water!
The great Oscar Robertson presented Dave at the induction. This where it gets tricky, I was there because I was associated with three of the inductees, Dave Bing, Earl Monroe and Wes Unseld. Coach Roundtree and I were sitting at Sonny Hill’s table when the introductions and the players were being inducted.
I am thinking the players were being presented in alphabetical order, Dave definitely went first, Earl behind him and Wes. During Dave’s presentation he thanked his family and finally got around to Coach Roundtree who was sitting next to me. Dave had him stand and thanked him for all that he had done to help make this honor possible.
Earl followed Dave to the podium and thanked his family, friends, Coach Bighouse Gaines, Sonny Hill and to my surprise he had me stand and thanked me for my community reach back in DC through my non-profit Kids In Trouble, Inc. During his career Earl was a mainstate at my Inside Sports Celebrity Fashion Shows and Tennis Tournaments. The look on Dave’s face was a Kodak Moment!
I flunked out of Winston-Salem my freshman year. I was still trying to go to hell in hurry. Bighouse broke the bad news to me. He said, “We don’t have any money for summer school for dumb-ass athletes” you can get ready to head back to the ghetto.” I was ready to go home with no ‘Game Plan’ of what I was going to do once I got back to D C
Several days went by waiting for Bighouse to bring me my bus ticket back to the ghetto. He finally shown up and told me that my ‘Guardian Angel’ had come to my rescue. He said, “Your daddy send you money for summer school”! My daddy? I had seen my father once in 10 years. He was talking about Coach Dave Brown.
Bighouse told me I needed to find a job and a place to stay. He took care of both, he got me a job in a unforgiving hot tobacco factory and I stayed with him, his wife and kids until he could find me a room in the city. I was scheduled to be a starting WR the next year, and hopefully win a spot on the basketball team, but he killed my basketball dreams because of my grades.
I never finished my degree in Elementary Education at Winston-Salem, but my educational sense, Street Sense, Common Sense and Book Sense was enhanced thanks to Bighouse and the Winston-Salem family. I left to chase my NFL dreams and check on my younger brother and mother who had been hospitalized with a nervous breakdown in DC.
Some of the best advice ever given to me was by Grandma Bell. I remember when I started to smell myself as an athlete and media personality, it was one Sunday she sat me down after church and said, “Grandson I want you to promise me one thing, you will always tell the truth, because a lie will change a thousand times, but the truth never changes”!
I never questioned Grandma, and never knew what made her want to pass that advice on to me, but it has served me well.
When I received the 2020 National Association of Black Journalist Pioneer Award, I thanked Grandma Bell–it was the icing on the cake.
I was not sitting around waiting for the NABJ’s stamp of approval–God already knew my story. Their approval proved, the hard truths, and the no holds barred interviews that highlighted my media career were not in vain.
A lot of sports history was made in 1972 and beyond. Inside Sports made its debut on talk radio on 1450 AM W-O-O-K Radio. I became the first black to host and produce his own sports talk radio show in DC. Inside Sports changed the way we talk sports in America and the show became the talk of the town.
In 1972 John Thompson Jr. made sports history when was named the head basketball coach at Georgetown University, it also made him the first black to hold the position. He struggled in those first years to win games had little or no following. Radio, television, print media outlets ignored him and his struggles.
I was the only black media personality with a sports talk show. I had known John since he was a student at Brown Middle School in NE DC in the 50s. I gave him five-minutes every Monday to promote Georgetown basketball–no charge.
1972 in Cleveland, Ohio Muhammad Ali makes Don King the first ever black boxing promoter. Ali, “It was my biggest mistake.”
Richard M. Nixon on August 8, 1974 announced he was resigning as President of the United States due to the Watergate scandal. I met Nixon at the exclusive Burning Tree Golf Course in Bethesda, Md. in 1957. He was then the Vice-President of the United States.
Sugar Ray Leonard returns home with gold medal around his neck looking for a ticker tape parade, but media calls him out for having a baby out of wedlock. He loses his self-esteem and goes into hiding. Harold Bell becomes his mentor and leads him out of the darkness. He beats Wilfred Benitez for welterweight boxing title in 1979. He becomes boxing ‘Cash Cow’. He makes pro boxing history and becomes the first professional boxer to earn 100 million dollars.
The Washington Bullets win their first ever NBA Championship in 1978 beating the Seattle Super Sonics 105-99 in seven games.
In 1978 Corporate America was written on everything I touched. There was more success when I became the first hired Sports and Marketing consultant/rep for Nike Shoes and Sports & Marketing rep for Budwiser all in the same calendar year. There were spooks who sat by the door at each stop. There was GT Coach John Thompson, Jr. with Nike and Walter Ray with Budwiser Beer.
In 1980 Washingtonian Magazine named me one of their Washingtonians’ of the Year, making me the first sportscaster to be honored.
In 1984 John Thompson, Jr. became the first black to win a NCAA Division One basketball championship.
In 1988 Inside Sports was the No. 1 sports talk show in the DMV. My sponsors were the Maryland Lottery and Coca-Cola. Kids In Trouble was headed into its second decade.
When QB Doug Williams arrived in Washington, DC in 1986 his friend Bob Piper asked me to protect his back. In 1988 Doug became the first black QB to win a Super Bowl in NFL history. He led the Washington Redskins over the Denver Broncos 42-10.
As we arrived we heard the oohs ahhs coming from the court and there was Earl spinning and twisting around defenders like they didn’t exist. He was making shots that looked impossible. I waited my turn to play against him and I got the same treatment as the previous defenders–he was the real deal.
Also noteworthy, Dave asked our homeboy and Spingarn great alumnus Elgin Baylor to be his presenter for his Naismith Hall of Fame induction, Elgin’s response, “I have a conflict”! He settled for Oscar Robertson as his presenter.
Earl Monroe was a special guy to me. I met him for the first time off the campus of Winston-Salem State University in 1963. I remember my roommate from Chicago Barney Hood running into the cafeteria one afternoon. He was out of breath and all excited about a player he had seen on the basketball court near the campus. Barney was a hell of a varsity basketball player in his own right, so I dropped everything and headed to the court to checkout this player.
My visit to the playground was the beginning of a great friendship. I hated to see Earl leave Baltimore for New York City, but he told me, it was all about The Benjamins (money honey). Earl and I still remained close despite the miles apart. Hattie and I decided to go to New York one weekend and take in a play and I called Earl to see if we could hook up for lunch or dinner. He took it to another level. He got us tickets to the Knicks game, tickets to the play, gave us the keys to his apartment and took us to dinner after the game. It was a great weekend–thanks Earl.
Dave would eventually badmouth ‘The Pearl’, he told several of his cheerleading buddies that he had to lend Earl $25,000 dollars because of bad investments he made during his NBA career. It was no secret about Earl’s bad investments, but why tell everyone? Dave was insecure and this made him look like a big man–bigger and smarter than ‘The Pearl!’
Sometime around 2000 Dave invited The Usual Suspects/cheerleaders to a Detroit “Look at Me” affair, that included a tour of his business enterprises and his home in the suburbs. He would pay for their roundtrip airfare, hotel room, but they would have to pay for their own meals and bring their own pom-poms–Hicks was assigned to bring as many rolls of toilet paper as he could get in his suitcase.
There were at least 30 guest that included teammates Ollie Johnson, Donald Hicks, Monk Wilkins, Garland Logan and the late Byron Kirkley. The brothers Doc and Skeezie Payne, Fatty Taylor and others who I cannot ID at the moment were all in attendance.
I just don’t understand how brothers get so selfish when they get two-dollars and a little bit of fame. I went from a NE Outhouse to a NW White House and sat on a Mountain Top with the Greatest, Muhammad Ali–it does not get any better than that. None of those feats ever required me to kiss ass. Dave’s guilty conscience would not allow him to invite Coach Roundtree to Detroit. Coach would have enjoyed being among his former players.When you don’t keep your word–this is the type of BS that says who you really are!
I knew Marvin Gaye from the street corner do-wop sessions in Parkside and from my church, Mount Airy Baptist Church located on North Capitol and L streets NW. My great-grandfather laid the first brick to build the church in 1893.
One Sunday Marvin shown up at the church with his father who was a mininister to take part in a revival. We must have been 14 or 15 years old at the time. When Marvin spotted me he immediately put fingers up to his lips. He didn’t want his father to know he had been hanging out in my housing project singing do-wop, according to his father was the devil’s music.
My mother moved us from Parkside to 58th Blaine Streets NE in 1956 to ‘Simple City’, Marvin moved right down the street from us with Grealdine Adams aka ‘Peasey’. She was our baby sitter in Parkside for me and my brother Earl when our mother went out to party on the weekends.
Marvin later told me his father had put him out and he moved in with Peasy, but he was going to join the service. We use to catch the bus in the morning heading to school, him to Cardozo and me to Spingarn. A week later he broke the news to me he was joining the Air Force.
Dave even lied about his relationship with Marvin. He made a claim that he played against Marvin at Watts playground in his neighborhood. Nothing could be further from the truth. Marvin and I were good friends and never once did he mention or say while we were living on 58th Blaine Street NE, “Harold lets walk around to the playground and shoot some hoops.”
Marvin and I met by surprise at Caesar’s Palace in 1979 at the weight-in between Sugar Ray Leonard and Andy Price for the Welterweight Championship. I had no idea that Marvin own 1/3 of Price’s contract. Leonard and Price were both undefeated. When I told Marvin I was in the Sugar Ray Leonard’s camp he laughed and said, “When Andy knocks Ray out you can come and work for me”! Famous last words.
Marvin sung the national anthem and before he could get back to his seat Ray had knocked Price out in the first round. Marvin and I had made plans to play tennis the next morning, but with Andy getting knocked out in the first round I did not think it was going to happen. It was around 7 am the next morning he called and told me to me him for breakfast. We spend two-hours talking about our hometown and my plans for the future. It was like a family reunion between the two of us. Ray Leonard and Andy Price never entered our conversation. He made arrangements to get me tickets for the Diane Ross concert in Caesar’s Palace later that evening. We met at the theatre and he gave me two tickets for me and my friend George Nock and disappeared.
Our next time to meet was to be in Detroit when Thomas ‘Hit Man’ Hearns met Pipino Cuevas in 1980. The Hit Man needed only two rounds to win his first championship. Sugar Ray Leonard and the ‘Hit Man’ were on a collision course.
My last communication with Dave was when he came home in 2008 to make the announcement he was running for Mayor of Detroit. The announcement was to be made at the Fontainebleau on 450 in Lanham, Maryland. I could not understand why he was running for Mayor of Detroit and I decided to attend the event. He was made to feel right at home the cheerleaders were everywhere.
I approached him shortly his announcement and asked the question, “Dave why are you running for Mayor of Detroit, its a “Deadend Street”?
Everyone of them use Coach Roundtree’s name in vain! Butch, I know of no one who has reached back into the community other than Marion Barry? He forgot Dave Bing made his community debut at Hillcrest Saturday Program. Officer Ray Dixon never mentioned! Closing of Spingarn?
The closing of Spingarn–Alumni