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Former Congressman J. C. Watts
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J. C. on the run for Oklahoma U

The wait for Donald Trump to clear the White House and turn over the keys to the new elected tenant, Joe Binden is coming to an end. In the meantime, there is an important race in Georgia for two seats to determine who will control the Senate, Republicans or Democrats!

There has been a lot of talk about the party of the Black America—should it be the Republican party or the Democratic party?  Where do and who do we turn to help insure the 40 acres and a mule and an “Even Playing Field” will finally become a reality in Black America?

The promised was made to blacks in January 1, 1863 via the Emancipation Proclamation.  For over 400+ years neither party has been able to deliver on those promises. 

This scenario takes me back to the late 90s when J. C. Watts was one of two Black Republicans in the Senate. As a member of the Republican Party J. C. knew how to hold them and he knew when to fold them. He was an outstanding college QB with the University of Oklahoma, as an athlete and politician he ran against the wind. He was a black QB and a black Republican. Neither were in demand by white America in the 70s and 80s.

J. C. Watts was the first black QB in Oklahoma University football history.  I recently read somewhere that he was not considered one of the school’s Top Ten QB (Bleacher Report). Check the record books and see how many University of Oklahoma quarterbacks have won back to back bowl games in the history of the school. He was named the MVP both years.

In 1979 the team was 11-1, in 1980 J. C. had a ‘off-year’ and they were 10-2. Oklahoma were underdogs both years he led them to the Orange Bowl, still he led them to victory.  His two year career stats read, 1, 953 yards passing, 8 touchdowns, 19 interceptions, and he rushed for 1, 449 yards. He may not make you forget Patrick MaHomes or Russell Wilson, but the bottom line like them, he was a winner.

J. C. was drafted by the NFL New York Jets but they also denied to let him earn a roster spot on the team as a quarterback. He decided to take his game to the Canadian Football League. He played in the league from 1981 until 1986. After calling it quits in the CFL he made his way back home to Oklahoma and became a youth minister in Del City, Oklahoma. He was ordained in 1991.

He had to supplement his ministrial income by starting his own highway construction company. The government regulated controled highway commission kept interferring with his work. Their interference drove him to get involved with politics. Local politics carried him all the way to Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. The only surprise, he rode into DC as a Republican.

His freshman year was 1995 when he took the oath of office. He quickly became one of the party’s most visible spokesman rising to the position of Conference Chair.

J. C. became the 4th highest ranking Republican in the house.  He had an off and on relationship with party leaders.  He was nobodys’ YES MAN.  In an interview I had with him in his Capitol Hill office in 1998, he kept going back to his roots and where he came from. Black athletes were not his heroes. His HEROES sat across the table from him every morning and evening—his mother and father.  https://youtu.be/xrxeVVRbyzk

His mother Darlene was a homemaker and raised 6 children. His father Julius Caesar Watts was a police officer, a businessman, and a minister.  His father also served on the city council along with his brother Wade.  They were active in the Democratic Party and were members of the NAACP. Wade headed the Oklahoma branch for 16 years.

There were many FIRST in the life of J.C. Watts.  He was one of the first black children to attend a previously all white elementary school in his hometown. In high school he was the first black QB for his football team, despite the early protest of his teammates and teachers. In 1979 he became the first black QB at the University of Oklohama after being denied time and time again. There were times when he quit, but his father made him return and he persevered.  He led the Sooners to two straight Orange Bowl victories. 

He was drafted by the NFL New York Jets in 1981, but they denied him a place on the roster as a QB, his favorite position.   He took his football talents to the Canadian Football league and played there from 1981 to 1986.  He then returned home to become a youth minister at Sunnydale Baptist church in Del City, Oklahoma. 

He was ordained in 1993.  He had to supplement his ministerial income with his own highway construction company.  He did not like the politics of the government commission regulating his business.  This gave him thoughts of running for office and making that run as a Republican, despite the familys long standing in the Democratic Party.  He remembered his father saying, “A black man voting for a Republican made as much sense as a chicken voting for Colonel Sanders!”  He switched allegiance anyway to the Republican Party. The switch carried him all the way to Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. 

With J. C. coming aboard the Republican Party now had two black faces in the House with Gary Franks from Connecticut. The party hoped the two would court other blacks. Blacks voted overwhelmingly for the Democrats in national elections.  They were in for a surprise along with the Democrats. J. C. never joined the Congressional Black Caucus during his term on The Hill.  He said, “I think the Congressional Black Caucus and I want the same thing for blacks, the difference is how do we get there”. 

He often reminded the naysayers, “My father raised me to be a man, not just a black man”.  When the Republican party was trying to eliminate affirmative action from the books—it was J. C. Watts who convinced Newt Gingrich to kill the bill in the house.     

 Unlike Tim Scott (R-SC) J. C. did not go a long to get along. The proverbial “Glass Ceiling” was a little too high for him. He said, “NO MAS” to re-election and left the Republic Party in 2003 to continue to do it his way. htt

J.C. said, “I don’t want a black version of Fox News, CNN or MSNBC. the Black News Channel aims to fill the gap between African American interest channels and mainstream cable news networks.”

“If you look at the TV dial, you can go anywhere and get news and information for any demographic that you want,” Watts says. “Gay, straight, yellow, brown, white, female, male. But there’s nowhere on the news dial or the channel lineup of the 200-plus stations that you can go and get news and information from the African American community. So we think we’re filling a niche for an underserved, underrepresented community and we think we’re the venue to give the African American community a voice.”

Hopefully, it is here we can write and tell our stories with folks who have actually walked in our shoes–the BNC network is news we can use!

Harold Bell is a youth advocate and pioneer in radio and television sports talk shows. His Inside Sports talk format changed the way we talk sports in America and around the globe. The National Association of Black Journalist (NABJ) honored him with their 2020 pioneer award.

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