Wendell Smith and Sam Lacey of the Pittsburgh Courier and Afro-American newspapers respectively are considered the greatest black American sportswriters of the 20th century. They now have to move over and make room for Harold Bell whose legacy carries him into the 21st century.
He was always first, in 1972 he became the first black radio sports talk show host to produce a talk show in his hometown of Washington DC. He was the first to use the INSIDE SPORTS tag to ID his radio sports talk show. Inside Sports is now global. The format was unique to sports talk radio, it dominated the Washington market. The tag would be later hijacked by the Washington Post. In 1978 the paper published “INSIDE SPORTS MAGAZINE” in New York City. They failed to the tune of several million dollars and two years later packed their bags and headed back to DC. They could not figure out how to transfer my talk radio success into print. The INSIDE SPORTS copyrights are now owned by the paper.
Bell was the first sports media personality to mix sports and politics successfully. He was the first to play message music long before NWA ( What’s Going On, Who Shot the Sheriff & Wake Up Everybody). He was the first to write sports media commentaries, first to establish media roundtables, first to convene police and youth forums, first to encourage pro athletes, politicians, law enforcement, judges, and media personalities to reach back into the community. He was the first to host celebrity fashion shows and tennis tournaments, the first sports media personality to be named “Washingtonian of the Year” by Washingtonian Magazine. He was the first DC sports media personality to be cited in the Congressional Record (Lou Stokes, Bob Dole, and Eleanor Holmes Norton). He was the first sports media personality to buy time from a radio station (unheard of).
In 1969 he became the first Youth Advocate/Sports Talk Show Host to receive a Presidential Appointment from (Richard Nixon). He was the first sports media personality Muhammad Ali contacted on his arrival back in the U. S. after his historic beat-down of George Foreman in Zaire, Africa in 1974. In 1975 he became the first black to host and produce his own television sports special in primetime on NBC affiliate WRC TV 4, his special guest was Muhammad Ali.
When Georgetown University basketball icon the late John Thompson could not win a game in his first year and the media completely ignored his struggles, Harold Bell gave him five minutes on Inside Sports every Monday to promote Georgetown basketball. He reached out to Sugar Ray Leonard and gave him a platform to help him to regain his lost self-esteem after the 1976 Olympic Games. Leonard won a Gold Medal and returned home expecting a ticker-taped parade in his honor, the media blindsided him by exposing him of having a baby out of wedlock with his girlfriend Jaunita. He hid in the house in Palmer park and refused to come out.
Janks Morton Ray’s trainer would travel to Anacostia Park in SE DC to plea with Bell to go and talk with Ray. He did and became Leonard’s mentor. Ray would go on to become one of the greatest boxers of all time and the first pro boxer to earn over one-hundred million dollars. Leonard went from being an introvert to being a pathetic liar and forgetting who he was and where he came from. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2sV-uSNzfZo/ The lie!
Bell was also the first media personality to provide platforms on Inside Sports for James Brown (CBS/NFL), Michael Wilbon (ESPN), Dave Aldridge (TNT), Bill Rhoden (NY Times), Kevin Blackistone (Washington Post). The late legendary sports writer Dick Heller of the Washington Times newspaper said, “Harold Bell is the God Father of sports talk the good kind”.
Darryl Hill is a pioneer in college football. He was the first black to play at the Naval Academy and the University of Maryland. Maryland recently named a building in his name. Hill is also a disciple of Bell.
Harold Bell was the first black media personality recognized as a “TRAILBLAZER” by William Taaffe of the Washington Star (1978). In an unheard-of first, he was the first black sports media personality ever spotlighted in lead stories in the Washington Post, on pages ONE & THREE (June 1989). The title of the stories, “Local Anchors: A Shut Out and Turn the Sound On, Hear Bell Sound Off”. No issue was off-limits when it came to children. His work with youth is legendary.
He was the first sports talk radio host to point out the embedded racism in pro sports. The racism was found on every press table on every pro sports team in America. In 1974 a white reporter Frank Pastor and Bell changed seats at the press table during an NBA Washington Bullets’ home game. Thanks to Pastor the press table was integrated without a picket line or word said in anger.
In the 90s he was the first to ID crooked sports agents stealing from the black athlete: Adrian Dantley & Dave Falk and Sugar Ray Leonard & Mike Trainor. The agents were the scammers and the players were being scammed for millions. It took the New York news media almost two decades to discover Falk was robbing, Dantley, MJ, etc?
Bell was the first Nike Shoes Sports & Marketing rep in DC and the first Anheuser Busch Beer Sports & Marketing rep in DC. He was the first media personality to coordinate and host Christmas toy parties for needy children. For forty-five straight years he and his wife were the host from 1968-2013. His 501 C3 non-profit organization Kids In Trouble never received a grant or a loan. Inside Sports was 7 On Your Side before Paul Berry got the bright idea while being a guest on his talk show. Now every television network in America has a version of 7 On Your Side.
He was the first sports media personality to campaign successfully to have the blackballed Willie Wood (NFL) and Earl Lloyd (NBA) inducted into their hall of fame. A stature of Lloyd was recently placed in the Charles Houston Recreation Center in his hometown of Alexandria, Virginia. Wood has a street named after him in his old NW neighborhood in DC. Bell, he has been blessed by the best.
Bell was the first sports media personality to campaign and get early jail releases for sports icons Jim Brown (NFL) and DC basketball playground legends, Bernard Levi and Jo Jo Hunter among others.
https://www.bigmarker.com/nabj/NABJ-Sam-Lacy-Awards-Program? bmid=99ea2ef240f2 / Sam Lacey Pioneer Awards
“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
In 2021 he is still a voice to be heard. May 11, 2021, he will be a co-host with long-time friend and mentee, talk show host Lavonia Perryman on iHEART radio out of Detroit. The show will air every other Tuesday between 4:00 pm and 6:00 pm.
It is rather ironic he finds his way back to Detroit, it is the home of the first pro athlete he encouraged in 1967 to reach back into the community, homeboy Dave Bing. Bing is a native Washingtonian and was named NBA Rookie of the year in1967. When Bing heard of Bell’s radio voice coming to Detroit his email read, “Harold just be yourself, you are more appreciated than you know.”
The great Marvin Gaye and Bell were childhood friends, Emanuel Stewart and Thomas Heards of the Kronk Gym were supporters of Kids In Trouble and Inside Sports, the great pro basketball pioneer Spencer Haywood was a frequent contributor on Inside Sports, “Great Scott” WR Freddy Scott of the Detroit Lions was a frequent flyer in and out of DC for his Kids In Trouble, Inc Inside Sports Celebrity Fashion Shows and Tennis Tournaments, NBA pioneer Earl Lloyd was a benefactor of Inside Sports, and last but not least his dear friend the late Wayne Davis was the first black FBI agent in-charge of the Detroit office.
He met Davis during the 1968 riots in DC. Davis was working undercover and he was working with youth gangs using the cover of a DC police department badge. The badge allowed him to breach police and military barricades. In August 1980 Bell and Davis watched together as Thomas Hearns knocked out Pipino Cuevas in the second round. It was Hearns first title win. Wayne Davis was a stand up brother.
On Tuesday May 11, 2021 on iHEART radio “The Lavonia Perryman” talk show in Detroit from 4:00 pm until 6:00 pm, the country will have a ringside seat and understand why Radio Fly Jock Tom Joyner said, “Harold Bell is a little know Black History Fact”.