MY BOYS IN THE HOOD: I NEVER COULD SAY GOODBYE!
DC high school coach Robert Richards
In 1993 Robert was a guest on C-SPAN discussing the trials and tribulations of coaching in the DC public schools (seen nationwide). https://www.c-span.org/video/?36952-1/athletics-school. He died January 3, 2023.
I was looking forward to the New Year 2023, but first I had to get out of December 2022 alive. The years of 21 and 22 were difficult times with the pandemic piled on top of the racism that has engulfed America.
Gentrification has become the new “Back of the Bus” for blacks and unarmed black men being shot down in our streets. 1,000+ homicides overall in 2022. One thousand children shot and killed or wounded under the age of seventeen!
There seems to be no end in sight. The annual battlecry of the politicians and pimps in the pulpit, “Enough is Enough.”
In the meantime, on December 28th my wife Hattie and I were watching an N.B.A. game. The Dallas Marvericks were playing an improved New York Knick’s team, a doormat no longer. The Knicks were up by 9 points with 33 seconds left in the game.
The Maverick’s Luke Doncic took over and send the game into overtime. In overtime he took the game to another level. He finished with 60 points, 21 rebounds and10 assist for an unheard of triple double. He was making history right before our very eyes. The final score, the Mavericks 126 and the Knicks 121. The victory against the Knicks in Dallas was the first time in N.B.A. history that a player had recorded 60 points in a triple-double.
The other highest point totals with 20 rebounds and 10 assists all came more than 50 years ago: Wilt Chamberlain’s 53-32-14 in 1968, Elgin Baylor’s 52-25-10 in 1961 and Chamberlain’s 51-29-11 all in the 1960s (G.O.A.T.S of the 60s & 70s).
During the game I received a call from one of my young men involved with “The Village”, Harrison Rec Center, Harrison Elementary, Kids In Trouble and Hillcrest Children’s Center Saturday Programs and Cardozo High School (1968-2013).
The call was from former Cardozo HS basketball coach and Athletic Director, Robert Richards. He was calling me from his hospital bed at Walter Reed Hospital/Washington Hospital Center in Washington, DC. The call came in around midnight.
The game was over, when I saw the call was from Robert, I answered dispite the late hour. I could see this call was different-he had me on Face Time via cell phone for the first time ever. Hattie was sitting nearby when Robert said hello and explained he was in Walter Reed Hospital and waiting for someone to pick him up and take him home!
This was rather strange because of the time of night. We talked for several more minutes with me trying to make sense of this late night call. The call dropped, and he called me right back. I could now see clearly that he was in a hospital bed. I was comtiplating on driving to the hospital but Hattie was shaking her head-NO-NO! It would have been like going cross country, from Suitland, Maryland to the top of Georgia Avenue, NW.
Hattie thought Richard sounded a little delirious!
I convinced Richard to hang up the phone and let me see if I could find him some help and he agreed. First, I called 911 to see if they had a number for Walter Reed Hospital. The operator gave me the number and I dialed the number it was out of service. I was left trying to found someone closer to Walter Reed even though it was going on 1 a.m.
My next call was to Evelyn Cureton a Cardozo grad and good friend of KIT and Coach Richards. She lived in the upper NW in the Georgia Avenue corridor. I didn’t think Evelyn was going to be too happy about me ringing her phone at that time of the morning. No risk no reward, I dialed her number and got her answering service. I left no message.
My last call was to our friend Eric Campbell a mainstay back in the day at Harrison Rec Center. I got his answering service and I left a message to give me call first thing in the morning. I tried calling Richard and I got no answer. I sit at the dinning room table for about 30 minites before going to bed.
The next morning I spoke with Evelyn and Eric, they both asked, “What’s Up?” The real deal was Walter Reed had moved out to Bethesda, Maryland!” and Richard was still in the Washington Hospital Center. Hattie as usual had my back.
I eventually found a number for his wife Carole and gave her a call. She confirmed that Robert was boulderline dilirious. She had been to the hospital to visit him and she tried to sit with him beyond visiting hours but because of convid visiting hours could not be extended.
One week later (January 4, 2023) my cell rang while I was driving to the Giant to pick up some water. I notice the name on the caller ID was Robert Richards. I pulled over to curb with a smile of relief and said, “Hello” the voice on the other end was Carole. She said, “Harold, Richard is gone!”
Robert’s uncle Earl Richards was my early hero while growing up in our NE Parkside housing project. He was a great high school athlete while attending Armstong HS and St. Paul & Augustine College in Raleigh, NC.
Earl and I later became teammates on the Virginia Sailors, a minor league team for the Washington Redskins. He was an outstanding player/coach. His skills as a center/LB were ahead of his time, too early for the NFL.
Earl Richards is standing directly behind Bob ‘Blue’ Johnson No. 22. We are in Mobile, Alabama’s Ladd Stadium. We had just won our first minor league championship in 1970. I am No. 82 in photo.
Robert followed his uncle into coaching (Eastern HS football coach) in the DC Public Schools at Cardozo HS as its Athletic Director, football and basketball coach.
There are very few financial rewards in helping peope, but the spiriture rewards are unlimited. Robert Richards was a spiriture reward. For Richard to reach out to me in his last hours–is truly a blessing.
IT TOOK A VILLAGE VIA KIT: Harrison Rec Center-Harrison Elementary-KIT Hillcrest Saturday Program-The Gang is in the house. L-R Sammie-Ricky-Chet-HB-Tyrone-Richard-Eric-Gus Kneeling Michael ‘Gee’-Jimmy Lee and Billy Buck.
TOP ROW-Robert Richards’ on the left. His last hurrah was at Harrison Elementary School with the guys and girls from the village. We were celebrating the homegoing service of Michael ‘Gee’ Gordon. Harrison was where it all started. The Nedabs, Lucy, Bernard and Oliver lived next door to the school–they were never late!
IN MEMORIAN: MY FRIENDS AND MENTEES–I AM GOING TO MISS YOU!
BOYS TO MEN IN THE HOOD:
JOE GORHAM-MICHAEL ‘GEE’ GORDON-WILLIAM WALKER, SR-ROBERT RICHARDS-OLIVER B. NEDAB