by Maggie Linton
TV-7 On Your Side Anchor Paul Berry and I co-host a Inside Sports Celebrity Fashion Show.
TV-9 Anchor Maureen Bunyan and I co-host toys for tots with Santa’s Helpers TV-5 Anchor Lark McCarthy and WKYS Radio personality, Donnie Simpson.
There will be several milestones for Harold K. Bell to mark in 2018. First, April 4, 2018 marks 50 years ago our Prince of Peace the Rev. Martin Luther King was assassinated in Memphis, Tennesee. He found himself on the corner of the 9th & U Street corridor in the middle of the worst riot in DC history. May 21st marked his 80th birthday, November 28th will mark 50 years of marriage to his wife Hattie,and December 2018 will mark the 50th anniversary of hosting their first ever Christmas toy party for needy elementary school children.
There is one more important milestone we missed, in 1967 the legendary radio and television icon Petey Greene gave him five minutes to talk sports on Sundays. The show was “Petey Greene’s Washington” heard on W-O-L radio.
In 1970 Harold Bell embarked on his talk show career as an independent sports talk show host-a relatively new medium for black broadcasters. thanks to the introduction by his mentor and friend Petey Greene. Bell’s first five-minutes of radio stardom was at the helm of the two-time Emmy Award winner and sports talk has never been the same.
In 1970 he found the original “Inside Sports” heard on W-O-O-K radio in Washington, DC. The rest is sports talk radio history. Long before the late George Michael’s Sports Machine, Inside Sports Magazine, ESPN the Magazine, Outside the Lines and HBO’s Real Sports (Byrant Gumble) there was Harold Bell and “The Original Inside Sports.”
He grew up in a NE DC housing project called “Kenilworth Parkside.” He is a 4th generation Washingtonian. His great-grandfather Alfred Johnson Tyler laid the first brick to build historic Mount Airy Baptist Church located at North Capitol & L Streets NW in 1893. The Tyler House located at North Capitol & New York Ave, NW is an apartment complex for low income residents named after his great-uncle the Rev. Earl Tyler. He came by community service “The Old Fashion Way” he followed in the footsteps of his Grandmother and Great-Uncle after church each Sunday.
Bell received his education in the DC Public School system where he was an All-Star athlete at Spingarn High School. His Coach Dave Brown was his mentor and savior. Coach Brown talked the late legendary coach Clarence ‘Bighouse’ Gaines into giving him an athletic scholarship to Winston-Salem State University in North Carolina—he said, “It saved his life.”
He has been called a living legend around Washington, DC for his work with youth gangs and at-risk children. His first job was as a “Neighborhood Worker” for the United Planning Organization and later as a Roving Leader for the DC Department of Recreation and Parks (Youth Gang Task Force). Fifty-plus years later his legend continues to grow with his non-profit organization, Kids In Trouble. His radio sports talk show format “The Original Inside Sports” is a tag given to him by his wife Hattie over dinner one evening. The tag is now copied by ESPN, HBO and every radio, television and print media outlet in the world.
His pioneering contributions in sports talk radio and television in Washington DC, impressed Washington Star radio and television critic William Taaffe so much that he wrote, “Inside Sports Blazes a Trail. The show rules the roost because of a crusading kind of honesty and the show actually says something. You never have to splash water on your face to stay awake. Bell has always delved into the athlete’s personality with the eye of a reporter, and never the ‘Fluff’ of a talk-show Host.”
Legendary Washington Times sports columnist the late Dick Heller later wrote “Harold Bell is the Godfather of sports talk, the good kind.” He has interviewed hundreds of leading sports figures from “A to Z.” The list includes his dear friend the late Muhammad Ali and Redskin Mascot, Chief Zee.
His credo for the game called life was given to him by his grandmother and mother, “A lie will change a thousand times but the truth never changes and every black face you see is not your brother and every white face you see is not your enemy” says a lot about him and his talk show format. There would be less racism and hate in the world if everyone followed his talk show format, dialogue on racism is always open for discussion.
He was the first sports talk show host to play message music on air as it related to his community. There were popular tunes like Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes’ “Wake Up Every Body, and the classic by his homeboy and childhood friend, Marvin Gaye, What’s Going On.” He established a no holds barred Media Roundtable with local and national media, unheard of during the 70’s. The Roundtable included, locals like Dick Heller, George Solomon and national sports writers Bill Rhoden of the NY Times and Larry Fitzgerald, Sr. a writer for the Minnesota Spokesman. In 1980 Bell was the first sports media personality honored as ‘Washingtonian of the Year’ by Washingtonian Magazine along with Washington Redskin QB Joe Theisman for their reach back efforts to enhance children in the DC community. Poems have been written about his exploits with youth gangs and at-risk children. The late poet Murray Brooks penned a poem titled, “For Whom the Bells Toll and family friend Earl Tilmon wrote, A Grieving Mother’s Tears.”
The sports media personalities who have benefited from Kids In Trouble, Inc. and Inside Sports read like a Who’s Who. They include, James Brown (NFL CBS), John Thompson (ESPN), Michael Wilbon (ESPN), Dave Aldridge (TBS), Kevin Blackistone (ESPN), Sugar Ray Leonard (ESPN), Adrian Branch (ESPN), Oden Polyniece (NBA), Cathy Hughes (Urban Radio & TV One), Glen Harris (TV 8 Sports), Butch McAdams (Urban Radio One sports), Adrian Dantley (Comcast Sports), Omar Tyree (Author Fly Girls, etc), Jamie Foster Brown (Sister2Sister Magazine) Jair Lynch, Grant Hill, and Comedian Chris Thomas (BET). Each one of them came through Kids In Trouble, Inc and Inside Sports long before their 15 minutes of fame. He has more media personalities working in main stream media than anyone in the history of black broadcasting.
He was the first media personality to encourage pro athletes, judges, politicians, entertainers and newsroom media personalities to get directly involved with the community. In 2018 every pro sports franchise has followed his lead.
Isabel Sanford co-star of the TV sit-com “The Jeffersons” co-host Inside Sports
When the NFL and NBA Hall of Fames had overlooked his friends pro football pioneer Willie Wood and NBA pioneer Earl Lloyd, he led a campaign with NBA legendary coach Red Auerbach and DC sports columnist Dick Heller to get them both inducted into their respective hall of fames. Willie was inducted in 1989 and Earl was inducted in 2003. According to one African maxim, “Until the lions write their own history, the tale of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.” His passion to make sure that the Black Athlete receives his just deserts not only in Black History but also in American History is unmatched.
Main stream media has sent their designated “Hit Men” to try to discredit his efforts to make it an ‘Even Playing Field’ during the most segregated time in media—a pressroom at DEADLINE! The Hit Men include; Tony Kornheiser, Norman Chad,Dave McKenna, David Kindred, Mike Wise, and John Feinstein. If you notice each one had a connection to the Washington Post, they own the copyright to Inside Sports.
Earl Lloyd best described Bell in a interview heard on WTEM ESPN all sports talk radio in Washington, D. C., when he told John Thompson and co-host Doc Walker, “Harold Bell maybe controversial, but I have yet to hear anyone call him a liar.” Recently a scam artist tried to run a scam on the Earl Lloyd Estate with a documentary titled, “The First to Play” relating to Lloyd’s NBA pioneering efforts and his life story.
Scammed players, Kawhi Leonard, Tony Parker, Mike Finley and Carmelo Anthony.
Bell exposed the scam to NBA Commissioner Adam Silva, Coach Gregg Popovich and TNT NBA sideline reporter Dave Aldridge, but not before bad checks had bounced and money had passed through the hands of several NBA players and the scam artist Arka Sengupta. The NBA has since made the documentary disappear. When NFL great Jim Brown known as “The NFL Godfather of Domestic Abuse” found himself on the wrong side of the law and was sentence to six months in jail for domestic abuse in 2000, he had his wife Monique call Harold Bell. Bell led a media campaign to get his wishy-washy friend an early release. Many other high profile incarcerated personalities have also benefited from his intervention on their behalf.
Sugar Ray Leonard was in a self imposed lock-up. He was under house arrest by local media. He came home from the 1976 Olympic Games with his Gold Medal looking for a ticker-tape parade but instead encountered a hostile media. He made headlines for having a baby out of wedlock with girlfriend Quanita.
Love Birds: Sugar Ray Leonard before the multi-titles and 100 million dollars. His agent Mike Trainor scammed millions from him before I pulled his coattail.
Sugar Baby lost his self-esteem and refused to come out of his house in Palmer Park. With nowhere to turn trainer Janks Morton and Melvin Weasel Jackson came to Anacostia Park one evening while I was playing tennis and asked me for my help. The next morning I was knocking on Ray’s door, he opened with tears in his eyes and the rest is boxing history. He went from not having two pennies to rub together to becoming the first pro boxer to earn 100 million dollars in the ring.
TV 7 Anchor Fred Thomas (class act) and NBA Hall of Fame player Adrian Dantley. He is clueless, I exposed his agent David Falk for scamming him out 2 million dollars+.
His historic up close and personal one on one interview with Ali in 1975 on NBC WRC-TV 4 is a masterpiece. The interview reveals every side of Ali, his funny side and serious side. It is an interview of how we all would like to remember Ali before Parkinson’s disease robbed him of his ability to speak and move. Emmy Award winning actor Robert Hooks followed up the Ali interview with an interview with Roy Foreman, the brother of big George Foreman. Roy explained the state of mind of his brother before the 1974 big showdown in Zaire with Ali—it is priceless. Harold Bell was once asked by a friend, “If you had to describe your life in a song what would it be?” His response was, ‘Running Against the Wind’ by Bob Seger. Harold Bell is a man for all seasons—his race against the wind is a photo finish.
The late DC Superior Court Judge Luke C. Moore with Santa’s Helpers, LB Harold McLinton (Santa), LB Dave Robinson and WR Roy Jefferson host a KIT toy party.
Maggie Linton–is a radio and television talk show pioneer. Her career spans over four decades on radio, television and movies. She is a former sports anchor and feature reporter for XM Satellite Radio USA News Channel.
Spingarn High School teammates Andrew Johnson and Harold Bell
I just finished addressing a topic centered around the most expensive places to live in America and how we got there and how DC became one of them. Those of us who have been in the war zones of the inner-city all of our lives understand how we got there. We have been SOLD OUT by our own. We have watched “Chocolate City” go to vanilla in one scoop. Simply by making the proverbial Even Playing Field, UNEVEN. Its called GENTRIFICATION (higher taxes to force people of color out of their homes by any means necessary).
The criminal Justice system continues to be based on JUSTICE & JUST-US! America incarcerates more people than any other place in the WORLD. People of color make up 60% of the prison population. Prisons are now big business and can be found on the NY Stock Exchange and they are controlled by all white millionaires (sounds like the NFL)! As long as the 1% doubles the salary of a black man and the white woman is considered a minority, there will never be an EVEN PLAYING FIELD in America. All the blames does not fall at the doorsteps of white folks. This plan was implemented and helped along by every Black politician in office in America, including the Mayors in the Nation’s Capitol starting with the “First” Walter Washington, and our Mayor for Life, Marion Barry and now Muriel Bowser has picked up the ball.
In PG County you had Jack Johnson stealing the system blind and Rushern Baker going along to get along. There is no help in sight. In PG County Donna Edwards needs a job. She has decided to run for County Executive and play “Dirty.” Politics are “Dirty” so she is right at home. The front-runner is the best bet, but she has some of The Usual Suspects” in her closet waiting to pounce. The most courageous politicians in the state of Maryland are the ones who are trying to unseat “The God Father” of Maryland politics, Mike Miller. Their slogan, “Mike take a hike.” You have County Executive Rushern Baker and former NAACP President Ben Jealous running for Governor against incumbent Larry Hogan. No help in sight on either side of the isle.
We have to understand when the definition for success in America is determined by a dollar bill, there will never be an EVEN PLAYING FIELD. How can there ever be an EVEN PLAYING FIELD when the 1% makes double the salary of a minority man and a white woman is considered a minority? Whether you have noticed it or not America has become one of the most dangerous places to live for children who want to grow up to be healthy, wealthy and wise. And by the way, I have never been to Africa and I am not interested in going back.
My friend community and youth advocate George Hodge recently ask the question “Why have our kids turning in their books for guns—I think the answer is that they see the greedy never making it an “Even Playing Field.”
There was a recent story on NBC News with Lester Holt reporting, the story was relating to a former DC Detective teaming up with a former DC Drug King Pin. The two grew up together and played on the same middle school 9th grade basketball team. One chose a career in law-enforcement and the other chose a career in drugs—great story, but it sounded too much like the story of Andrew Johnson and Harold Bell(native Washingtonians). We played 12 and under baseball and were high school basketball teammates. Andrew and I both played in college.
My success was not built on selling drugs or being locked away in a penitentiary. Andrew and I started to work with at-risk children in the early 60s. He was a DC cop walking the beat in the U Street corridor and I was a Roving Leader working with youth gangs in the same community. My life on the mean streets of DC is legendary.
Andrew and I became a “Team” working with at-risk children and the rest is community and law enforcement history. I found my non-profit organization Kids In Trouble after the 1968 riots almost destroyed our hometown. Andrew would move from walking a beat to become the No. 1 DC homicide detective. He would later travel the world as a DEA agent. He retired as a DEA supervisor. Today he is still a mentor to at-risk children. Our story was already documented and the NBC News story was repeated history, history that had already been made, but ignored. NBC NEWS just didn’t do their research or homework. The bottom-line give credit where credit is due. My non-profit organization Kids In Trouble has hosted more Youth Gang Summits and Police Community Relation forums than any other non-profit in the DMV. Hats off to the two childhood friends who decided to pick up the ball and continue the journey. Wishing them much success.
MC and long time friend Maggie Linton share a laugh with Lucille Hester during Community Service presentation to Hattie and Harold.
There are two words in the English language that are easy to say and repeat and they are “THANK YOU!”
I want to take this opportunity to say thank you to those who helped me and my wife Hattie T celebrate the year 2018 starting with my 80th Birthday on Saturday. My birthday is actually Monday May 21st. Saturday’s celebration included our 50th Wedding Anniversary on November 30th and the 50th anniversary of our first ever Christmas toy party for needy elementary school children in the DMV. April 4th also marked a 50th year anniversary I would rather forget, the assassination of our Prince of Peace, the Rev. Martin Luther King. The riots that followed set us back several decades with no recovery in sight.
The first thank you goes out to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. On the day of our celebration it had rained in Washington, DC for a record 15 straight days, but God smiled down on us on the 16th day and said “Let there be sunshine.” Under the threat of rain dozens of Family & Friends traveled to the SE White House for our Celebration of Milestones and Life’s ups and downs. All the glory goes to God.
The second thank you goes out to the SE White House and its Director Ernest Clover (host), staff member Tammy and volunteer Yvonne. Thank you to the Master of Ceremonies, Maggie Linton and Gary Johnson, the D. C. Music Ambassador, Royal Height, video tech Cecil Gentry, Bruce and Byron of Bruce Brown Film Makers. They all orchestrated the celebration. Not bad for a brother whose Brown Middle School Principal predicted he would not live to get out of high school.
Hattie and I would like to thank our friend and sister Lucille Hester (the first woman to be named President of the Pigskin Club) for making special presentations of an autographed football from the inductees of The 2017 Pro Football of Fame in Canton, Ohio and an autographed helmet from The Black College Football of Fame. The presentations brought back memories that in 1988 Doug Williams became the first black QB to start and win a Super Bowl game and be named the MVP. The 2017 Super Bowl the NFL finally recognized that they had 28 NFL Hall of Fame players who played at black colleges. I am still trying to figure out why two former Redskins have been denied entry into the NFL Hall of Fame, RB Larry Brown and QB Doug Williams? In 2019 two schools from the Historical Black Colleges and Universities will be added to the weekend festivities to play against each other in Canton.
The celebration of life included the great food and drink provided by, Joan (jambalaya), Walter (jerk-chicken) Ms. Mac (chicken-salad), Mary-Ann (sandwich tray), Frank Smith (chicken), Gloria (blue berry & peach cobbler), Clara (lemon pound cake), Gloria/Robert (macaroni & cheese), Lucy (chicken salad), Bro Lawrence (devil eggs, casserole), Gil (pizza), Youngum (pizza), Mary (potato salad), Charles (water), Q Ball (water) and Hattie T (Chili).
Thanks to all the friends and Family who were in the house on Saturday. And thanks for the cards and gifts. Thanks to our friend June Bug for closing out the celebration with his great vocal rendition of “Happy Birthday.” He brought
the house down.
Dr. Denise Wright, Linda and Rich Jones, and Donnie Shaw share birthday moment with HBell.
I would also like to remember, “The Brothers who are no longer here”, Roland Taylor, Gary Mays, Levi Coates, Wilbur Filmore, Frank Hart, Clint Hall, Cecil Fryer and one special sister, Darlene Roberts. We are given little or no credit while we live and no credit when we die—RIP.
Classy ladies, Ms. Emma Ward and Dr. Mattie Giles share in celebration of life festivities.
Proud big brother walking his little sisters to church in Harlem (1920s)
My brothers, cousins and I pose in suit and tie for family picture in church with Grandma Bell. Top Left-Right Cousin Carol, me, brother Earl, and brother Bobby. Bottom Left-Right Cousin Ronnie, Grandma Bell and cousin Tommy (1950s)
Inner-city youth seen on any street corner in U. S. with pants hanging down and no church in sight (2018).
When I saw the top photo taken in Harlem in the 1920s it reminded me of my family’s church on Sundays at Mt. Airy Baptist Church in NW Washington, DC. The photo looks like big brother is proudly escorting and holding hands with his sisters on the way to church. It was how me and my cousins attended church on Sundays leaving Grandma Bell’s house in NE DC. The other photo reminded me how we have hustled backwards in time. In the 1920s black children in Harlem, could not wait to get to church and now in 2018 children are standing on street corners on Sundays in inner-cities across America with their pants hanging down waiting to go to jail, harden criminals are waiting there to pull their pants down further.
My question is, where and how did we lose it and why? Lets start with the greedy black church, black politicians taking money under and over the table and Justice & Just-Us and lets not forget black folks who think they have made it, especially the dysfunctional black family who steal from each other.
Amy Tyler Bell was a Grandma in charge. She was the head of the Bell clan in the late 40s and 50s. She was Clint Eastwood (Make My Day), Charles Brunson (Death Wish), Arnold Schwarzenegger (The Terminator) and Wesley Snipes (Demolition Man) all rolled into one. Her swat team was made up of my Aunts, Sara, Helen, and June all had backhands that would have made Venus and Serena proud. My uncles Dwight, Ralph and Hope were cool cats. They were the peace makers when a kind word was needed when Grandma Bell’s New Jack City enforcers (aunts) were on a rampage. My aunts and uncles were like, “Good Cop and Bad Cop” and sometimes they would switch roles within the blink of an eye. You could not play one against the other. Grandma Bell ran a tight ship.
Church on Sundays at Mt. Airy were like revivals. My Great-Grandfather the Rev. Alfred Johnson Tyler laid the first brick to build the church in 1893.
Grandma Bell played the organ and led the choir that consisted of my aunts and uncles and they could sing like humming birds. My Great uncle the Rev. Earl Tyler was the preacher in charge and he could preach like Martin Luther King and sing like Paul Roberson. Services started at 11 am and if you were not in your seat by 10:45 you didn’t have a seat and you had to stand against the wall. Grandma Bell would give us youngums with seats that look and we have to get up and give it to a vistor or an elder. If you moved too slow she would call your name out loud and embarrass you. Grandma it seems knew every youngster in the church by name. She would call one name out loud (usually one of us) and every young person in the church would get up and give their seats to an elder.
We could not wait to get to the dining hall in the basement of the church after services. The Sunday meal of hot rolls, fried chicken, potato salad, greens, macaroni and cheese, home made pies, cakes and sweet tea were meals to die for. After eating we would walk our meal off with Uncle Earl and Grandma Bell by visiting the sick and shut-in at Freeman’s Hospital. The Tyler House is named after my Great Uncle, the Rev. Earl Tyler. The 199-unit is a low-income housing complex for senior citizens, located two blocks north of the church at North Capitol Street and New York Avenue, NW.
Legendary vocalist Bill Withers lyrics describes my grandmother to a “T” in song with his classic rendition of ‘Grandma’s Hands!’
He opens up with “Grandma claps in church on Sunday mornings and plays the tambourine so well.”
Interpretation: Every Sunday Grandma Bell clapped in church on Sunday mornings and played the organ so well.
*Bill then says, “Grandma issues out a warning, baby don’t you run so fast there maybe snakes in that grass.”
Interpretation: When I became a radio sports talk show host Grandma Bell advised me to always tell the truth. She explained a lie will change a thousand times, but the truth never changes. The advice help make me a success as a pioneer in sports talk radio and changed the way we talk sports in America. There were plenty of snakes, but they were not all in the grass, most were found crawling in political office–no change there.
*His next stanza was, “Grandma Hands soothed the local unwed mother, she said I know that you really love that man, but put it all in Jesus hands.”
Interpretation: The local unwed mother was Mattie Smith, my mother a country girl from Sumpter, S. C. She was 6 months pregnant with me when my “Dead Beat Dad” Alfred Bell a native Washingtonian and Grandma Bell’s son decided to move to Brooklyn, New York. My older brother Alfred ‘Bobby’ was the first son Grandma Bell had taken into her home. My mother was pregnant with me and he leaves DC and she follows. I was born in King’s County Hospital in Brooklyn, New York. Grandma tried her best to get him to do the right thing, but he wanted to be a ‘Play Boy!’ He finally marries my mother after she gets pregnant with my brother Earl. Having babies today and then getting married LATER is the norm, but Grandma Bell was having none of it in the 30s and 40s from her sons and daughters.
*Bill’s next lyrics really hits close to home when he says “Mattie don’t you whip that boy, what do you want to spank him for, he didn’t drop no apple core.”
Interpretation: Grandma Bell would not allow my mother or father to spank us. She and my aunts were the only ones allowed to discipline us. When my mother finally came and got me and my brother Earl to take us to live with her in a new NE housing project, we cried bloody murder. We did not want to leave Grandma’s house. Grandma Bell made my mother an offer she could not refuse, she would keep my older brother Bobby and raise him–case closed.
The Urban League’s new foundings on “The 2018 State of Black America” is mis- leading, they point fingers at Bill Gates and Silicon Valley the tech giant of America. The claim, “Silicon Valley Slow Hiring Blacks Despite Our High Use Of Tech.” And don’t forget President Donald Trump!
In February 2018 a report surface saying, “No progress in Black America in 50 years after the 1968 Kerner Report established by President Lyndon B. Johnson to investigate why there was so much unrest in Black America. The findings clearly stated we were headed for ‘Two Americas, one black and one white!’ It closed saying, ‘high school diplomas and college degrees made little or no difference in the hiring practices of White America.’ Welcome to “One America” 2018.
I find it laughable when I hear or read the 1% claiming black folks cannot get ahead in America because we are lazy and shiftless and don’t want to work. If that is the case who were those lazy and shiftless black folks who built this country?
There will never be an “Even Playing Field” when it comes to equality in Black America.” Why? The 1% will never share the power or the dollar bill. Success in America is based on the dollar bill. The safe guards the 1% put in place to protect their interest is as follows; The Supreme Court ruling in 2014 that unlimited money could be given to political candidates running for office was the beginning of the end to there ever being a ‘Even Playing Field’ in America.
In 1987 the Supreme Court use another to keep us behind the proverbial “8 Ball.” They voted 6-3 extending preferences in employment for white women and minorities? I am still trying to figure that one out! Justice and Just-Us is another tool being use, thanks to the criminal justice system our jails are overrun with people of color. According to a recent report by Global Research: The Prison Industry in the U. S. is now Big Business. Many question whether it is another form of slavery? The jails are run and controlled by white millionaires. These institutions can now be found on the stock market on Wall Street. The U. S. has more people in jail than any other place in the world. Private prison stocks are up 100% since the Presidency of Donald Trump.
Genification is another tool, white folks are taking back the inner-cities in America and displacing people of color by imposing higher taxes leading to their exits to parts unknown (ghettos and section 8 Housing). This is a well thought out plan that has led to black on black murder in our streets and our communities. When people of color are packed into these type of environments they are going to commit crimes of violence against those who are closest to them.
My heroes to this day are black women, they laid the foundation for who I am. Grandma Bell could not shoot a jump shot, hit a baseball 400 feet or throw a football 60 yards in the air, but she was a superstar in the game called life. A game where people of color are fouling out minute by minute, especially our children. A change is not coming until our children pull up their pants and their parents (most are children themselves) grow up and lead the way.
Martial Arts Legends: Jhoon Rhee & Furman Marshall mentors of Muhammad Ali
My friend who was truly an officer and a gentle-man, martial arts legend Jhoo Rhee died Sunday April 30, 2018. He was 86 years old. He definitely leaves a void in Washington, DC and the worldwide community of martial arts (Taekwondo).
I met Mr. Rhee in the early 70s through my partner in the community a martial arts legend in his own right, Grand Master Furman Marshall. Furman is one of the founders of Black Ski an internationally ski group known world wide. As the history of the martial arts over the last half century is recorded and documented, the name of Furman Marshall has attained iconic status. He is a 10th degree black belt and the founder of Simba DoJang the oldest black martial arts organization in the world. Simba DoJang is the winningest karate studio in the world. It was easy to see why Jhoon Rhee referred to Furman “As a humble and kind man”, it takes one to know one.
Mr. Rhee’s martial arts’ career got its start in the early 60s in Washington, DC, but he didn’t really come into prominence until the early 70s about the same time I was becoming a pioneering radio sports talk host on W-O-O-K radio. We established a bond after he appeared on my talk show. After the show he reminded me, he was always just a telephone call away.
Mr. Rhee would take DC by storm in 1974 when he open several studios and made his two little children household names. He became a promotional and marketing genius when he produced a television commercial showing his kids, I would guess they were 3 and 4 years old in karate uniforns demostrating kicks and jabs saying “Nobody Bothers Me.” The popularity of the martial arts here in DC went through the roof. Mr. Rhee would make several more appearances on Inside Sports, keeping his word, he was always just a telephone call away.
Our next encounter would be in 1975 in the Poconos Mountains in Pennsylvia at Muhammad Ali’s boxing camp. Ali had invited Mr. Rhee to the camp to help him with his conditioning and to strenghten his jab. I was there to discuss a time frame for the champ to watch our one on one interview recorded after his historic knockout of George Foreman in “The Rumble in the Jungle.” While I was waiting in a cabin with his brother Rahman, he walks through the door with Mr. Rhee and introduces us, but Mr. Rhee says, “I know Harold Bell, he lives in my hometown Washington, DC.” The champ looks out-done and says, ‘Dam Harold you know everybody.’
Mr. Rhee teaches “The Greatest” some basic conditioning techniques of Taekwondo. Ali renames his jab “Accu-Punch” and claims he will use the new punch to knockout his upcoming opponents. Richard Dunn is his next opponent and he will be the last knockout victim of Ali’s career.
Mr. Rhee would go on to become the martial arts instructor to the stars, to include, politicians, entertainers and pro athletes such as Congressman Newt Gingrich, Bruce Lee, Chuck Norris,, Kareem Abdul Jabbar and a host of other Congressmen and celebrities. Mr. Rhee was also a movie star, but he was anything but Hollywood. He never lost his humanity and integrity. He starred in a movie titled, “When Taekwondo Strikes” but left the bright lights to return to doing what he really loved—teaching. He was truly, “The Godfather of American Taekwondo.” He showed how this form of martial arts was different in very unique ways and so was he. RIP my friend.
Two Peas in a Pod: Frank and his best friend Walter Miller–class acts.
In the early 50s I use to sit on “The Hill” watch and admire athletes I wanted to be like once I got to high school. ‘The Hill’ was known as Educational Hill. It was one the most unique school settings in America. I remember while attending Brown Middle School, I would take the street car from my NE housing project every week-day morning to attend school. “The Hill” was located on the corridor of 24th and Benning Road in NE Washington, DC.
What made “The Hill” so unique was the walk from the bus stop to my Brown Middle School which was the last school on that 24th street corridor. We took “The Hill” for granted. To get to Brown we had to first walk by the historical Langston Golf Course on our right, the newly open Spingarn High School was on the left. We then had to walk through a bunch of smiling and loud talking faceless teenagers without names hanging out on the side walk of the school. The next schools on the horizon were Charles Young Elementary, and hidden behind Charles Young was Phelps Vocational High School and at the end of the street was Brown Middle School and the Principal from hell,I thought, William B. Stinson.
He told my mother after her third visit, “Harold will not live to get out of high school.” He saved my life, because he made me determined to prove him wrong.
The athletes attending Spingarn and Phelps were my first heroes. I would sit on “The Hill” after school and watch them practice and play football and baseball, and dream I would do the same one day.
Basketball was the glamour sport (girls) and that is where you would find brothers like Elgin Baylor aka “Rabbit”, Frank Hart, Ed Wells, Doug Robinson, Earl Richards, Terry Hatchett, Ben Dixon, and John Syphax, but to me they were only whispers among the students I sat with on “The Hill.” High school basketball games were under lock and key as far as I was concern. The corridor was patroled by one cop Ray Dixon, and he could smell a wanna-be like me a mile away. The only opportunity I got to see Elgin, Ed Wells, Terry Hatchell, Gary Mays, Frank Hart and others was during the summer on the playgrounds around the city. I would travel during the summer to the Boys Club, Bannecker and Park View to watch Elgin, Frank, Willie Jones, Daddy Grace and enforcers like Swingarn and Lester Lewis.
“Education Hill” was patroled by one cop–officer Ray Dixon. It seemed like he knew every student on the corridor and what school we attended. When me and my crew tried to weasel our way into the Spingarn gym during games he would sniff us out immediately. You did not want to get on the wrong side of Dixon and so we kept our distant.
This brings me back to Frank Hart who went home to be with the Lord on April 16, 2018. He was a native Washingtonian and a high school and playground Basketball legend here in the Nation’s Capitol. He attended Bannecker Middle School where his legend first took root. Ed Wells, another high school, college and playground basketball legend remembers playing against him when he was a student at Brown Middle School. He said, “Frank and his teammates put on a basketball clinic and sent us back to Benning Road with our tails between our legs.” Frank played on those great Armstrong teams (1951-1952) with the likes of Captain Ed Wells, Arthur Kay, Big Dub Robinson, Art Van Brackle, Gary Mays, Andrew Dyer, Walter Jones, Bernard Braddock and Ben Dixon. They were led by their great coach, Charlie Baltimore who was “The Wizard of Oz” of high school basketball in DC. I am a big fan of legendary DeMatha High School basketball Coach Morgan Wooten. He was a great coach and a gentleman in every sense of the word, but he was no Charlie Baltimore or Dave Brown.
The best high school basketball in DC was played in the early 50s in so-called Division Two. This division was established to separate black schools from the segregated white schools in Division One. Playground and high school basketball was played above the rim in the black community. In the white community players were still shooting two hand set-shots and the fast-break was still being run at a snail’s pace. In Division Two, jump shots, hang time and show time were the norm. Armstrong “ruled the roost” before Rabbit they won 11 Division Championships in row.
Coach Baltimore had his eyes on Frank while he was making a name for himself at Bannecker. Frank was destined for high school and college stardom and all the coaches in Division Two wanted his services. He decided to go to Dunbar with “The nice kids” according to Ed, but Coach Baltimore pulled off one of the great heist in high school basketball when he literally kidnapped Frank from his neighboring school and rival without a shot being fired or a call to 911. Before anyone knew it Frank had disappeared out of a side door into the front door of Armstrong High School. It is rumored that Coach Baltimore assigned Big Dub Robinson and several football players as security guards to keep an eye on Frank for the first month of the kidnapping. Why Frank changed his mind and chose Armstrong over Dunbar is still up for debate.
There was an interesting trait that Ed Wells remembered about Frank. He says, “Frank was a hell of a foul shooter!” Coach Baltimore had a drill after every practice where each player had to make 50 foul shots in a row before heading to the showers. Frank could make 50 foul shots in a row with his eyes closed,” Ed said.
Ben Dixon, the Captain of the 1952-1953 team said, “Frank was a great high school teammate. His energy warranted him his place of distinction in our high school and playground basketball history. Hopefully, he will be rewarded generously for all of the good that he did. We can’t ask for anything more.”
Frank was a member of the 1951-52 team that won 20 games and lost 5, and the 1952-1953 Division Two Championship team that won 17 and lost 3. The team featured Dixon, Gary Mays, Walter Jones, Ed Gilliard, Ted Boderick, George Dill, Carl Jackson, William Burton, Leon Glover, Charles Allen, Leon Glover and Welford Rice.
Elgin was attending Spingarn in 1953 when he went on a mission and set a new high school scoring record with 63 points against Phelps. Armstrong split two games with Phelps, but lost to Dunbar and Phelps backed into and won their only Division Two championship under the great Dave Brown. The next two years Armstong took up where they left off winning the next two Division Two Championships. The 1953 team included Captain Ben Dixon, Gary Mays, Walter Jones, William Burton, Ted Boderick, Carl Jackson, Welford Rice, Charles Allen, Leon Glover, and Frank Hart.
In 1954 Armstrong again found themselves in the Division Two finals against Spingarn and its star player Elgin Baylor. Coach Charlie Baltimore knew they would be in big trouble if he did not come up with a way to stop the Rabbit. In their last meeting he scorched them for 39 points. Coach Baltimore went into his hat of tricks and it was not a rabbit he pulled out, it was a bandit name Gary Mays. Despite having only one arm Gary was considered by many to be the best all around athlete in the city. Coach Baltimore’s instructions to Gary was to play Elgin man to man the entire game (box in one). The other Armstrong players would play a zone defense. In one of the biggest upsets in DC high school basketball history Armstrong prevailed–the final score, Spingarn 54 and Armstrong 53. The One Arm Bandit had done what many thought impossible, held the Rabbit to 18 points.
Elgin would later play in the two of the most important All-Sar Games in the city’s basketball history. The first, was played at Terrell Jr. High School on March 12, 1954. The oponents were the all white Division One group All-Stars. They were led by their “Great White Hope” a high school scoring machine, Jim Wexler. Wexler held the DC Public High School scoring record, 52 points until Elgin shot the lights out against Phelps.
In the match up with the all white all-stars it was no-contest. Elgin scored 44 points and Wexler scored 34 points. Wexler would later say, “Baylor introduced me to a basketball world I never knew.” In Baylor’s book “Hang Time” it sounds like he and Wexler were the only players on the court for that historical showdown. I was not there, but we know for sure there were at least 4 more players who played in that game, including Frank Hart.
Elgin would pick up where he left off with the Stonewalls when he dropped out of school in 1952. The Stonewalls would meet a group of all white college all-stars in the finals of a tournament at Turner’s Arena. The all-stars included University of Maryland star Gene Shue. The Stonewalls beat the college all stars by 22 points. Shue had 34 points and Elgin had 38 points. He called Shue, “The Real deal” but again in his book “Hang Time” he again sounds like he and Shue were the only players on the court, but again we know there were other players on the Stonewalls, including, Frank Hart. “Hang Time” was a great read with the exception of Rabbit’s short term memory when it came to his coach and his teammates that played with him.
Elgin is the most decorated and dominant basketball player to ever come out of DC. He ruled all that he surveyed despite the snub by the white media as it related to space allowed for the exploits of the black athlete. Basketball was still a T-E-A-M game and Armstrong took no prisoners as Elgin played musical chairs between Phelps and Spingarn High Schools during his tenure. Two years at Phelps and one at Spingarn, Elgin’s hang time was limited in the won-lost column. Ed Wells, Ben Dixon, Frank Hart and their Armstrong teammates played a major role in that one blemish on his fabulous high school career.
The only local news story on the exploits of Rabbit’s high school oddessey was found in the Washington Star Newspaper dated March 25, 1954:
LOSS TO BAYLOR IN TOURNAMENT NO COST TO GENE SHUE’S PRESTIGE! The Evening Star March 25, 1954
Gene Shue of Maryland joins the College All-Stars on Sunday to begin the tour against the Harlem Globe Trotters and there is a good chance he may run into a familiar face before the circuit is completed.
Shue, rated the top basketball player in the area in recent years met up with Elgin Baylor last night, in the final game of the Capitol Invitation Tournament at Turner’s Arena. The Maryland ace lost no prestige as his College Park Merchants’ team dropped the championship to the Stonewall A C 90-68 it can’t be said that Baylor got the worst of the duel either. The scoring Wizard from Spingarn high outscored Shue 38 points to 34, while facing probably his toughest opposition of the year. While Baylor has little to say on the matter, the suspicion is that the next team he will play for will be the Harlem Globetrotters, unless the Army steps in.
The tournament proved what the Globetrotters and others already knew Baylor attracts the crowds. The three day tournament among mostly pick-up teams attracted around 3,000 fans and was a moderate success, according to Dave Carraso. Carrasco who is the Director of athletics and basketball coach at Montgomery Blain High School, gives Baylor 90 percent of the credit. Shue has a great following to, but it was Baylor who had the drawing power, he admits.
As for comparing their abilities, Carrasco may lean toward the college boy, “for steady basketball there is no one like Shue, he has more finesse and won’t make the same mistakes that Baylor will,” he says. But Baylor has the makings of a terrific player in fact he is terrific now. I’d never seen him before this tournament. He was off the first night (29 points) but on the next night he made some unbelievable shots.” Baylor got 47 points.
The Merchants were only behind 47-43 at half-time of the final game before the team work of the Stonewall outfit began to take affect. Ernie Warlick helped Baylor in the scoring while matching Shue’s 34 points, Drew Shauffler was the only other Merchant player in double figures, he chipped in with 10 points. Baylor’s coach at Spingarn, Dave Brown concedes Baylor maybe headed for the Globetrotters, but he has strongly urged him against it. “For one the U. S. Army will get him before the Trotters do” Elgin has received offers from about 10 colleges including a very good one from Seton Hall. I am trying to look at the overall picture, but it is his life, Coach Brown says.
Elgin Baylor (Spingarn), Gary Mays (Armstrong)and Warren ‘W.W.’ Williams (Dunbar) would continue their basketball odessey by packing their shopping bags and head out to parts unknown, Idaho. All they had to go on was a first-hand visit by W.W. a year earlier. Idaho was located in the northwestern part of the U. S. known for its mountains and wilderness. The closest thing to a moutain and wilderness these three players ever experience was Rock Creek Park and walking from 13th & U Streets up the steep hill to Cardozo High School.
The academic mystery of Elgin and Gary traveling out to Idaho was neither had grades to go to the bathroom. This made W. W. the lone scholar among the three.
Frank decided to take his chances by joining the U. S. Army after graduating from high school. Shortly after basic training he was spotted on base playing pick-up basketball and one of the players told the Base Commander about a “Hot Shot” player from DC. The Commander checked him out and made him an offer he could not refuse. The offer, to play “Special Services” in the Hawaii Islands. He would shoot the lights out in his new assignment and became the leading scorer and star player during his tour.
He returned home to play for the Stonewalls in the late 50s and then he moved on to team up with Donald Lipscome (realestate), Harold Dean, Rabbit Gaskins, Roosevelt James(?), Jay Peterson (DC COP), Kermit Banks (DC Public Schools), and Gil Hoffman. These guys all made up the 1964 Kerlips a dominant recreation team who were unbeatable led by Frank Hart. These players went on to have distinguishing careers in real Estate (Lipscome), DC Public High School & college coach (Dean), Educator DC Public Schools (Banks), DC Public Schools Athletic Director and Ass’t Superintendent (Hoffman).
Black Americans are given little or no credit while they live and no credit at all when we die. The Washington Post is the best example, Roland Fatty Taylor a young street dude from NE DC against all odds made it all the way from Watts and Kelley Miller playgrounds to the ABA and on to the NBA where he became “Captain” of the Denver Nuggets. He played alongside, Julius Irving aka Dr. J and George Gervin aka the Ice Man (the nick name given to him by Fatty). Gary Mays was aka the One Arm Bandit, he lost his arm as youngster growing up in West Virginia to a accidental blast from a shotgun. Despite his one arm he was given a try-out as a catcher at a Major League Baseball camp in his hometown of Washington, DC.
It was the early 50s and the camp was held at old Griffin Stadium on the Georgia Avenue corridor. Gary was the only player to hit a home-run out of the stadium, and he didn’t allow a stolen base. Despite being named MVP of the tryout camp Major League Baseball played the Race Card and never offered him a contract. Fatty and Gary died in February and Frank died in April of 2018. The common denominator, their living and dying received little or no fanfare in the Washington Post or the Afro-American Newspaper.
National correspondents like James Brown (CBS), Kevin Blackistone (Washington Post), Michael Wilbon (ESPN), Colby King (Washington Post/Dunbar grad) all have ties to DC, but have no clue about the community or sports history. David Aldridge (NBA TNT) has a clue, but he cannot cover it all. In 2007 ABC News recognized Gary Mays in a 2 minute blur in a Black History Month forum produced by Inside Sports.
Black History is being oppressed and given little or no recognition. The proof is in the pudding for example; Washington, DC is the only public high school system in America that can lay claim to having two DC Public High Schools with four athletes in the NFL and the NBA Hall of Fames. They are Len Ford and Willie Wood of Armstrong High School (NFL) and Elgin Baylor and Dave Bing of Spingarn High School (NBA). The common denominator, both institutions of higher learning are now shut-down–lost history. It gets worst, the founder of the DC Hall of Fame is a capetbagger by the name of Janette Holston Harris and guess where she is from–Kentucky. She is allowed to make up her own rules for inductees; for example, “If you are a native Washingtonian and you now live in Maryland, you are not eligible for the DC Hall of Fame.” Are you kidding me–history lost. To get around that stipulation with folks who act and look like her, there is a ‘Regional Award’ she gives out to other frauds and capetbaggers like radio and TV personalities, Donnie Simpson and Joe Madison, Simpson is from Detroit and Madison is from Dayton, Ohio. Their knowledge of the DC community you could put on the head of a needle.
We all should be asking the question, why is it that our DC Public High School Coaches like, Charlie Baltimore, Ted McIntyre, Dave Brown, Jesse Chase, Biff Carter, Sal Hall and athletes, Avatus Stone, J. A. Preston, Ralph “Daddy Grace” Paige, Cecil Turner, Reggie Lee, Frank Hart, Rock Green, Peasie Jordan, John Syphax, Ben Dixon, Ed Wells, Shorty Sumlin, Red Mike Hagler, Doug Robinson, Ollie Johnson, Dave Bing, are not in the Washington DC Hall of Fame? These coaches and athletes laid the foundation for our academic and athletic success.
The most important thing that I remember about Frank and his side kick, Walter Miller, the word “Player Hater” can never be associated with their names. They always had a kind word of encouragement for a young brother like me and they had each other’s backs. I looked up to them. RIP Frank Hart.
The Memorial Service for Frank Hart will be held on Monday May 14th at 11 a.m, St Gabriel’s Church, 26 Grant Circle NW, Washington, DC.
Elgin Baylor known to family and friends as Rabbit on the playgrounds of DC
High school Coach Dave Brown, the man most responsible for Rabbit’s NBA career. DC Mayor Walter Washington and I pay tribute to Coach Brown’s retirement.
In April 2018 Former Spingarn High School and NBA Hall of Fame player Elgin Baylor blew into his hometown of Washington, DC. The ocassion, he was selling his new book titled “Hang Time.” What a great tile, in a town he left hanging his entire NBA career except for a visit back home for the funeral of a family member. During those visits he would use the back roads and under the cover of darkness to find his way into a place he once called home.
Elgin without a doubt is the greatest basketball player to ever come out of DC (I am a eyewitness). I watched Elgin when I was just a student at Brown Middle School in NE DC. My middle school was in walking distance of Phelps and Spingarn high schools. This was where his legendary status first took root. He followed coach Dave Brown from Phelps to next door neighbor and rival Spingarn. And as they say, “The rest is basketball history!”
His basketball legendary status was born on the playgrounds and in a segregated DC Public School system in Washington, DC.
NBA great Dr. J described Elgin’s prowness on a basketball court to that of a ballerina as it related to his movements. Rabbit was the first to use hang-time as a part of his basketball offensive arsenal leaving opponents flatfooted in his wake. Dr. J and Michael Jordan were all students of his hang-time classes taught from their home television sets.
When I was contacted by Frank Jones, Jr. and told that Elgin would be at the new Afro-American Museum I was skeptical about his appearance. His travels back home were rare, far, few and in between. I was then told that his appearance was based on his new book titled “Hang Time!” Frank Jones the nephew of the late basketball legend Wil Jones advised me I could get free tickets to hear a one on one interview with Elgin conducted by former Wizard’s player Phil Chenier–I immediately said, “Thanks, but no thanks.” Phil Chenier knows absolutely nothing about DC basketball or Elgin Baylor! The last time I got free tickets to see Elgin Baylor, the free tickets were given to me by Elgin Baylor in Greensboro, NC in 1959.
The ocassion, the Lakers were on an exhibition tour in the south and their next stop was Greensboro, NC. The city was located 30 miles north of Winston-Salem. There were several Spingarn student/athletes attending Winston-Salem Teachers College and I was one of them. When I heard the Lakers would be playing in Greensboro I told my roommate Donald ‘Duck’ Wills and suggested we go and try to catch up with him and get some tickets for the game.
Donald and I grew up together in the same NE housing project and we were the quarterback/wide receiver combination at Spingarn High School. His brother Maury ‘Sonny’ Wills was a star athlete at Cardozo High School and against all odds went on to become a record breaking and legendary base stealer for the LA Dodgers’ Major League Baseball team. He spend 10 years in the minor leagues before he was called up to the Dodgers. We were all connected to Rabbit. Donald like his brother was a great all-around athlete. I followed in their footsteps and was a three sports star in football, basketball and baseball. I even worn Rabbit’s No. 23 Spingarn jersey. My athletic skills never matched theirs.
In the meantime, Donald begged off of traveling to Greenesboro to see Rabbit claiming he had a hot date and for me to say hello to him. I was not deterred, I borrowed my teammate/roommate Arnold McKnight’s car and hit the road. During the drive to see my homeboy I was kind of apprehensive about how he would receive me. He was always very quiet and some what introverted.
The common denominator was our alma mater Spingarn, Coach Dave Brown, and the Wills brothers. Elgin and I had become ‘friends’ after he married his first wife Ruby and they moved to an apartment complex in NE DC called The Mayfair Mansions. The complex was located directly across the street from my housing project, Parkside. Elgin like most pro athletes black and white during that era had second jobs once the season was over. Today’s salaries were unheard of. His second job was working for the DC Recreation Department at Bannecker Playground in NW DC. The playground was located directly across the street from Howard University on Georgia Avenue.
In the evenings I would wait at the corner of Hayes Street and Kenilworth Avenue leading out of our community. This was the route he would take to his job. I would hitch a ride with him to 24th & Benning Road (Langston Golf Course)where he would drop me off to walk to the Brown Middle School’s basketball court. Some days (mostly weekends) we would play at Henry T. Blow elementary school playground located at 19th & Benning Road (directly across the street from John Thompson’s residence)and that would be my drop off point. I remember one evening I was running late and there he was parked waiting for me. He said, “Don’t make this a habit” and I kind of smiled to myself.
Lets return to Greensboro and my encounter with Rabbit. I was able to locate the motel rather easily where the Lakers were staying. I had my coach Clarence ‘Bighouse’ Gaines call Cal Irving the basketball coach at North Carolina A & T to get the name of the motel, but before giving me the information, he asked me for the second time, “Do you really know Elgin?” I looked at him and said, “Where is Elgin from, what school did he attend and what coach did he play for?” He then surrendered the piece of paper he had written the information on.
Once I arrived in Greensboro I knocked on the door and Rabbit opened the door and said, “Man what are you doing way down here?” I told him Duck and I were attending Winston-Salem on an athletic scholarship. He asked where was Duck? And I said ‘he had a conflict and was chasing some nursing student around the campus.’ He laughed and we talked hometown and basketball for about 20 minutes. I then made my exit back to Winston-Salem. He gave me 4 tickets to the game, a Laker jacket and twenty-dollars with instructions to give Duck ten. The tickets I gave away to some white youth hanging around the motel trying to get autographs. The jacket I held on to for several years before losing it and Duck never asked me for the ten dollars.
After college I would follow Rabbit on television and travel to watch the Bullets play the Lakers in Baltimore at the Civil Center. The Gus Johnson and Elgin Baylor one on one battles were always the best knockdown and dragout battles in the NBA. They were like gladiators on a basketball court. Rabbit (Elgin) and Honeycomb (Gus) were worth the price of a ticket and they left you checking the schedule for their next encounter. This was “Real Men’s basketball.” There was no crying or signifying to the referees on every play. Sometimes the referees would just let them play until there was a sign of blood.
Too many think “Show Time NBA” originated in LA, but the real ‘Show Time’ originated in Baltimore with arrival of Earl ‘The Pearl’ Monroe from Winston-Salem State in North Carolina in 1968. Show Time started with a rebound and an outlet pass from Wes Unseld to Earl with Elvin Hayes running on one flank and Honeycomb running on the other. It was breath taking and had the crowd standing on their feet wondering who would be the last to touch the ball. It was here Earl earned his nick name “Black Magic.” It was double the drama when it was Lakers versus Bullets–to include the duel between Rabbit and Honeycomb.
I notice after Rabbit turned pro he became “The Invisible Man” around his hometown. His friends and former teammates would attend NBA games in Baltimore by car and busloads hoping to get an audience with him, but he hardly said, “Hello” and he avoided them whenever possible. The stories of the sightings and non-sightings of Rabbit are many, and sometimes it is hard to know who to believe. To be perfectly honest there is very little difference between him, and DC homegrown *Dave Bing, John Thompson, Sugar Ray Leonard, James Brown, Adrian Dantley, Adrian Branch, Tony Paige, and Tim Baylor. Its a photo finish when it comes to being invisible and selfish human beings in their hometown. The sad part of their selfish behavior, they all act like they were born rich instead of poor—I could write a book.
Let me tell you about one of the stories that I know “First Hand” up close and personal. The stories that have been written about Rabbit and his greatness never mention the man most responsible for his success as an athlete and as a man in this GAME CALLED LIFE. His name was Coach Dave Brown!
Former writer and columnist Dave McKenna has probably written more about DC playground legends than anyone else in sports media with the exception of yours truly. I remember a column he had written titled, “Wilt vs. Elgin: When Their World Was the Playground–Two legends in the summer of 57” dated August 28, 2012.
It was the best caption of DC playground basketball I have ever read, but there were so many outlandish lies told about who was there and how Wilt got there were comical. Dave Harris was the most reliable source. It was not McKenna’s fault, he just didn’t know. It was a historical moment in DC basketball history and everyone wanted to be a part of it, including some of those who claim they were there and were nowhere in the zip code.
I love me some Morgan Wooten, but Morgan was no Dave Brown, he just had more resources and press coverage. The other Division Two black coaches include, Sal Hall, Jessie Chase, Biff Carter, Ted McIntye, Charton Steward, and Charlie Baltimore. They were just never given their just due for developing some of the greatest athletes to come out of this town. The DC Public school system is the only public school system in America that can claim four professional athletes in the hall of fame. Armstrong High School produced NFL players, Len Ford and Willie Wood. Spingarn High School produced, NBA players, Elgin Baylor and Dave Bing. Other great athletes had names like, Avatus Stone, J. A. Preston, Rock Green, Reggie Lee, Hosie lee, Frank Lee, Terry Hatchett, Roger ‘Shoes’ Scott, Mo Joe Icely, Melvin ‘Weasel’ Jackson, Willie Johnson, James ‘Chicken Breast’ Lee, and Bernard Levi. Kiyi Battle, Jaky Mathews, Walter Brooks, Nick Turner, Jabbo Turner, Bill Butler, Bootsie Harris, James Dudley, Everet ‘Cookie’ Payne, all of these men were playground and Boys Club mentors. They were also important role models to young brothers like me who had no father figure.
The greatest, I have to give him some slack when it comes to returning home and not giving something back. He was truly shy and an introvert, what you saw was what you got. One rumor, concerns Elgin’s former teammate at Phelps Maxwell Banks. He adopted the Hollywood name of Max Julien and went on to become a movie star with films portraying the life of a pimp and other street hustlers. Max played opposite the legendary comedian Richard Pryor in “The Mack” the film was released 1973. It was seen as a blaxploitation drama/crime movie. Rumor has it Max fell on hard times and went to Elgin’s home without an invitation. He rung the door bell and Elgin answered in his bathrobe and Max asked him for a loan until he could get back on his feet. Without a word Elgin shut the door and returned with a hundred dollar bill and told Max to never come back to his house again.
In 1989 my mentor the legendary NBA broadcaster and playground basketball legend Sonny Hill and I attended the NBA All-Star Game in Houston, Texas. Remember, I had not seen Elgin up close and personal since 1959 in Greensboro, NC. He retired from the NBA in 1971 one year after I took to the airwaves with Inside Sports. We had communicated when I was coordinating and hosting a retirement tribute to our high school coach Dave Brown in 1978. I called him at his LA Clipper office and to my surprise he took my call. I explained I was coordinating a tribute to Coach Brown and if his busy schedule allowed I would like for him to attend. He begged off saying he had a conflict in his schedule, but said he would send a telegram to congradulate him and asked me for Coach Brown’s home number. He did send the telegram and I read it during the tribute, but he never called his savior.
During the NBA All-Star Game Sonny and I shared a hotel room. Sonny had left me down in the media room trying to convince NBA Press Relations Director Brian McIntyre I was a legit member of the media. This was after he told he had not received a credential request from Inside Sports. I had to call Red Auerbach’s home and have his wife Dotie confirm who I was. Mr. McIntyre and I later became great friends. As I was taking the elevator to my room, guess who came to dinner, Elgin Baylor. There standing before me as I stepped on the elevator was Elgin and a pretty little lady standing next him. We rode together for at least 8 floors with folks getting on and off. He never open his mouth. On his depature he looked back and said, “Nice seeing you again Harold!” I was amazed, I was too lost for words to respond. When I got to the room I told Sonny about my encounter with Elgin and he just said, “Thats Elgin.”
Frank Jones is the brother of the late great Willie Jones, he and his family attended the book signing. Frank was a decent basketball player in his own right and knew Rabbit well, but when he had a face to face encounter with him years later during his NBA career, he claimed he didn’t know Frank. During the book signing Frank was having his book signed by Elgin and according to rumor, someone yelled “thats Willie Jones’ brother.” Rabbit looked up and back down without a word of acknowledgement. This was one of those times I wished Willie was still alive and was in the same room with Rabbit. He would have clothed Rabbit back into his right mind. Willie had no cut-card for cuties on duty, unless it was himself!
Dave Bing a Spingarn grad and a NBA Hall of Fame player thought he was all that, but Rabbit gave him a wake up call also. He asked Rabbit to be his presenter in his induction into the basketball hall of fame, Rabbit claimed a conflict in his schedule. That was Rabbit being Rabbit!
STAY TUNE:FOR OTHER HOW I FORGOT STORIES!
Sugar Ray Leonard
John Thompson, Jr.