On Saturday January 24, 2021 Henry “Hank the Hammer” Aaron Left us behind in his sleep, you see most people get their wings when they transition, but Hank has been flying for years. He flew above the critics and competition in the MLB, by showing up everyday, working harder than everyone around him and being consistent and great every at bat, game, series and season year after year.
Forty-Four years ago, I dreamed I would one day be as good as Hank Aaron the baseball player, but that never happen for me or anyone else. Remember he is by numbers not opinion, The “Greatest Of All Time” (GOAT). Forty-four months ago, I started coaching in a youth program in partnership with MLB and the Atlanta Braves. I teamed up with coach Julie Jones and with the Boys and Girl’s club. That start up was Atlanta RBI, four years later, the Boys & Girl ‘s club walked away from the older boy’s program to focus only on 13 and under. I put together two leagues 18 and up and 15 and up. I did not think about it twice before taking over. No risk no reward.
I was just trying to make a difference in young inner city boy’s lives who wanted to play the game of baseball at a high level. I recruited teams coached by Antonio & Marquis Grissom, Tyrone Newbern , Eric Wynn, Cliff Albright, Kim Brannan, Ernest Spikes, Eddie Bowden, Shawn Livsey, Errol Rogers, Coach Dumas, Coach Austin, Coach Wray. I did not know at the time, we would collectively create BLACK BASEBALL EXCELLENCE in Atlanta and see 27 kids go on to play professional baseball and over 175 go to college. We Created jobs in front MLB offices, Doctors, Lawyers, Financial Analyst , Engineers and more. Even with that we are still chasing the G. O. A. T.
The Hank and Billye Aaron Foundation is called “Chasing the Dream Foundation” and just like when he played, his dream started it in his heart from a place called love. The program is meant help 755 kids get an education through his foundation, but they have done so much more with consistency, hardwork and passion for people day in and day out. The foundation has developed classics musicians, educators, doctors, actors and just great young people over 1,000 kids. Doing it the right way, not bragging on FB or IG but quietly making a difference with class and dignity.
Well I’m passing the torch, it’s time for Marquis Grissom to take over RBI. I no longer run the program. I hope and pray he takes it to greater heights for kids that look like me and others that don’t. He is a good man and with the Braves help I’m confident he will. In closing, My brother and I talked about Mr Aaron’s impact on me and why it hurt me so deeply when he passed on. I watched a man who lived a beautiful life go home to his final resting place is a blessing, but I didn’t have an answer for my pain until now. As a kid I dreamed of being like a ball player who was the man and as a man I have tried to live a life striving to be like a man who was once a ball player.
The internal conflict is that Hank is that man both times. As a man I no longer want to be like Hank, although Hank was an amazing human being. I want to honor him by taking my program Atlanta Metro Inc Baseball and Softball and hopefully touch every kid with the game I love as positively as I can. For me to help them chase their dreams, but yet make sure they are chasing it from a solid academic foundation. I think that will honor Hank best (to see them live a beautiful Life). RIP my hero Hammering Hank.
the author is native of Atlanta, Georgia. He is an account executive for CBS television 46, and former President of 100 Black Men in DeKalb County, Georgia. Mr. Hollins wears many hat when it comes to young people in his zip code. The lives he has touched reads like a Who’s Who in Atlanta and not all of them are athletes. Last year CBS 46 honored him as a “Community Hero” and several weeks ago he pinched hit for Hammering Hank when Hank called in sick–John threw out the first pitch in the stadium being dedicated to his hero. https://www.facebook.com/100005314755131/videos/1500145726839238/
Henry “Hank” Aaron first came to my attention in the 1957 World Series. I was a few days shy of my sixth birthday. The ’57 World Series was the first baseball game my family ever watched on a television set. We were farmers, and radio had been the media beaming information and entertainment into our farmhouse for about forty years.
Family members debated the decision to purchase the family’s first television. Television allowed us to see with our eyes the picture of the words we heard on radio. That clinched the decision to spring for a black and white tv, as indeed a late-season home run in the eleventh inning by Aaron had clinched the National League pennant for the Milwaukee Braves.
Seeing Aaron and Billy Burton performing admirably in the outfield and with the bat lit a spark in that six-year-old’s eyes that he could one day play baseball too. Before we had a television, we listened to baseball games on the radio. Usually, the game broadcasted into our hamlet in Middle Georgia featured the New York Yankees.
I had no idea what the Yankees looked like, but I knew their names, Mantle, Martin, Rizzuto, McDougal, Berra, Ford, and the rest. I had not heard of any of the Braves, but they performed so well that I learned their names: Spann, Adcock, Burdette, Matthews, Crandall, and Bob Buhl was always warming up in the bullpen, which didn’t look like any bullpen we had on the farm. One player whose name rolled off the announcer’s tongue with an air of importance was Henry “Hank” Aaron. Long before Aaron was “The Hammer,” or “Hammerin Hank,” he was Henry “Hank” Aaron. And seeing that Aaron and Burton looked like me, wow, a baseball player is what I wanted to be.
As fate would have it, I didn’t play professional baseball. Instead, I taught on the elementary and college level, practiced law, and now I sometimes write about baseball, including a book on the Negro Leagues where Aaron got his start (The Duke of 18th & Vine: Bob Kendrick Pitches Negro Leagues Baseball (Cascade Publishing House, Atlanta, 2019).
On the day that “The Hammer” transitioned, 13 days shy of his 87th birthday , I took a trip to the tax office at Greenbriar Mall. I needed a tag for a new car I purchased in December, a Jaguar convertible. My wife says I am too old for a convertible, but it is a car that I always wanted, and seeing that later in the year, I will reach my seventh decade, I decided to fulfill that dream.
The night before, I planned my morning journey to the tag office. A long line greets you every day. You must get up early in the morning for the privilege to stand in the front of the line. It was a cold morning.
Taking the back way just as the first light of dawn broke through the sky, I turned down Adams Street, and as I often do when passing the home of Henry Aaron, I took a glance and prayed that all was well with him. My mind reflected on the evening I spent at Aaron’s house in the mid-1990s at a fundraiser for Marvin Arrington, who was running for mayor of Atlanta.
While the guests were outside, I wandered into the house to use the restroom; I passed through Aaron’s den and was mesmerized by the sight of every Aaron baseball card hanging on the walls around the room. I spent more time viewing Aaron’s baseball card collection than outside hobnobbing with the politicos. When I had a chance to speak with Aaron, I complimented him on his collection, then I told him, I have one card that you do not have on your wall. Aaron looked stunned, then said, “Oh yeah?
“Yeah,” I said, “I have a Tommie Aaron.” He smiled.
I think Aaron was pleased to know that someone treasured having a Tommie Aaron baseball card. The two of them have hit more home runs than any brother act in Major League Baseball.
I passed his home and took the curve in the road up to Childress. Nothing appeared any different than on other trips by his house. I arrived early at the tag office; a long line had already formed. The line would have been much worse if I had waited later in the day.
A young, 30ish Black woman was barking out orders explaining just how it would go today if you expected to receive any service from the tax commissioner. This clerk separated those under 65 years of age in a line on the entrance door’s right side. The 65 and up group was on the left side of the door. We stood outside in the cold and the rain. I took my place at the end of the line. I noticed that every senior citizen this young clerk interacted with, there ensured a disagreeable conversation. The young clerk raised her voice rudely, repeatedly, in response to questions raised by the seniors.
Then a young, 30 something well-dressed Black man in hip-hop garb strolled up to the senior line because it was shorter than the young people’s line. Several seniors told him that line was for people 65 and above and that unless he had taken incredible care of himself, his line was the long one on the other side of the door.
The young man was disappointed and rudely yelled: “Okay, you old folks can have this line!”
When I was a younger man, I never thought it was a practical reality to be dismissive to my elders. Seniors were people to cherish, to help, and from whom to soak up wisdom. But this new crop doesn’t seem to know that it flourishes because of the pathway cleared by the “old folks.”
Yet, young people do not know the journey and thus do not respect the journey. They think that young people rule the planet. And while older people are dying in large numbers, many still survive because the “old folks” have learned the secret to longevity. The young cannot envision they will reach the threescore and ten years promised in the scripture. A great many are gone before age thirty. They have no clue that Divine Grace can carry “old folks” into their hundreds living comfortably on checks that were cashed long before many of the young crowd were born.
While standing in line, my phone began to ding. First, I ignored calls from several baseball coaches thinking that the call could wait until I returned home. Then putting my phone away, a notice from Politico popped up. The headlined read HENRY “HANK” AARON DEAD.
That was a jolt I didn’t expect, like a family member learning on television that a relative died in an accident. This is such a cold and callous headline. Politico could have at least written, Henry “Hank” Aaron Has Died. I imagine that headline was written by a young journalist who placed little value on the lives of older people. Aaron’s transition deserves more solemnity than an announcement that he is dead.
Are there any “Baby Boomers” staffing news rooms these days? Surely a “Boomer” would have edited DEAD from that headline out of respect for the life of, well, any human.
So, what does all this have to do with Hank Aaron?
Henry “Hank” Aaron had manners — good manners. He respected the space of other people. When the public address announcer introduced Aaron, he would saunter toward home plate, usually with his bat in one hand and his helmet in the other hand. If it was a home game, and he was coming from the home team on-deck circle, Aaron walked behind the Homeplate umpire so as not to disrespect the umpire’s space by walking in front of him, then put on his cap, cock his bat, and the rest you can read in the record books.
Young people can learn manners from Aaron’s life. A little respect goes a long way, even with disagreeable people. When the young tax clerk came to me, she asked for my bill of sale. I handed it to her. There were several pages stapled to it. She refused to take it and barked at me, “I said I need your bill of sale.”
“This is my bill of sale,” I replied.
“I don’t need all that,” she bellowed.
“Well, what do you need,” I asked, confused, and getting a little agitated.
Pointing at the stapled document in my hand, she said, “I don’t need all of that.”
Bingo, now I get it.
“So, what you want is the top sheet and not the other pages,” with a tinge of sarcasm, I queried?
“Yes,” she impatiently stated.
“I didn’t understand you,” I replied.
To which the young clerk offered: “Well, it’s the mask; it’s hard to understand me with my mask on.”
“Oh, I heard what you said. I didn’t understand what you wanted me to give you. It’s a matter of communication,” I thundered, getting a bit flushed in the cheeks.
“You don’t understand,” she roared, telling the old fool off.
“Oh, I understand alright, you don’t understand how to talk to people,” detaching the one sheet she wanted and handing it to her.
Manners, older people have them, or at least most. Few young people have them, some do. Aaron had manners. His manners were on display every night the Braves beamed into American homes. My mom taught me manners, and I saw them reinforced every time I watched Aaron play baseball.
Henry “Hank” Aaron was consistent. Day in and day out, you could count on Aaron showing up and performing at a high level. As the late 1950s gave way to the 1960s, my two favorite baseball players were Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays. I believed that one of them would be the first to hit 60 homers in a season since George Herman “Babe” Ruth. Also, I believed that Mantle or Mays would claim the career home run record of 714. Both had seasons of 50 plus homers, but neither hit 60 in a season nor did either catch Ruth in career homer runs. Mays came close at 660.
Aaron never hit 50 homers in a season. He never hit over 47 in any campaign. So how did he get to 755 home runs when other sluggers failed to reach this summit?
By consistency. In his first 20 years in the league, Aaron averaged 39 home runs a season to surpass Ruth at 715. His production dropped over his last two years, but Aaron managed to average 33 homers for each season he played.He went to work every day. He put in the same excellent effort. When he walked away from his baseball career, he was the “King of Swat”!
Some young people lack the patience to be consistent. They want it right now, just the way they like. Like the tag clerk, she did not want to be responsible for the complete document, she only wanted what she wanted, and that old dude must not be very bright because he doesn’t understand all I am asking for is the top sheet.
Ironically, I had been to the tag office the previous day, but the dealer had not submitted the paperwork, so I received instructions to go back. I encountered this same tag clerk on my visit the day before, and she was charming. She had an adorable spirit. She was patient; she was kind and immensely helpful to the seniors.
Aaron found his comfort level. It was not as flashy as Mays, nor did he hit the tape measured shots of Mantle, but he maintained a consistent productive level.
We all should strive to have Henry “Hank” Aaron’s manners and apply his consistent approach to reach our goals.
Thank you, Mr. Aaron, you taught me much more about life than about baseball, and I am good with this fact.
Harold Michael Harvey is the Living Now 2020 Bronze Medal winner for his memoir Freaknik Lawyer: A Memoir on the Craft of Resistance. He is a Past President of the Gate City Bar Association. He is the recipient of Gate City’s R. E. Thomas Civil Rights Award, which he received for his pro bono representation of Black college students arrested during Freaknik celebrations in the mid to late 1990s. Harvey is an engaging public speaker. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Click here to visit Harold’s official website.
The term “The Greatest” is used very loosely today, but I would guess it would depend on the generation one was born (time). Henry Aaron is the greatest player of my generation. His great swing took him from a poverty-stricken section of Mobile Alabama, to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. He died on Thursday January 19, 2021. He was 86.
I was blessed as a sports media personality to have broken bread and interviewed some of the greatest sports personalities of my generation. There were Muhammad (Boxing), Bert R. Sugar (Boxing), Red Auerbach (NBA), Wilt Chamberlain (NBA), Clarence ‘Bighouse’ Gaines (College basketball), Jim Brown (NFL) and Hank Aaron (MLB) and a cast of hundreds.
I was not surprised Hank’s last heroic act was for his community. He was first among the Atlanta personalities to get vaccinated against Covid 19 at the new Morehouse School of Medicine, January 5, 2021. He was hoping to send a message to Black America that the shots were safe. He said, “It makes me feel wonderful. I don’t have any qualms about it at all. I feel quite proud of myself for doing something like this, you know. Its just a small thing that can help zillions of people in the country. Vaccine experts are saying his death had nothing to do with the vaccine.
Hank’s greatness never let him forget his humble beginnings growing up in Mobile, Alabama. He went from picking cotton as a child to hitting homeruns out of Major League ball parks around the country.
Racism showed its ugly head at every stop, there were tough times in the Negro Leagues and more disguised and subtle racism in Milwaukee and Atlanta. The racist bigots that Jackie Robinson faced in 1947 were still there when Hank arrived in Indianapolis to play with the Clowns’ organization of the Negro leagues in 1951. He was 17 years old. There was no relief in Jacksonville in 1953 when the Braves promoted him to their class A affiliate, the Jacksonville Braves. He led the league in almost everything accept home runs, runs scored (115), hits (208), doubles (36), RBIs (125), total bases (338) and batting average (362). He made his Major League debut in Milwaukee on April 13, 1954. A fracture ankle cut his season short in early September, but he finished 4th in the voting for the “Rookie of the Year” he closed out the year with 13 home runs. There was little doubt he was a super-star in the making.
He was also frustrated with the lack of progress of Africa-Americans on the field of play (less than 10%), lack of GMs in the front office, lack of managers on the field and lack of black ownership in the sky-suites. He watched as so-called black brothers pretended to be minority owners in name and title only. They made no on-field or off-field baseball decisions to help the team win.
Hank faced racism around each base he ran, especially, after each home run he hit during his quest to break the record of the legendary home run king, Babe Ruth. In Major League Baseball Ruth’s home run record of 714 was sacred and stamped “White Privilege.” Hank didn’t just talk the talk in the struggle for civil and human rights, he walked the walk while challenging Major Leauge Baseball to live up to the ground breaking efforts of Branch Rickey and Jackie Robinson. He was the loudest voice to be heard that the Negro League players were equal to the white players in the Major Leagues. In December 2020 MBL finally recognized the Negro Leagues as an equal partner for whatever that is worth in 2021.
Negro Leagues Baseball Museum President Bob Kendrick on Friday reminded fans that Aaron broke in with the Milwaukee Braves in 1954, just seven years after Jackie Robinson shattered the color line with the Brooklyn Dodgers. So Aaron faced the same brutal racism other Black players of the era experienced, especially as the slugger approached Ruth’s home run record. “This Black man in the deep South was about to break a record that no one really thought could ever be broken and that was not wearing well on a lot of (white) people,” Kendrick told the MLB Network, shortly after getting word of Aaron’s passing. “And yet he was able to withstand, endure and still perform at an exceptional high level.” Kendrick added: “He’s as much of a civil rights icon as anyone.”
My wife Hattie and I had the opportunity (Privilege) to spend some private and quite time with him right after he broke the Babe’s record. Ali called to tell me Hank was coming to DC and he wanted to see our Rumble in the Jungle interview. Ali had given him my number. Hank called and invited us to meet him at his downtown hotel for lunch. After lunch we went back to his room and watched the interview. He loved the video and said, “You guys were really serious, you really captured the real Ali, congratulations.”
He walked us to the elevator and asked me to write our home address and telephone number down for him. Several weeks later we received a check in the mail for $1,000 dollars made out to Kids In Trouble and a note saying, “keep helping kids.” In 1980 I held a fund raiser on my birthday at the Foxtrappe Club in DC. I raised $5,000 dollars hoping to help the Atlanta police solve, ‘The Atlanta Child Murders.’
Hank said, that he was deluged with racist hate mail and death threats as a Black player threatening the mark of one of the most popular white players to ever play the game. He said he kept all of the letters to remind his grandchildren how pervasive racism is in the country. “In all of the interviews that the police and the detectives and whoever was in charge did, (they said) all of these were probably just crank letters, but there may be one in there from someone that meant something,” He said in a October 2016 interview.
Hank wrapped up his 23-year career in the majors in 1976 with a boatload of records that still stand including 2,297 runs batted in, 6,856 total bases and 25 All-Star game appearances. But the former Milwaukee/Atlanta Braves great is best known for a record that no longer stands — hitting his way to the all-time home run record previously held by Babe Ruth and later eclipsed by Barry Bonds. Aaron, hit 755 home runs.
He was a class act, he showed little bitterness that his home run mark was surpassed in a modern era that has emphasized long balls and had been helped along by better training methods and even doping. When Barry Bonds hit his 756th home run in San Francisco in 2007, the Giants played a videotaped congratulatory message from Hank. He said on NBC’s Today show last year, “It’s kind of hard for me to digest and come to realize that Barry cheated in the home runs,” He still called Bonds the home run king of baseball, and he doesn’t believe other great players of the steroid era should be banned from Cooperstown.
He was a class act to the end, the shoes he wore in our struggle for civil and human rights will be hard to fill in pro sports.
Blacks have been coming and going out of the White House for over one-hundred years. Frederick Douglas was an abolitionist, orator, writer and a frequent visitor to the White House in the late 1800s. President Rutherford Hayes made him the first black U. S. Marshall in 1877. Following Douglas to the White House were Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Sammy Davis, Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, James Brown and his sidekick Al Sharpton. The athletes were many including Muhammad Ali, Jim Brown, Wilt Chamberlain, Larry Holmes, Don King, Hank Aaron. Who will follow Joe Biden and Kamala Harris into the White House?
When you hear someone say, “Sports and politics don’t mix” you can bet your last dollar it was not Jim Brown. He has hustled the black athlete and the White House for more checks than any visitor in White House history. In 2020 he hit the jackpot with Donald Trump, Trump authorized 50 million dollars for his Amer-I-Can Program disguised as prison reform. His networth went from one-dollar in 2019 to 50 million dollars in 2020?
If you were to ask a black Republican why are you a Republican?, nine times out of ten they would say, “It is the fastest way to the money!” Jim Brown can atest to that, that has been the norm for most blacks. Their visits are to enrich themselves and not the black community. My reach-back track record in the community improved after I left the White House–not my bank account.
If you are a black man or woman and living in America and you have been “Sitting On the Fence” and in denial as it relates to being a Republican or Democrat you better–fasten your seat belts for a wake up call and smell the coffee. History has proven there is very little difference between the two.
What is it that Richard Nixon and Donald Trump have in common, nothing except being Republican Presidents–and one left the White House saying, “I am not a crook” and the other left saying, “I am not a racist?” I would take Nixon over Trump everytime and anytime. Trump has replaced Nixon in the minds of many blacks as the worst President in American history.
Listen to Princeton University Professor Eddie Glaude. There is no big fancy vocubulary with big words (Don King and Eric Dyson). He breaks it down so that all the PhDs on Capitol Hill and the brothers and sisters living in SE DC with no Ds can understands exactly what he is saying.
Claude’s description of racism in America is the same racism I was describing on my sports talk show Inside Sports with Muhammad Ali, Harry Edwards, Jim Brown, Duane Thomas, Willie Wood, Roy Jefferson, etc in 1972. My problem was, I was not as eloquent as Claude. I was emotional and pissed off in the first 3 seconds of my presentation. I came off like the angry black man and I was. In Claude’s 3 minutes he was armed with a knife (smooth vocabulary) that cut deep, he cut through the BS like a surgeon in a operating room at John Hopkins Hospital. The patient (White America) never knew that they had been cut until his final word. He was a smooth operator. See his presentation below.
Check the expression on the faces of the panel as he ends his presentation and the narrator Nichol says–“WOW” and Eddie Claude says, “Lord help us.” I think he just sent a prayer up for President Joe Biden and Vice-President Kamala Harris.
Claude brought back memories from my days on Bolling Air Force Base as a White House Presidential appointee (Richard Nixon). I had started out working with the great Oklahoma football coach, Bud Wilkinson in 1970. Wilkinson was the Director of the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports. He turned to politics after his great college football career. I hung in there with Bud for about six months and I got bored. Bud would come into the office on Monday and Tuesday. On Wednesday he would hit the road for the next big college football game. I would not see him again until the following Monday.
I called the man President Nixon assigned to look over me, Herb Klein. Mr. Klein was the White House Communications Director (he was a class act and a gentleman). It took him about a week to find me another job. He transferred me to the Department of Defense (Pentagon) in the care of Secretary Melvin Laird. Mr. Lair was looking for someone to head a new position for DOD called Domestic Actions (a community based program). I was assigned to Bolling Air Force Base in SE DC (‘The Hood’ Ward 8) as the Director of Domestic Actions. My role was to allow the off-base community to use on-base facilities when they were not being use by military personnel. Those facilities included baseball and football fields, swimming pool, tennis and basketball courts and the base library for community meetings. It was my dream job.
The base Chaplain and I became good friends, his name was Charlie Reider. The Chaplain had this grand idea about making use of some of the vacate buildings on the base. He asked me what I thought and I told him about how the juvenile facilities in DC were overcrowded and maybe we could house some of the youth on base. He took the idea and ran with it and within a couple of months Bolling Boys Base was established. The first of its kind on a military installation, I had a little help from my friends at the White House and DC Superior Court Judge Luke C. Moore. Luke had close ties with DC’s first black Mayor, Walter Washington. Chaplain Reider locked down things on base.
The program was a big hit, I had radio and television personality Petey Greene, DC Superior court judges, the Washington Redskins and Harlem Globe Trotters visit the Boys Base to encourage and enhanced the future of the youth. My dream job would turn into a nightmare.
I had several unpleasant encounters with the base commander a Colonel named, Duane Erickson ( ‘Good Old Boy’ from Texas). He didn’t like civilians under his command no matter if they were Presidential appointees. My office was in the base headquarters down the hall from his. We had to see each other almost everyday and I could tell I was a sight for his sore eyes. The second in command was Colonel Fred Taylor and he was a true officer and a gentleman.
Colonel Taylor knew things were not kosher between me and his boss, but he would always have a kind and encouraging word. One evening he asked me to join him for breakfast at the Officer’s Club in the morning and I did. I remember him saying, “Harold, you are doing a great job here on the base, the Bolling Boy’s Base was a great idea. Colonel Erickson does not like civilians in his space, but he had no choice with you because you were assigned here directlly from the Pentagon by way of the White House. I know it might look like something else, but I don’t think it is (racism). My advice, is for you to remember he is the commander of the base and you guys need to work together as a team. The base needs you both.”
Colonel Taylor excused himself and returns to the table with a poster and gives it to me, it read, “The definition of Diplomacy is being able to tell someone to go to hell and have them looking forward to the trip.” There was a picture of the Devil standing in the middle of red hot flames with a spear in his hands smiling. The Colonel smiled and we finished our breakfast. It looks and sounds like Professor Eddie Claude learned that lesson.
The hand that Biden and Harris have been dealt left by Trump; 400,000+ deaths due to convid 19, unemployment, homes and businesses lost, racism by cop and a criminal justice system–that thrives on Justice and Just-Us. I would not wish that on Mitch McConnell or Lindsey Graham “The Proud Boys” of the U. S. Senate. I don’t expect Joe Biden to save us, I agree with Professor Eddie Claude, we cannot blame all of this chaos (based on racism) on Donald Trump, but he help let the skeletons out of the closet, “This is Us”–Lord help us!
This is an open letter is to Black and White America on the birthday of two of the greatest civil and human rights advocates in the history of American, Dr. Martin Luther King and the Greatest, Muhammad Ali. This open letter is especially for those who claim what they saw on Wednesday January 6, 2021 in Washington, DC on the grounds of the Capitol, was not the America that they knew! If you know of anyone who uttered those words–check their closet for a KKK hood and robe. They are a part of the problem. The brillant essay below was written by Don Rivers who resides in Atlanta, Georgia.
“I’m thankful for Donald Trump because he served as the catalyst which brought racists who hid in the shadows for years out into the open.For years the Karen’s and Ken’s of the world lived a secret life. By day they were bankers, business executives, teachers, politicians, police officers, actors, models, artists, and even members of the House and Senate. They mostly kept their views to themselves, played by the rules, and seemed like well adjusted members of the multi-cultural society that has been America, well, since it’s founding.
They knew how to play the game and what, and what not, to say in order to get along and advance in their world. Like most Americans who were told they were white, they had been raised from birth on a revisionist version of American history in which slavery was but a small blemish upon America’s past perpetrated by an unenlightened misguided minority in the South. White civilization in the North had righted the ship, realizing that slavery was in fact not in keeping with the teachings of Christianity, or for that matter, the ideas set down in the U.S constitution by the founding fathers, that formed the moral fabric of their society.They were taught that the civil war was related to, but not really fought over slavery.
Rather, it was a war fought between two highly civilized groups who only came to arms because one, the North, wished to subdue the other, the Confederacy, who wished to secede from from the Union. In their story there were “very fine people on both sides” that were driven to war because they reached an impasse and were simply trying to protect their families, property, and way of life. This version may be one of the most naive and only war retellings throughout history where there is neither aggressor nor villain. Of course, if this version were true, then the actual history which directly arose from the civil war would not exist.
There would’ve been no need to assassinate Abraham Lincoln, black people would’ve received the 40 acres and a mule that they were promised, the Black Codes would never have been written and adopted, there would be no need for Jim Crow laws, thousands of lynchings would’ve never taken place, Black Wall Street would still exist, a black Harlem would be thriving today, the entire civil rights movement would’ve been redundant, Rosa Parks would’ve been allowed to sit at the front of the bus like all the other ladies, Ruby Bridges wouldn’t have needed a police escort to walk to school, four little girls would now be four grandmothers with large families to show, MLK, Malcolm X, Medgar Evers, and hundreds of other black activists would’ve chosen other vocations and might still be alive.
The G.I bill would’ve been an equal opportunity affair, redlining would never have happened, historically underserved black communities would instead be thriving multi-cultural metropolises, mass-incarceration would not exist, neither would gentrification, there would be no need for Black History Month because black inventors and innovators would not have been written out of the American story, jazz and so many other black musics would celebrate their actual black origins, a black life would carry the same worth as a white life, so Black Lives Matter would never need be said, and a black president may have been elected 100 years earlier, followed by many others.
Instead America swallowed whole the white-washed fiction of the confederacy along with the belief in a persistent Black Menace, who secretly wanted revenge for slavery, and who might slaughter their families and impregnate their daughters, if given the opportunity. Birth of a Nation was not just some black and white silent movie, it was the encapsulation of an entire belief system that was viewed by white Americans everywhere, including in the White House itself. ANTIFA and BLM are nothing but modern day incarnations of this same menace and thus one more reason for why so many white people are obsessed with gun ownership and the second amendment.
Thus, it wasn’t just Karen and Ken who believed in this narrative which made no sense, it was the vast majority of white and white adjacent America, who seemed fine on the surface, but below something far more sinister stirred. Behind closed doors, and when in like company their true colors and characters came out. This true character stayed mostly hidden. With the many victories won during the civil rights movement, and with the passage of federal laws which prohibited racial discrimination, going all the way back to the Klu Klux Klan, most who did not support black and brown progress learned to hide in plain sight.
In more recent times they quietly donned confederate battle flags stickers on trucks, revered confederate monuments, re-enacted the civil war, and mostly only used the N-word in private. Believe it or not, they actually considered this to be a form of oppression. If they considered the Clinton through Bush presidencies to be inhospitable to their true beliefs, then the Obama presidency was like being Jewish in Germany in the 30s. For them Obama represented 8 years of hell and the rapid decline of what America was all about.
The truth is that America’s issues actually began when the first European slaughtered the first Native American, and then continued while the founders of the resulting European colonies committed serial genocide, then kidnapped and transported millions of native Africans in the greatest forced migration (or just plain kidnapping) of people that the world had ever seen. Murdering, brutalizing, kidnapping, transporting and then forcing millions of human beings to work for free over hundreds of years took a great deal of hate and effort.
The Transatlantic Slave Trade made the world a darker place and the people who were responsible in many ways had to sacrifice their own humanity in order to excel at it. The cultures which sprang up around such slave colonies were truly evil, and the unbridled hatred, which they nurtured, tainted every man, woman and child, perverting every facet of their characters and lives, from their versions of Christianity to their versions of history and ultimate world views. They elevated brutality and hatred to high arts. This went on for hundreds of years, until in America even white Southern children could see nothing wrong in the ownership, brutalization, and raping of their black childhood friends. All they saw was the natural order of things.
The South was not alone in its brutality to those of the darker hue. Others, at home in the U.S and around the world in the colonies of the West Indies, Australia, South America, Asia and Africa, echoed the same beliefs, structures and behaviors. What America did provide in a post slavery world was the normalization of modern racism through a focus on capitalism. Without the support of America (and others like Britain) South Africa’s system of apartheid would never have survived for so long. And indeed, once that support was finally withdrawn in the 1990s, it crumbled.Like other cultures based on white supremacy, Southerners actually viewed the events which led up to the American Civil war as an attack on their culture, way of life and livelihoods, which was entirely supported by slave labor at the time.
To them their ancestors fought to retain who they were as a people, and though they lost, many never truly surrendered their beliefs. They simply buried them, or transformed them into some modified form which the North might turn a blind eye to.
An egotistical bigot billionaire con man turned reality TV star realized this and went about riding this wave of historic white grievance all the way into the White House. How did he do it? He made it cool to be openly racist again. He gave America’s bigots permission to let their bigot flags fly. He restored white pride. He retweeted the grievances of “oppressed whites” throughout the world, including white South Africans, and drew connections with what some thought might happen in the U.S, if liberalism were allowed to continue along it’s present politically correct trajectory.
Trump attacked any and everything liberal, from Climate Change to abortion and gay marriage. He promised whites in the U.S that they would always come first. He celebrated white privilege. He demonized nations South of the Border, and “shithole countries with majority non-white populations. He attacked the left and cozied up to racist extreme right groups, becoming their long awaited messiah. Through people like Steve Bannon he reached out to other right leaning groups and movements around the world, forming an alliance, which would rewind the clock on progress.
Thus, the entire Trump presidency was really about one thing from beginning to end; The restoration and preservation of White Supremacy throughout the world. Just like Jim Crow, its true intentions were dressed up in a lot of words, but when naked it was clearly all about preserving one of the oldest stratification systems on earth, racism, so that people who believed themselves to be white could finally walk with their heads held high again. And they did. The behavior which was once reserved for gatherings of the likeminded exploded into an openly racist resurgence which saw thousands of people gathering at rallies, reminiscent of those huge rallies which took place in Nazi Germany after Hitler seized power. Nationalism became a good word, and even had its own slogan; America First.
Despite the inclusion of a few lost and confused people of color, America First, its MAGA twin, and Brexit counterparts were clearly for white people. One could draw a line directly from the emergence of the Birther Movement to the storming of the U.S Capitol. In the birther movement Trump sought to redefine what it meant to be an American, and thus be a legitimate American President.
His problems with Obama were centered around questioning his American citizenship, but they were actually about his skin color. In the storming of the U.S Capitol Trump sought to embolden racists and bigots all over the world to “take their countries back” from people like Obama. His actual goal was far more selfish; A second term as president and the protection that this offered from the mountains of lawsuits headed his way in his post presidential life. Even now, Trump’s situation is dire enough that he is prepared to burn down everything and tear America to shreds in the process in order to achieve his objective.
He is perfectly prepared to push the country into a second civil war, if it will save him from prosecution. It will not be over and we will not be able to breath that long overdue sigh of relief until every single shred of power that he was awarded as president is rescinded. Like Hitler, Trump’s ability to broadcast his vile and hateful message (over any and all platforms) needs to be suppressed, and to speak very plainly, he needs to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law for his part in enabling his followers, both the radical terrorists and idiot sycophants, who stormed the Capitol. Those in Congress who supported his rise, and who even now support the disenfranchisement of millions of voters to win him a second term, need to pay a high enough political price that no politician of sound mind would ever consider following the same path in the future.
When Trump assembled, riled up and sent that mob down to the Capitol, he placed the safety of millions in jeopardy. When he refused to call out the national guard or do anything to address his supporters for hours he intensified this threat. When he finally did address his supporters, without condemning their actions, and even while telling them that he “loved them”, he legitimized their coup attempt.
The attack on the Capital was an attempted bloodless coup, but if Trump had the loyalty of the U.S military, he absolutely would’ve graduated to a more standard version, which all but certainly would’ve been more bloody. All of this is before we even consider his total failures around dealing with the pandemic. If America wishes to remain a democracy it must stand against all those who seek to seize power by other means, even if that person is the sitting president. They say that presidents cannot be sentenced to prison, but I humbly suggest that Trump may be one hell of a candidate for that policy’s revision.”
Ali shook up the sports media world when he arrived back home in the United States. The first sports media person he called for an exclusive one on one interview was a little known sports talk show host in Washington, DC, Harold Bell. The rest is sports media history. Ali made him “THE CHOSEN ONE.”
Every radio and television sports talk show you hear and see is similar to the Original Inside Sports. The NFL-NBA-MLB-NHL have copied his community reach-back programs. They are now promoting in every community in America where there is a pro franchise.
When I read that Sports IIIustrated Magazine had named Lebron James “SPORTSPERSON of the Year” ‘The Activist Athlete’ an editor asked NBA Hall of Fame player Kareen Abdul-Jabbar to write the column on James receiving the Muhammad Ali Legacy Award. Jabbar said, “The editor suggested I mention something about LeBron’s picking up the social justice torch that Ali and I had carried. I would like to believe I’m still carrying it”. Kareem is thinking real high of himself if he is comparing himself to Muhammad Ali. He is better off comparing himself with LeBron James whom he outshines in the civil and human rights–not Ali.
James was quoted in Sports IIIustrated saying, “Some might claim it’s easy to preach from a pulpit built on stacks of cash. They are wrong. White America doesn’t fully understand the screwy irony that black people can be successful by typical American dream standards but still experience the hollowness of that dream when they drive in their cars and are consistently pulled over by the police for no reason. Remember when Chris Rock posted selfies of being pulled over by police three times in seven weeks for no reason? We can feel fortunate and grateful for our own success but still lament the plight of our friends, family and members of our community who face a shorter life expectancy because of inferior health care, who cope with servere health problems because there are no grocery stores in their neighborhood, who have to use a white name on their resume to be considered for a job.”
Lebron, is the frying pan calling the kettle black. He must have forgotten that when he left high school, he left with stacks of cash. Yes, he grew up black and poor, but he has no track record of participating in marches on city hall to protest black on black murder. He has no track record of organizing students against racism in education for blacks in his school system! So yes, it is easy to preach from the pulpit built on stacks of cash. He is the best example, but it is nothing he has to apologize for. There are many black intertainers and athletes who don’t preach from their pulpit with stacks of cash.
What his history does show and many still remember is when 12 year old Tamir Rice was shot and killed by a Cleveland cop. He was nowhere to be found while playing for the Cleveland Cavaliers. Tamir was holding a toy water pistol in November 2014 when two white cops shot him dead. A month after the incident James was caught talking out of both side of his mouth. He finally addressed the issue in December, he said, “for me I’ve always been a guy who’s took pride in knowledge of every situation that I have ever spoke on, and to be honest I have not really been on top of this issue. So it is hard for me to comment”.
Come on man, the shots that killed Tamir were heard around the country, but he had not been on top of the issue? He claimed he had briefly heard about activist calling for his help (they wanted him to sit out games). He also said, “I was not completely aware of the social media movement that had sparked on line”. Tamir’s parents had also reached out for his support, he still turned a deaf ear.
Now six years after the Cleveland cop shot 12 year old Tamir Rice dead for playing with a water gun, the Justice Department announced no Federal criminal charges will be brought against the cop who shot him. Lebron James was in Cleveland and he stood by, and said and did absolutely nothing. Two more unarmed black men were shot dead by white cops again in his hometown of Cleveland days before Christmas 2020. He has gone deaf, dumb and blind again. He is being awarded The Muhammad Ali Legacy Award? A thirty-five year old Muhammad Ali would not have stood on the sidelines after Breonna Taylor was shot dead in her bed.
Branson Wright is another example of a spook that sits by the door; he is a Cleveland sports writer (Cleveland Tribune and Undefeated) and a sports talk show host. He was in Washington, DC several years ago seeking support for a documentary about a playground basketball legend. He was referred to me by U. S. A. Today NFL columnist Jarrett Bell (another spook that sits by the door). When I asked him why did he travel from Cleveland to DC seeking financial support when he had ‘King James” in Cleveland?
He said, “I did but, Lebron and his posse ain’t trying to help anyone black. They are there to stunt the growth of other black folks who are trying to get a piece of the pie. They want control, I put my project in his hands. I would see him in the lockeroom after practice and games and he would never mention a word about my project. He would look at me like I was not even there”.
I remember, James was caught on instagram using a rapper’s lyrics saying, “We have been getting that Jewish money, everything is Kosher.” The Jewish community didn’t think it was so kosher. He hurried up an apologize saying, ‘I thought it was a compliment’. A lie will change a thousand times, but the truth never changes. He still wants us to believe, “for me I’ve always been a guy who’s took pride in knowledge of every situation that I have ever spoke on”–what happen to “We have been getting that Jewish money, everything is kosher?”
Lebron James make no mistake, you are no Muhammad Ali in no shape or form. I have never heard Muhammad Ali apologize for any spoken words that he felt were right when it came to defending black people against racism in America. It did not make any difference if it was from the white or Jewish community or spooks who sat by their door.
Branson never reached back to me after I tried to make connections for him here in DC. I discovered he was playing both sides of the fence and has since worked his way up to a writer on ESPN’s Undefeated and a spot on HBO. Blacks like him are some of the most insecure and non-trustworthy professionals in sports media, especially black men (liars). These brothers make Jemele Hill look like a world beater (much respect). The truth be told she has more balls than most black men. The insecure black men like Branson Wright have become the norm. There are so many I would have to put them in alphabetical order to list them all.
Shaun King was a writer for the New York Daily News when Tarmin Rice was shot and killed. He wrote in December 2015, “Once in a blue moon the earth gives us a Harry Belaforte or a Muhammad Ali. Lebron James is one of my favorite athletes, the dude has a work effort on and off the court that is unmatched. His character as a husband and father is unquestioned and he appears to be incrediably altruistic and genererous man. Sadly, with his recent comments on the death of 12 year old Tarmin Rice and the lack charges for the officers who killed him , Lebron James has proven that he is no exception to the rule.” In other words, he goes along to get along.
In conversations I had with Muhammad Ali, he only regretted not sticking by Malcomb X. High on that same list was his treatment of Floyd Patterson and Joe Frazier. He said, “If I had to do it all over again it would be different, it is too late for do-overs and I have to keep it moving.”
A MEDIA PRESS TABLE IN BLACK AND WHITE!
I was familiar with the selfish ways of LeBron James. Brian McIntyre before retiring in 2016 was the Vice-President of Media Relations for the NBA after 40+ years. Brian and I met in Houston, Texas during my first NBA All-Star Game. My traveling partner was the legendary Philadelphia basketball icon, Sonny Hill. When we arrived in Houston we checked into our hotel room and went downstairs to pick up our press credentials.
The pressroom was like a ‘Ghost Town” Sonny walked right in and Harold followed him to Mr. McIntyre the man in charge of media credentials. Sonny picked up his credentials with no problem, but he had a problem. Mr. McIntyre said “I didn’t receive your application for credentials and therefore I cannot grant you credentials”. He could not believe my ears. I had just flown in from Washington, DC to Houston, Texas for my first NBA All-Star Game and I was being denied credentials because of missing paper work? I didn’t think to bring a copy. Thanks to a call to Red Auerbach back in DC things were cleared up.
Mr. Mac and I would be like passing ships in the night for the next 40 years, but we would always honk (wave) at each other during our infrequent encounters. My body of work in NBA history is now folklore.
In 1974 a white sports writer Frank Pastor and I decided to integrate the Bullets press table. Frank was a participant of my monthly Inside Sports Media Roundtable. He was all in. I remember clearly like it was yesterday. It was during a New York Knick game. Frank and I were standing at the top of the arena waiting for the usher to grant us permission to return to our seats at the press table. We noticed there was a dividing line separating white media from black media. The dividing line was half-court. White media sat on the left of half-court and black media was relegated to the right side of half-court. Frank and I switched seats and I have been on the Wizard’s ‘Shit list’ since. The benefactors of that switch have no clue as it relates to their seats at a Wizard’s press table or Mr. Mac’s role in requesting credentials for their first NBA All-Star Game in L. A.
Speaking of NBA All-Star games my last one was in Philadephia in the 80s, it was there Mr. Mac and I made a commitment to meet for lunch. We never got around to it until he retired in 2016. That game stands out to me because I was sitting at a table in the press media area with Alicia Keyes. I had no clue who she was or about to become, all I could see was a beautiful woman. It was her first NBA All-Game. I remember Muhammad Ali was in the house and he was being led around the arena by his photographer friend, the late Howard Bingham. It was the first time I notice that Parkinson Desease was apparent.
NBA PIONEER EARL LLOYD’S JOURNEY TO THE NBA HALL OF FAME!
Earl Lloyd was drafted out of West Virginia State in 1950 and played in his first NBA game with the Washington Capitols 195–1951-Syracuse Nationals 1952-1958 Washington. He ended his NBA career with Detroit Pistols in 1960. Earl Lloyd’s coaching career got off to a shaky start, he should hve been the first black head coach in the NBA. Piston General Manager Don Warttrick wanted to hire Lloyd in 1965 as the first black NBA Head coach. The owner threw cold water on that idea. Earl was named the head coach in 1971 but thanks to a munity led by Dave Bing and Bob Lanier he barely lasted a year. His road to Springfield, Mass was another bumy and steep road. Politics kept him out of the CIAA Hall of Fame until Harold told Bighouse Gaines during breakfast at the coach’s home about the slight in 1997. The CIAA righted the wrong in 1998 and inducted him into the hall of fame. Times’ sports’ columnist Dick Heller, Red Auerbach, Congressman John Lewis and Harold teamed up to campaign to get Earl inducted into the NBA Hall of Fame. The committee much like the CIAA had overlooked his contributions for decades for reasons known only to them. See Congressman Lewis’ letter below.
CONGRESS OF THE UNITED STATES/HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES-WASHINGTON, DC 205-1005
October 25, 2000
Mr. Earl Lloyd
P.O.B. 1976-Fairfield, Tenn.
Dear Mr. Lloyd:
As a colleague in the civil rights struggle, I am proud to say congratulations to you in celebrating 50 years of integration in the NBA. There is is little doubt that is in 1950 your NBA debut was greeted with cheerleaders and pom-poms by NBA owners and fans. . I really appreciate the sacrifices made by you on behalf of today’s players . I hope that one day soon they will understand who prepared the table for their present day success.
It is great that the NBA and the New York Knicks are finally reconizing your pioneering efforts in New York City on October 31, 2000. Thanks to the efforts of my friends Harold Bell, Sam Jones, and Richard Evans of “Kids In Trouble Inc” we are together in planning a reception on Capitol Hill in your honor.
In closing, I hope you enjoy your special night in New York City. I am looking forward to meeting you on Friday February 9, 2001 during the NBA All-Star weekend next year.
John Lewis / Member of Congress
Red, Dick and Harold started the campaign in February 1998 (Black History Month) at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in downtown DC. The next stop was Bolling Air Force Base in SE DC, on to the Smithsonian Museum in NW DC, and then on to his hometown Alexandria, Virginia for “Earl Lloyd Day.” The tribute was held at the Charles Houston Recreation Center. Final stop, the historic Caverns Jazz Club at 11th and U Streets, NW DC. Red Auerbach was our special guest, it would be the only NBA event he would attend during that weekend.
In 2016 Alexandria, Virginia native, the late legendary James Henson and I met at the Department Club. The club is a favorite hang-out of the in-crowd in the city. There were at least a half-dozen friends of the late Earl Lloyd in the house to meet with a film crew embarking on a documentary on the life and times of Earl. Mr. Henson and I found a corner to hangout to discuss Earl and my favorite athlete from Alexandria, the great Bubba Ellis.
During the video taping the conversation between Mr. Henson and I came back to the video crew, Mr. Henson thought I was producing the documentary. I explained to him that I had received a call from one of the crew to meet him here at the club for the interview for the documentary. We are now both looking each other saying, “What’s going on on?”
We decided we needed to look into this documentary a little deeper. I begged off on doing the interview because I had to pick up my wife in DC in 30 minutes. I told them if they wanted to interview me they would have to come to DC. This would give me a little more time to check them out. Mr. Henson called me later that evening to tell me he had begged off doing the interview because they were running too late.
When they finally got back to me to re-schedule it would be another week before they could get back to DC. They had a scheduling conflict in North Carolina and they have to work their way back to me.
In the meantime Alexandria, Virginia natives, the late Mr. James Henson and Ms. Char Bar a genealogist, she had been hired by the producer to do research for the project. Thanks to Ms. Bar we were able to put our heads together and discovered a scam was being perpetrated on the NBA and the residents of Alexandria. There were several players who had also fell victims, including Tony Parker, Michael Finley, Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony. I took the scam to the office of NBA Commissioner Adam Silver. The documentary never made it back to Alexandria, Virginia and it has since disappeared. I later received the following correspondence from the Commissioner.
NATIONAL BASKETBALL ASSOCIATION ADAM SILVER COMMISSIONER May 26, 2017
Mr. Harold Bell ,
Thank you for sharing your concerns with me regarding The First To Do It, the documentary on Earl Lloyd. Preserving and honoring our history is very important to the NBA, and during NBA All-Star weekend in February, the National Basketball Players Union hosted Earl Lloyd’s family and other guest for a screening of the film.
Thank you again for taking the time to reach out to me.
The NBA All-Star Game was played in Washington, DC in February 2000-01 (Black History Month). Earl Lloyd was inducted into the NBA Hall of Fame in 2003.
In Alexandria, Virginia in 2021 a stature of Earl Lloyd will be placed in the Charles Houston Recreation Center honoring the NBA pioneer. Thanks to Red Auerbach, Dick Heller, Congressman John Lewis and Harold Bell.
MUHAMMAD ALI AND ME “THE CHOSEN ONE”
It was five days later after The Rumble in the Jungle on a rainy night Sunday night in Washington, DC, Harold was home sleeping peacefully. It was around 10:30 pm the telephone rang waking him up. He picked up the phone and asked who was calling and a voice said, “Let me speak to Harold Bell” and Harold again said, who is calling and the voice repeated, “Let me speak to Harold Bell” and Harold responded again, who is calling and the voice on the other end yelled back, “Fool this is the heavyweight champion of the world, Muhammad Ali”
This time Harold sat straight up in the bed and said, “What’s happening champ?” His wife Hattie had turned over and asked “Who is it?” He whispers, “Its Muhammad Ali”. She looks at him like he was having a bad dream and turns over and goes back to sleep. He re-grouped and congratulates the champion on his fantastic win against all odds.
Ali tells Harold he had just arrived back in the United States. He says, “I am calling to see if you still want to do the interview. The interview I promised you in Chicago after I knocked out Big George”. Harold remembers saying, “Yea man, when, where and how?” Ali, said, “I want you to bring your camera crew here to New York City in the morning. This is the number where I can be reached, see you Monday morning”. He hung up the phone. Even today, forty-six years later, he is still amazed that Ali chose him to give his first interview. This was a historic moment in sports history, in the history of boxing no undisputed heavyweight champion had ever granted an exclusive one on one interview with a black sports media personality. There was Ed Bradley (CBS 60 Minutes), Bryant Gumble (NBC Good Morning America) and Howard Cosell (ABC Sports). Instead, “The Chosen One” was Harold Bell an unknown sports talk show host in Washington, DC.
He was without a camera crew, dead broke and his car was in bad shape. He would not make it to New York Avenue, in NW DC in this car. He took a cold shower and then called Rodney Brown who had accomphanied him to Chicago in August to meet with Ali. He had a difficult time convincing Rodney that Ali had just called. Finally he said, “What’s the problem”? Harold remembers blurting out, “No money, no car and no camera crew”.
Rodney’s response, “chill Harold Bell, Wil Williams and I are here at PBS editing a Black History segment for Black History Month in February. I have the car, Wil has a credit card and PBS has the cameras. We will pick you up around midnight.” They rolled into New York City on Monday morning around 6:30 am. He called the champ in his hotel room and the rest is American sports history.
In November 23, 1975 sports media history was made again when he became the first black to host and produce his own sports special in prime time on NBC afiliate WRC-TV 4 in Washington, DC. His special guest was the Greatest, Muhammad Ali.
In 1975 at a dinner given by the DC Chamber of Commerce honoring Ali as the Athlete of the Century, he did something similar. In the middle of the presentation to him by DC Mayor Walter Washington, he asked Harold to stand up at his table in a crowd of 5,000+ people . His wife Hattie looked at him and asked what was going on–he didn’t have clue. The Greatest said “stand up” and he did. Ali asked the Mayor did he know Harold and the Mayor seem as puzzled as Hattie was. Ali pointed to where he was standing and the Mayor said, “Yes I know Harold Bell, who does not know Harold Bell”? Ali didn’t let it go at that, he followed up with, “Harold Bell is my friend and I don’t want anything to happen to him–do you understand? The Mayor looked at Ali and said, “Yes champ I understand”. Ali’s response, “You are not as dumb as you look”. He brought the house down. People were hollering, screaming and laughing. The Mayor even laughed.
Mr. McIntyre and I would finally meet in New York City after his retirement in 2016. Hattie and I would take a train to the Big Apple to have lunch with him. I had finally edited my 1974 one on one interview with Muhammad Ali. I was trying to take it to the next level–documentary. I was hoping he could give me some direction. New York City is known as the media capitol of the world.
One of the angles and avenues I wanted to explore was LeBron James, HBO had given him the rights to produce a special on Muhammad Ali. This was questionable to me, my question, “What did LeBron know about Ali and when did he know it?” He only knew what he had read or what someone had told him! Floyd Mayweather maybe, but not Muhammad Ali.
I explained to Mr. Mac, Hattie and I had met the CEO of Moxie Motion Pictures Dan Levinson recently in New York City. He had viewed the footage and had high praise for what he saw. He later emailed me back in DC that Lebron James had been given the rights to produce a Ali documentary. His next question, “Do you want me to introduce to my friends at HBO” and I said, ‘do it!’ The folks at HBO decided to hold off on talks until after the new year 2017 since the holidays were on top of us (Thanksgiving and Christmas).
In the meantime, January came and went and no follow-up from HBO. Mr. Mac suggested that I give my Ali DVD to LeBron when the Cavaliers made their east coast swing in February coming to New York and then to DC. He said, I am going to be out of town when they come to New York, but I suggest you catch up with him when they come to DC. I know LeBron and Maverick pretty good I looked out for them when they first came into the NBA. Just tell LeBron I told you for him to take a look at the DVD.”
When LeBron and the Cavaliers came into the Verizon Center in February, a sold out arena and I were waiting for them. The Cavaliers were hot and the Wizards were given little or no chance of beating them. I still cannot believe what happen. The Wizards were up by 3 points with 3 seconds left in the game and looking like the winners. The Cavaliers took the ball out under the Wizard’s basket. I don’t remember the player who took the ball out, but he threw a perfect pass the lenght of the court to LeBron standing deep in the corner in front of the Wizard’s bench. He caught the ball and shot it falling into the bench–shot good. The Wizard’s lose in OT!
I worked my way pass a still stun arena to the Cavalier’s lockerroom to wait for the press conference with LeBron. The press is standing toe to toe waiting for the lockerroom door to open, but to our surprise LeBron comes out into the hallway to meet the press. I am leaning against the wall and he is led to where I am standing. I am now standing almost nose to nose with him with my DVD. He is laughing and smiling as he address the media about his shot with 3 seconds left in the game to send the game into OT.
The press conference concludes after about 10 minutes and he has to come through me to get back to the lockerrom. I use the 5 seconds to introduce myself and tell him Mr. McIntyre ask me to give him the DVD. He smiles and says, “okay” and hands the DVD to his media relations guy-never to be heard from again.
This hand-off was highly unusual, you very seldom get an opportunity to pass this type of package off to a star like LeBron without a ‘Middle Man’ intercepting the package. I clearly understood Branson Wright’s dilemma, but I didn’t like the game he was playing.
I would learn through social media that LeBron had teamed up with Antoine Fuqua, Director of Training Day starring Denzel Washington. The Executive Producers were Maverick Carter, and LeBron James–it was the blind leading the blind. “What’s My Name” was the title of the movie-starring Muhammad Ali, but he was no good to them–he was dead. The footage I gave to LeBron was original and rare, but it was only 16 minutes. I held back the rest of the footage because in Hollywood it is always ‘Who Can You Trust?’ The LA is overrun with Spooks who sit by the door (too many names to mention). In Black America you have to suck it up and keep moving and that was exactly what I did.
The CNN review read, ‘The rich trove of material of Ali– from his days as a fresh face amateur named Cassius Clay through his twi-light years, when he was tragically silenced by Parkinson disease–makes him a better candidate for this sort of treatment (airing back to back, the two parts run nearly three hours) than almost anyone . What’s missing , though, are the third party voices that could help contextualize his remarkable life, a stylistic shortcoming that explains why, “Whats My name” scores fewer points than it otherwise might.”
The bottom line, the documentary missed adding authenic living voices like his only living sibling, his brother, Rahman, his daughter, Laila who followed in his footsteps as a boxing champion, his business manager Gene Kilroy, NFL legend Jim Brown and radio sports talk show pioneer, Harold Bell. All were up close and personal with The Greatest. The documentary came up short.
THE COVER BOYS OF INSIDE SPORTS & KIDS IN TROUBLE
“I Came as a Shadow” the audiobiography of John Thompson. I remember “Big Man On Campus” written by the Washington Post columnist Leonard Sharpiro–it was mis-leading. Where does the truth make its home? For example; there is nothing similar to the truth in former Washington Post sports editor George Solomon’s review of the book. His review lets us know “Fake News” is alive and well in the autobiography of John Thompson. “You can fool some of the people some of the time but you cannot fool them all of the time.”
Big John made college basketball history when he became the first black coach to win a NCAA Division One basketball championship. When he took over the reigns at GT in 1972 he could not win a game and could not buy his way on to local radio and television shows to promo GT basketball. The Washington Post pretended he didn’t exist. I gave him 5 minutes on Inside Sports every Monday to promo his team.
Harold Bell’s problem, why do we keep allowing others to appoint our heroes in the black community? It is nationally known that Harold Bell contributions in sports media is one of a kind. His Inside Sports talk radio format changed the way we talk sports in America and around the globe. He was officially anointed “THE CHOSEN ONE” by Muhammad Ali in November 1974. The Greatest had just upset the boxing world when he knocked out the undefeated and undisputed Heavyweight Champion of the World, George Foreman. He then chose Harold to give his first interview on his arrival back in the U. S. Former legedary Washington Star columnist and sports writer, the late Dick Heller who teamed up with Harold and Red Auerbach to campaign to get NBA pioneer Earl Lloyd inducted into the NBA Hall of Fame said, “Harold Bell is the Godfather of sports talk”.
He reminds everyone the media is The Last Plantation. A media pressroom at ‘Deadline’ is second only to a church on Sunday morning when come to segregation in America. He says, “There is the possibility you will find more black faces during a KKK rally than in a newsroom at Deadline”!
The media controls our images of who we are and who they want us to be. Former NBA star Junior Bridgeman understands the landscape and that is why he recently brought a bankrupt Ebony Magazine for 14 million dollars. Bridgeman played 12 years in the NBA, after retirement he became an astute businessman in the fast food industy. He eventually owned over 100 Wendy and Chili restaurants befor selling them in 2016.
He tried to buy Sports lllustrated Magazine recently, but he was outbided. When it looked like he was the frontrunner a group from New York City Authenic Brands Group was recruited to buy the magazine. This group had Warren Buffet and Bill Gates money-Bridgeman had to back off. This scenario reminded me of Bill Cosby when he tried to buy NBC and they were not having it–it was major media. It is all about control–“Until the lions hire their own PR team, the glory of the hunt will always go to the hunter”. The same holds true with major media when it comes to Black America.
William Taaffe a former radio and television critic for the Washington Star Newspaper in Washington, DC wrote a lionizing column on Harold in 1978. The column was titled, Talk Show Host Harold Bell Blazes a Path ‘Inside Sports’! Taaffe would later become a media critic for Sports IIIustrated.
In September 2020 the National Association of Black Journalist a group of journalist he had been critical of for five decades honored him with their 2020 pioneer award. He said, “that was the best award that he could ever have received as a sports media personality. These are my people, all black reconizing me. Their recongnition proves that a LIE will change a thousand times but the TRUTH never changes.” Evidently, he made them believe truth does matter.
He said, this award is only second to the exclusive one on one interview with Muhammal Ali after his historic win over George Foreman in November 1974. He was honored by Muhammad Ali ‘The Greatest’ as “The Chosen One” in October 1974. The Greatest made him the first sports media personality he contacted on his arrival back in the United States. The National Association of Black Journalist honored him as their 2020 pioneer.
In the past 50 years there is no sports media personality who has had the impact in changing the way we talk and report sports in America via print media, radio or television than Harold Bell. The NBA-NFL-MLB and NHL have all copied his community reach-back programs in pro sports franchise cities all over America.
Harold Bell, you are the Godfather of sports talk and The Chosen One! HAPPY HEAVENLY BIRTHDAY CHAMP.
Char McCargo Bah, is the CEO/Founder of
Living Legends of Alexandria, Virginia
Freelance Writer, Author and Professional Genealogist
“K. C. Jones, was a great coach to play for. He was a class act, and everybody knew that, and yet he had a competitive edge that was fierce. You wanted to do all you could to please KC as a coach. He had this gentleness and kindness that at the right time he knew what to say. He was a great leader of men.” Danny Ainge.
Kudos to Danny Ainge, he got it right. K. C. Jones got a bad and rotten deal here with the Washington Bullets in 1975. A red hot Golden State Warrior team led by Coach Al Attles swept the Bullets in 4 games to win the NBA championship. The meeting between these two tuff guys was historical, it marked the first time in NBA history two black coaches had met in a NBA Final.
K. C. was sold out by his assistant Bernie Bickerstaff and several players who were looking to blame anyone but themselves. Bernie was telling people including NBA referees around the league he was responsible for the Bullets’ winning season, but when they lost to the Warriors he pointed his finger at K. C. Bernie was the worst kind of backstabber, K. C. gave him his first NBA job without any NBA player or coaching experience. K. C. Jones’ problem, he trusted folks around him, he was a winner. He was a confident man, as a high school athlete, college All-American and on to the NBA Hall of Fame. He was drafted by the NFL as a defensive back. He had not played the position since high school. He never saw a wide receiver, shooting guard, college or pro he could not check! He chose the NBA, lucky for Jerry Rice.
K. C. was a secure black man and he trusted those around him–that was his problem with Bernie Bickerstaff, he could not be trusted. During the regular 1974-75 season he allowed Bickerstaff to handle most timeouts and huddle with the team. Bickerstaff used the timeouts to tell friends, family, and NBA referees he was coaching the team.
Bernie successfully backstabbed and kiss enough ass to become a head coach, General manager, head scout and get his son into the league as a head coach with the Cleveland Cavaliers. What price for success?
Abe Pollin the owner got caught up in the BS and Wes Unseld and Elvin Hayes didn’t back K. C. Dave Bing a native Washingtonian and NBA Hall of Fame player came back home on the way out of the league, and he continued the backstabbing of K. C. I have known Bing since he was a teenager in NE DC.
I met with Dave in his apartment at the Marlborough House in Hillcrest Heights, Md on his arrival back in DC. Just out of nowhere, he says, “K. C. is overrated as a coach and he is a drunk”! I was floored to hear those words coming out of Dave’s mouth. I jumped right into his ass with both feet. He really pissed me off, I remember saying, “Dave if you feel that way why don’t you have a face to face with K. C. and try to resolve the issue. He has great respect for you.” My advice fell on deaf ears. I should not have been surprised. He and teammate Bob Lanier did a Mutiny on the Bounty and ran NBA pioneer Earl Lloyd out his head coaching job with the Detroit Pistons in 1971.
Bing left the door open for Pollin to fire K. C. and bring in the overrated Dick Motto (he had a losing record as a NBA Coach). Dave claimed Motto wanted him to change his game and he left for the Boston Celtics. He lasted there for a year before retiring. Motto won a NBA Championship with the team K. C. Jones left behind for him.
K. C. was a winner, he won 11 of 12 championships with the Boston Celtics, eight as a player. Red Auerbach gave K. C. a second chance and hired him as an assistant. He won a championship ring as an assistant coach, and two as a head coach. As a player, he is tied for third for most NBA championships in a career. He is one of three players with an 8-0 record in a NBA final series. He is the only black player other than Bill Russel to win multiple NBA championships. On top of all that success, he was a kind and gentle soul, and he was loyal.
Unlike Bing, if K. C. gave you his word you could carry it to the bank. Kids In Trouble and Inside Sports benefited from his participation as a player and coach. I will truly miss my Big brother, he had my back. RIP K. C. you deserve it.
We have a President that does not want to turn over the keys to the White House to the new tenant. There are a bunch of selfish politicians on Capitol Hill on both sides of the isle who are making plans to go on Christmas vacation while American voters lose their homes, businesses, jobs, and lives because they cannot agree on a stimulus package to save them. They are in concert with the pandemic.
It is that time of year again when folks are usually in the giving mode of their lives (December). The poor and down trodden have been ignored from January through November and a guy called Santa Claus is coming to town you think—one place Santa ain’t coming is to the ghetto, especially this year-no one can afford him. The year 2020 will go down as the deadliest in Black American History (only the journey from Africa by boat was more deadly). Santa Claus is caught between a rock and a hard place. He cannot perform his duties of making children happy thanks to Donald Trump and the corona-virus.
Still your television screens will be overrun with promos by billion dollar corporations with pro athletes from MLB, NHL, NFL and the NBA telling you how much they are supporting our community and kids—some do and some don’t. There will be grocery chains, banks, clothing stores and radio and television station personalities asking you to meet them on a designated street corner or at the bank and make a cash or toy donation for the children. This is the 1% asking you to make a donation to them???
They will have you thinking that your cash or toy donation will help to make some family happy with a turkey dinner and toys for tots—thanks for giving? There will be pastors in some churches who will get into the act of pretending that they care. You will be asked to exchange your gun for a gift card to save some child’s life—the brother turning in his ONE gun in all probability has two and a shotgun in his car. The Pimps in the Pulpit will tell the brothers and sisters volunteering to give up their guns and “Don’t worry everything is on the up and up, you don’t have to show ID”! Guess who is there taking your guns and pictures with a camera over here and a camera over there—the cops?
In the meantime, our babies’ blood is flowing in our streets. Last week (Wednesday December 3rd) one year old Carmelo Duncan was shot and killed while riding in a car seat with his father in SE DC. The FBI is offering a $60,000 reward for the shooter, one week later the killer or killers are still nowhere to be found. The reward is the highest to ever be posted for the life of a black child murdered by gun in DC. Don’t expect DC Police Chief Peter Newsham to be in on the manhunt, he has slipped quietly out the backdoor and has taken a new job in Prince William County, Virginia. His credentials for his new job—on his old DC job homicides spiked every year he was the chief! I testified against his confirmation before the city council in 2017 with documents showing he was not fit for the job. He was confirmed 12-1, the only descending vote was that of at-large City Councilman, Dave Grosso. He was the only council person who asked to view my documents. In July when Grosso called for the chief to be fired, Mayor Bowser called Grosso a “Lame Duck”? Calling Grosso a lame duck what did that have to do with the inept and terrible performance of her chief of police?
HIS FAMOUS LAST WORDS!
Outgoing police Chief Peter Newsham said, “Carmelo is the youngest victim of gun violence in D.C. so far this year.
This is an unfathomable tragedy. He added that, for Carmelo’s family, “the only thing that we can do to help solve your pain is trying to find the person or persons who are responsible.”
According to Newsham, there is forensic evidence that more than one gun was used, but officials can’t yet report on how many different types of rounds hit the vehicle.
Newsham also believes that the vehicle — driven by Carmelo’s father, and with a second child on board, neither of whom were injured — was targeted, not part of a random attack.
“I will reiterate what the mayor said with regards to the folks that are responsible for this: You need to come and turn yourself in,” Newsham said. “Because we are going to make every effort and spend as much time as we need to define the person or persons who are responsible.”
Police are looking for a dark gray SUV with dark-tinted windows that may have been involved in the shooting. Newsham said the area is still being canvassed for possible video footage.https://8e67e1ff0907ae416865ae5a2adfd74c.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html
A $60,000 reward — through D.C., the FBI and ATF — is being offered for information that leads to an arrest and conviction of the suspects in the case.
Anyone with information about this case is asked to call the police at 202-727-9099. Additionally, anonymous tips can be sent to the department’s TEXT TIP LINE by text message to 50411.
The NBA-MLB-NHL-and NFL pro athlete reach-back programs were started here in DC in 1968 via Kids In Trouble, Inc. They have since copied the format showcasing some of their biggest stars at food kitchens serving hot turkey dinners, and hosting toy parties for needy children with owners along for the ride!
The problem, they are much like Cinderella, they will disappear at midnight (the new year) and its back to business as usual, they will go into hibernation in their gated communities or homes in the mountains or at some ski resort until the following December. Some athletes will ride off into the sunset like the Washington Wizards’ John Wall thinking he did his due diligence because he shown up at a food kitchen or a toy party for tots. In the meantime, little children will continue to die in our streets.
The Washington Wizards (Bradley Beal), Washington Nationals (James Brown/minority owner), Washington Capitals (Bill Douglas/Neal Henderson) and the Washington Football team (Doug Williams) have all shown little interest in the murders North of Capitol Hill. Each franchise should be able to raise 10,000 from the players and owners to raise the $40,000 dollars to bring the $60,000 to a total reward of $100,000. There are several players who could make the donation and never miss it. This will show that they are making our children first, turkey dinners and toys for tots are not enough and neither are “Spooks That Sat by the Door”.
In 1979-1981 black boys in Atlanta, Georgia were being abducted off the streets and murdered. In May of 1980 no-one had been arrested and charged. I decided to celebrate my May 21st birthday at the Foxtrapp Club as a fundraiser to raise money to assist in finding the murder of those children. The party goers included pro athletes, law-enforcement, politicians, judges and radio and television personalities. They cough-up $5,000.00 for Kids In Trouble, Inc. to send to the Atlanta police department to assist in its investigation of the murders.
Serial killer Wayne Bertram Williams was finally arrested in 1981 for the murder of two black men. He was sentenced to life in imprisonment. Law-enforcement believes he was responsible for at least 23 of 30 murders between 1979-1981. He was never tried for the other murders (mostly children). I have never forgotten.
Meet a few of the benefactors of Kids In Trouble, Inc and Inside Sports:
We need these thugs off of the streets by any means necessary and it will take a village of every black and white face we see. Santa Claus ain’t coming to the ghetto–so what about the children?
By David Aldridge NBA.COM
If you want to know why Harold Bell is the way he is, start with his hero and grandmother Amy Tyler Bell.
“My grandmother use to tell the grands, ‘A lie will change a thousand times. The truth will never change,” Bell said.
“If I leave here today or tomorrow, nobody owes me anything. What I’d like to do is pay back some of the people that have helped me to help others. The naysayers can’t say I stole from kids, did drugs or time in jail.” I was flawed like the next man or woman, but I was taught it was best to live and lead by example.
For five decades, Bell has told the truth as he saw it, on the airwaves and in print in Washington, D.C. He was the first black sports radio talk show host in DC. He has been a free-lance writer for the Afro-American, the New York Amsterdam newspapers, the Washington Post, Washington Times, and the Bleacher Report. He considers the most powerful vehicle in the media is the written ‘Word’.
He regularly calls out SCARED COWS who forgot who they are and where they came from. He honors those in the black community who often don’t get recognition—both sports figures and regular folks.
He has been the host for forums relating to Community Policing and Cops and Kids. He’s honored Ohio State football players, Cornelius Greene, Lenny Willis and Woodrow Roach. He was an advisor to Super Bowl XXII MVP winner, Doug Williams when he first arrived in DC. He honored Gary Mays, a multi-sport athlete in D.C. in the 1950s. Gary guarded high school superstar Elgin Baylor and held him to 18 points (Baylor average 35 pt). Gary was a catcher for Armstrong High School and almost made it to the major leagues despite having only one arm. It was in a major league baseball tryout at old Griffith Stadium home of Major League Baseball’s Washington Senators. He was selected the best player among hundreds would-be major league players. Gary was the only player to hit a homerun out of the stadium. No team offered him a contract or a tryout.
Bell advocated behind the scenes for the release of former University of Maryland basketball star Jo Jo Hunter from prison. Hunter had been convicted in 1997 of robbing two jewelry stores and was sentenced to serve up to 43 years in prison. Bell had several prominent sports stars and other Washingtonians write letters on Hunter’s behalf. He was paroled a summer later after serving eighteen years. Bernard Levi a DC basketball playground legend and NFL legend Jim Brown have also benefited from his social media and letter writing campaigns on their behalf. Bell campaigned for Brown’s early release from jail after charges of spousal abuse in 2007.
It was Harold Bell who campaigned to get NFL All-Pro Willie Wood and NBA pioneer Earl Lloyd inducted into their hall of fames after they were “Blackballed” by their leagues. Willie was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in 1989 and Earl was inducted into the NBA Hall of Fame in 2001.
“I’ve come to know Harold over the years,” says Brian McIntyre, who was the NBA’s longtime Vice President of Communications through 2010. “He’s a guy who’s reached back and touched an awful lot of people’s lives. He’s a fighter. He believes in what he believes dearly, and he’s not going to give an inch. You have to respect somebody who is as passionate as he is.”
For 45 years straight years (1968-2013), he and his wife, Hattie, led Kids in Trouble without grants or loans. The organization went into D.C. neighborhoods where Bell grew up while playing at Spingarn High School. NBA Hall of Fame player and Spingarn alumnus Dave Bing and NFL Hall of Fame player Willie Wood were the first pro athletes to reach back into the community via Kids In Trouble.
In 1967 there was a shooting after a basketball game between Spingarn and McKinley Tech. A Spingarn student was shot. Dave Bing was a NBA Rookie playing in his first All-Star Game in Baltimore. Bell working with the DC Recreation Department’s Roving Leader Program (Youth Gang Task Force) was assigned to the shooting. There was talk of revenge among the Spingarn students. The quick thinking Bell drove to Baltimore to solicit the help from Spingarn alumnus Bing. After playing in the game on national television on Sunday, Monday morning Bing walked into a Spingarn auditorium and got a standing ovation from the Spingarn student body. His words of wisdom and plea for peace were heard and further violence was averted.
Every reach-back program promoted today by the NBA, NFL, MLB and NHL all started with Harold and Hattie Bell in Washington, DC. Thousands of children in the District, Virginia and Maryland (DMV) have benefited from Kids In Trouble, Inc.
During this reach-back experience Bell tried to improve the lives of at-risk youth by using pro athletes and judges as highly visible vehicles in his community programs. During the 1968 riots he walked arm in arm with co-worker NFL Hall of Fame player and Green Bay Packer defensive back Willie Wood. U. S. Marshall Luke C. Moore would join Harold and Willie as they walked arm and arm on the U Street and 14th Street corridors trying to quell the violence and save lives. Luke was the first modern day U. S. Marshall in-Charge since Frederick Douglas.
Harold and Hattie found Kids In Trouble, Inc. and the Hillcrest Saturday Program in 1968 shortly after the riots. The program served neighborhood kids and their families. They gave away Thanksgiving turkeys and were the host for Christmas toy parties. They coordinated the parties for kids that otherwise wouldn’t get any toys. The Washington Football Team players, Roy Jefferson, Larry Brown, Harold McLinton, Ted Vactor, Dave Robinson and Doug Williams have all been Santa’s Helpers. He and his wife have raised money to send kids to summer basketball camps in Winston-Salem, NC, New Jersey and Philadelphia. Kids In Trouble youth were often the guest of the Washington NFL pro football team for games in RFK Stadium.
Hattie and Harold organized tutoring programs and every Saturday a yellow school bus full of white youth from a Maryland suburb (Takoma Park) would arrive on 14th and W Street to tutor the kids. In 1971 they found the only halfway house for juvenile delinquents ever established on a military installation. It was called Bolling Boys Base located on Bolling Air Force Base in SE DC.
He was a multi-sport star athlete at Spingarn. Bell admits he spend many games in the coaches’ ‘Doghouse’ for his selfish play. He says, “My problem, I wanted the ball in my hands when the game was in doubt”.
He opened community centers that had previously been closed on the weekends to neighborhood residents. Washingtonian Magazine named him Washingtonian of the Year in 1980 and called him “A One Man Community Action Program.” He was the first sportscaster to receive the honor from the magazine.
Hattie and Harold have been honored at the White House by President Richard M. Nixon, and cited in the Congressional Record on three different occasions. First, there was Lou Stokes (D-Ohio), Bob Dole (R-Kan) and Congressman Walter Fauntroy for their work with at-risk children
He said, “The only reason I’m still standing strong today is because of my high school and college coaches, Dave Brown and Bighouse Gaines. They were there to prevent me from going to hell in a hurry”.
“It was not always financial when it came to helping people, he says. I made decent money as a talk show host, I had some high profile sponsors like the Md. State Lottery, and Coca-Cola for my radio talk shows”.
He was the first Sports and Marketing Rep for Nike and Anheuser Busch in the Nation’s Capitol. He moonlighted on the weekends as a wide receiver playing minor league football. “I tried to keep it real for my young people making sure they went ‘First Class’. I think I’m more proud of that than anything else. When I see my former youth today, it’s still Mr. and Mrs. Bell. They show respect because I never misled them and they remembered I was there during the good and bad times.
Bell says, “a man is only as good as his word and I made my word golden with my young people. Today in the black community a man’s word means very little. I not only talked the talk, I walked the walk”.
Bell and the late Petey Greene were close friends. Petey was a local legend who hosted a highly-rated radio talk show (and, later, television show) on WOL-AM. Bell met Greene while caddying on the weekends at the prestigious Burning Tree Golf Course located in a Maryland suburb. The same golf course he met his friend Vice-President Richard Nixon in 1957. In 1967 Greene would give Bell five minutes of air time on his Sunday show to talk sports on W-O-L radio and President Nixon would give him a Presidential appointment in 1969.
Petey would later tell him to get the hell off his show and get his own, WOL radio personality Bobby Bennett picked him up. Bennett was the No. 1 DJ in the country at the time and was known as The Mighty Burner. “I think Bobby was a closet sportscaster in waiting. We talked sports on Saturday afternoons the show was a big hit,” Bell said.
But a year later, Bell was ready to go it alone with Bennett’s blessings. Station WOOK-AM another black oriented station hired him as a talk show host, allowing him to express his strong opinions with no filter. The show was christened “Inside Sports,” the tag given to him by his wife and is now a part of sports media history.
For much of the next 30 years, Bell held court with a Who’s Who of sports figures. It was his relationships with Muhammad Ali and Red Auerbach that gave him instant credibility.
“Every sports talk show in the country now has a format similar to the original Inside Sports,” Outside the Lines? I was Outside the Lines long before Bob Levy. I was Real Sports before Bryant Gumble” he says.
He says, “I was Out of DC long before NWA (Niggers With Attitudes) was Out of Compton. NWA had to go underground with their music because the FCC would not allow their profanity laced lyrics to be played on radio stations. The FCC had their eyes on me, but their political hands were tied-no profanity!
“I was tackling the tough issues as it related to pro sports, racism, bad agents and bad politicians, when everyone else was just giving the scores, batting averages and telling you how much a player weighed and how tall he was. I played message music when no one dared to play it on talk shows. My music, Wake Up Everybody, What’s Going On, Black & Proud, the Revolution will not be televised, Who killed the Sheriff, etc.
“It was unheard of and now I can appreciate Inside Sports while transferring my old shows from cassette to CD. I can understand why people liked the original Inside Sports talk format. The show had no ‘Cut Card’ and there were no pom-poms and skirts allowed on the show. A media room deadline is still one of the most segregated hours in America, second only to a church on Sunday morning”, he says.
His interviews with Muhammad Ali, Jim Brown, Red Auerbach, Spencer Haywood, Harry Edwards, Sonny Hill, Don King, Bighouse Gaines and John Chaney were educational classics. He was the host for panel discussion shows with football players on the difficulties they faced after they retired, decades before it became a national issue. He was the first to convene a Media Roundtable with other members of the media. He gave John Thompson and Sugar Ray Leonard their first airtime when they could not buy their way on to a local TV or radio show.
He remembers his friendship with the late Red Auerbach and his wife Dotie they lived in D.C., they treated him and Hattie like family. His biggest regret, he didn’t tell Red about the rumors of drugs before he drafted Len Bias. He says, “I probably could have saved Bias’ life, but I made a mistake and took my street sense over my common sense.”
There are others who have reached back like former NBA referee Lee Jones and Jim Clemons, who played with the ’72 Lakers championship team. Clemons went on to be an assistant coach on the Bulls’ and Lakers’ title teams of the ’90s and 2000s. He said, “I owe them dearly.”
Former player/coach Al Attles of the Golden State Warriors says of Bell is a ‘Good Man’. He does so much trying to help others. He’s good people. We go back a long way. He’s just been outstanding. I grew up in New Jersey and went to school in North Carolina, of course, and moved out to the west coast. But I have always been partial to people who give back to the community. He has done so many good things. I’m a community guy and he always was. It’s not easy. As we get older, and new people come in and do things, I don’t think it’s that people don’t appreciate what you’ve done, it’s just that people move on.”
In 1975, Bell produced and hosted a half-hour sports special on WRC TV 4, the NBC affiliate in Washington. His special guest was Muhammad Ali. It was the first prime time a sports program was produced and hosted by a black man in America.
“I met Ali on the campus of Howard University in 1967, I was a Roving Leader (Youth Gang Task Force) for the DC Department of Recreation & Parks. Ali was there speaking to the students as a part-time comedian and community activist. He was talking about his problems with the draft and being black in America”.
“We hit it off and walked from the campus down Georgia Avenue to 7th& T Streets together. We talked about my working with young people and the challenges I faced. He was really impressed. I turned to see about 40, 50 people walking with us it was like a parade. I didn’t see him again for at least three or four years”, he says.
The late J.D. Bethea a sports writer for the Washington Star was contemplating on writing a story on him, he and Attorney Harry Barnett invited him to ride with them to Cleveland to see Ali fight an exhibition for a Cleveland Children’s Hospital. They didn’t have to ask him a second time. Barnett at the time was representing George Foreman. It was the best car ride ever when Muhammad recognized him during the press conference. He said, “Harold Bell, what are you doing this far away from home?” From that point on their relationship flourished and it was all down hill from there. It was there he became ‘The Chosen One’!
The carat in the relationship came in 1974 after Ali shocked the world when he knocked out big George Foreman in the 8th round. He became the undefeated and undisputed Heavyweight Champion of the world. He had made a promise to Harold in Chicago before leaving for Zaire, Africa. He made fun of him, when he said, “Harold Bell since you are scared to fly over the ocean after I knockout George, I will give you the first interview.”
It was five nights after the fight. On a rainy night in DC Harold’s phone rang around 10 pm, it was Ali keeping his word (unheard of)). It has been four decades plus later and Harold says, “I am still amazed by that call. I was just a nobody trying to be somebody”.
Bell hosted Inside Sports well into the 1990s at different radio stations. He never compromised (he once gave boxing promoter Don King a five-figure check back after he claimed King reneged on his word). A man is only as good as his word and Don’s word has never meant very much, he said.
Harold has chastised those whom he believed didn’t give enough back to the communities from which they came. Players, media, coaches, it didn’t matter: if you were on Bell’s bad side, there was hell to pay. He says, “Radio is a special medium. I enjoyed taking calls from my listening audience (Bell, however, says he never hung up on a caller, and thinks many of today’s radio gabbers are “rude” to their listeners.)
“I discovered early you’ve got to be able to distinguish between constructive criticism and destructive criticism, I knew when people were trying to help me and when they were trying to play me. You always have to consider the source. When Red gave me advice, I knew he wasn’t trying to hurt me. Or when Al Attles pulled me to the side, I knew he was trying to help me.”
Bell is still working. He now has his own weekly Zoom Show every Sunday, Inside Sports Detoxx video show on You Tube, he is the most read and most popular blogger for Black Men in America.com. The website is one of the most popular black websites on the internet, ranked in the top 10 out of over 500 black websites. His collection of star maker interviews are still being developed with the likes of Ali, as well as Red Auerbach, Sam Jones, Al Attles, and Connie Hawkins. In February he will continue to work on his Muhammad Ali documentary to commemorate Black History Month. His work as the historian at D.C.’s iconic Ben’s Chili Bowl restaurant has come to an end. And he’s still telling the truth and calling it like he sees it. Its truth without the he say, she say, the lies that keep our community divided. There will be no hiding behind anonymity on his watch.
“If you know Harold,” McIntyre said, “and if you haven’t had a difference of opinion over something, then I don’t think you know Harold Bell.”
Earl Lloyd was the first black to play in the NBA described Bell best when he said on the late John Thompson ESPN 98O radio sports talk show, “Harold Bell maybe controversial, but I have yet to hear anyone call him a liar.”
Case closed–in 2020 the National Association of Black Journalist honored him with their pioneer award recognizing his media trailblazing efforts. He thought it was “April Fool”!
In 2017 I testified before the DC City Council during the confirmation hearing for now former Police Chief Peter Newsham. He was confirmed and a wasted 4 years of law-enforcement followed. Crime in the city multiplied and poured into Prince Georges County and Virginia.
Councilman Charles Allen conducted the hearings and half of the council were AWOL including Ward 7’s Vincent Gray, Ward 8’s Trayon White, Ward 3’s Mary Cheh, Arnita Bonds At-Large, and Kenyan McDuffie Ward 5. When the votes were counted it was 12-1 for confirmation. Councilman At-Large Charles Grosso was the only one who had the balls to say “No” to the confirmation. He knew Newsham was a corrupt cop because he had enough common sense to use the background information I had given DC Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, Mayor Muriel Bowser and Council woman Mary Cheh.
I testified Newsham was not worthy to be Chief of Police in the Nation’s Capitol with his bad history as a cop. It was not like I was bringing a news flash to the council chambers, Fox News TV 5 ran an expose relating to his violent domestic abuse of his wife and girlfriend on the side. They both had him in court before a judge on domestic violence charges.
He is a well known alcoholic (found on a DC street drunk with his gun in his holster). Talking about a cop out of control, Newsham had several of his cronies/go-fers go into the property room of the department and take documents out that were to be use against him in a court of law.
World Bank demonstrators were suing the city and Newsham for abuse by the DC police department in 2002—the lawsuit cost the city in the neighborhood of 15 million dollars.
Inspector Nate Simms was in charge of the property room during that time. He confronted Newsham’s cronies/go-fers who were abusing the system on his behalf. He told them they could no longer take police property out of the property room without signing for it. He refused to be the go along to get along “Spook That Sat by the Door” for Newsham and his band of thieves.
Newsham went to his buddy Chief Cathy Lanier and she removed Inspector Simms from the property room and demoted/busted him back to Captain. He retired.
She was the first cop in the history of the DC Police Department to go from a captail to the chief! Comparable, a captain in the U. S. military receiving a similar promotion to General.
She was appointed by former Mayor Adrian Fenty. It was rumored she received the appointment after she became Fenty’s bodyguard for his domestic abuse. In the meantime, Lanier retired after being offered the job to head security for NFL proving crime does pay.
When I met Nate Simms as young cop he was adapted to Community Policing. We met at the SE White House during Tuesday morning breakfasts. This was a meeting place for community activist and those who needed our support. The breakfast was overseen by former Assistant Police Chief Sammi Morrison. The late Chief Ike Fullwood was a frequent visitor.
I discovered Simms was a straight shooter and we became fast friends. He supported my efforts during my annual Kids In Trouble Christmas toy party for needy children and participated in several of my forums relating to youth gangs and police community relations.
When Chief Cathy Lanier kicked him to the curb we met to talk about his next move to leave the department and what the future held for him. Instead, he provided me with documented proof of dates and times of Newsham transgressions and abuse of power as a law-enforcement officer.
He got a raw deal and he refused to stand on the sidelines and cheer Newsham on as he ran for chief of the department.
I now had to figure out a game plan to derail Newsham’s rise to power as a corrupt/crooked cop. I had to do more than just write and talk about it. I need another avenue to expose him to those in so-called power. Enter, Ben’s Chili Bowl.
I was now the Historian for the World famous eatery. The family was planning on celebrating the founder, Virginia Ali’s birthday and where should they celebrate it? They had just opened a brand new Chili Bowl at 9th and H Streets on the NE corridor. There was hope they could kill two birds with one stone.
First, free publicity for the new eatery and invite the power-brokers to their new home (housewarming). This would be a great venue to see Delegate Eleanor Norton Holmes (a Chili Bowl favorite), Mayor Muriel Bowser and any City Council member, wannabees who might want to be seen.
Several days before the big party I went to my computer and printed out the information that Nate Simms had given me on Newsham’s transgression as a DC cop. I prepared 5 envelopes with all of his background information to pass on to the power-brokers in attendance for the upcoming birthday party.
Jackpot, the eatery was packed (nose to nose). First, I found my wife Hattie a place to sit and then I would start my search to see who was in the house. It was difficult trying to get from one corner of the eatery to the other corner. My struggles were rewarded, Delegate Holmes, Mayor Bowser and City Councilwoman Mary Cheh were all in the house.
I found Hattie something to eat and then I staked out Bowser, Cheh and Holmes waiting for an opportunity to approach them. Bowser had a posse of about three people, Eleanor had one and Cheh was the Lone Ranger without Tonto.
It looked like Eleanor would be easy. She had taken off her shoes and was sitting near Hattie. The two had struck up a conversation and I moved on to check out Bowser. I was patient and waited until almost the end of the celebration. I caught the Mayor eating and I handed her the envelope and told her I would contact her later. I watched her put it in her pocketbook and I moved on to track down Cheh.
I had met her at the funeral of Judge Harry T. Alexander. I was introduced by community activist Al-Malik Farrakan (Cease Fire Don’t Smoke the brothers). I ask Malik as she walked away, “Do you trust her?” He gave me a funny look and said, “Come on man, she was a prosecutor.” Enough said!
She was talking to a constituent when I interrupted it looked like he was going to go on and on. She looked relieved when I handed her the envelope, I said, “I will contact you later” and left her the same way I found her.
When I finally got back to Eleanor, she and Hattie were taking pictures together. I gave her the envelope and she put it in her pocket—mission accomplished.
The confirmation hearing on Newsham was in April at the Wilson Building. I arrived in time to be introduced to Newsham by community activist Leroy Thorpe. Newsham came to me with a song and dance explaining he would appreciate my support and if I ever needed him for anything to give him a call. He then gave me his card and we took our seats.
I spotted former DC cop Lt. Lowell Duckett moving around the perimeter of the hearing. They had run him out of the department because he did not go along to get along. I was surprised when Malik Farrakan whispered in my ear he was there looking for a job with Newsham. Commander Melvin Gresham a veteran on the department was also in attendance showing support for Newsham. He came over to say hello and tell me he knew my brother Bull and what a great cop he was. My brother Sgt. Earl ‘Bull’ Bell faced the Thin Blue Line and Code of Silence for being a good and honest cop.
During the hearings and before my testimony I knew the confirmation hearings were a sham. The decision had already been made to name Newsham the new chief.
I told Councilman Allen I didn’t appreciate them wasting my time when they had already made their decision to hire Newsham. He swore up and down that was not the case. I was not convinced and I cited the evidence I had given DC Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, Mayor Muriel Bowser and Councilwoman Mary Cheh who conveniently was sitting out this segment of the hearing.
When it was all said and done and I was leaving the building, a young lady approached me saying she represented Councilman Charles Grosso. He requested the documentation I had given Norton, Bowser and Cheh. No problem-done deal.
When it was all said and done, the council confirmed the nomination 12-1, the only dissenting vote was cast by Councilman Grosso.
In July 2020 Mayor Muriel Bowser called Grosso a “Lame Duck” for calling for the firing of Chief of Police Peter Newsham? I find this strange since Grosso was the only council person who voted against his confirmation in 2017. In 2020 his vote proved he was right when he said “NO” to his confirmation.
Evidently, he used my documentation to reach his final conclusion, but he has since become a deaf mute on how he reached that decision. I guess you would call it politics! Community advocate Leroy Thorpe said, “I am not surprised he didn’t reach out to you. I find him to be a very ungrateful politician, he is all about Grosso”.
Looking at Nesham’s job performance for past three years he needs to be fired. For example; Crimes including homicides have gone up every year since he has been chief. It was Bowser according to the Washington Post who conspired with the chief to “Stop and Frisk” New York City style. Cops profiled and ticket blacks overwhelmingly in a city that is now 50-50 as it relates to black and white folks—they can no longer lean on “Chocolate City”. See link below.
Mayor Muriel Bowser lost a lot credibility for supporting the “Stop and Frisk” act in DC that targeted black citizens. She sold the black community out.
My “Deep Throat” in the DC government whispered to me that the City Council put pressure on Mayor Bowser to get rid of Newsham. His erratic police behavior was costing the city too much money and his run–in with City Council members was not helping. Bowser then gave Newsham the 411 to resign or be fired. Newsham immediately started looking for another job or a way out with his pride intact and Prince William County answered the call. This was a step down from chief of police in Washington, DC the Nation’s Capitol and stronghold of political power to the chief of police in (Mayberry) Prince William County, Virginia.
It was difficult for me to believe, I gave three minority women information relating to a cop seeking the office of chief of police in the nation’s capitol who has a domestic violence history and they still give him a pass to be chief!
It all comes down to are women politicians just as corrupt and selfish as men? In 1968 Black male Mayors did absolutely nothing after we were forewarned (Kerner Report) that America was headed for two different societies, one black and one white. Here we are 52 years later hustling backwards!
This brings me to a difficult crossroads we are now facing in the District, Maryland and Virginia (DMV). Talking about being caught between a “Rock and a Hard place”!
There are three women in the DMV that now have their hands on the trigger to help start a new trend in Community Policing when it comes to changing the culture of policing in America.
We often hear cops saying, “Its us against them”? They forget they were not drafted into the job-they volunteered. Our tax dollars pay their salaries and if it is too hot in the kitchen-get out!
I know of no one I am connected to in the struggle is talking about defunding or dismantling police departments. The people I know are talking about better training and community policing. For example, adding armed social service advocates to the department’s payroll to address calls when it comes to domestic violence and mental health issues.
This will allow officers to stand back and stand off until these advocates arrive to address the issue. There are times when circumstances will not allow this procedure to manifest. A outside advocacy group will determine whether the act of using their weapon was justified. Police policing themselves can no longer be tolerated. Limited immunity has to be taken off the books, I cringe everytime I think of Newsham heading the Internal Affairs Department.
Newsham is carrying his racist police practices to Prince William County, Virginia. DC now has no chief and Prince Georges County still has no chief after firing their racist chief Hank Stawinski in July. This guy much like Newsham was poison to the department. Newsham had 31 years and Stawinski had 27 years to spread their racist ideology among their officers. Change is not coming easy.
During Newsham’s 31 years read like a fictional movie. Domestic violence with both black and white women, a known alcoholic, he was a bully with a badge and gun, found drunk on a DC street corner with his gun in his holster, stealing evidence out of property room, costing the city millions of dollars for wrongful arrest and abuse during World Bank protest in 2002 and DC is expected to pay out millions more for the abuse on Black Lives Matter Plaza peaceful protesters last month. He now carries his show on the road to Prince William County, Virginia—too close for me.
Stawinski on his 27 year watch witness up close one of the most brutal and racist police departments in America. Cops were scare of their own colleagues. Several appeared on television in hoods to hide their identy and discuss racism in the department. There were vigilante acts carried out, one of the most memorable was a young man found hung in his jail cell in 2007 after he was arrested for hit and run killing a county police officer. The sad part black folks were in charge, County Executive, Jack Johnson (now ex-con), Chief of Police Melvin High (now county sheriff), States Attorney Glenn Ivey (now an expert on the criminal justice system as seen on TV) the trial judge, Federal Judge, Alex Williams. The killers are still free.
There have been several lawsuits filed against the department by Black and now Hispanic officers citing racism. In September the county paid a black family 20 million dollars for a wrongful death by a police officer. The officer shot and killed a man in custody handcuffed in a police vehicle.
Checkout the reasons why Prince William County Board of Supervisor chair Ann Wheeler is welcoming Newsham with open arms. She said, “We have a wonderful police department right now, but we can always get better. Newsham with his experienced after so many years of running a large police department, we felt he could bring those techniques of racism and brutality here and definitely benefit us.
Newsham’s during his tenure allowed black children and men to be gunned down in our streets without any concern, for three straight years crime in our streets got higher and higher. It is clear why he is headed to Prince William County as its next chief of police. They are expecting more of the same.
If you need an interpreter to understand what she is saying, you are a part of the problem.