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Remembering: NASCAR’s First Black Driver And Hall Of Famer

There are millions of NASCAR fans all over the world but do you know that the first NASCAR driver was Wendell Oliver Scott from Danville, Virginia. History has recorded Scott as the only black driver to win a race in what is now the Sprint Cup Series. He could be compared to Jackie Robinson in the sense that he broke the color barrier in Southern stock car racing. The memorable day occurred on May 23, 1952, at the Danville Fairgrounds Speedway.

Scott gained experience and winning some local races at various Virginia tracks before becoming the first African-American to obtain a NASCAR racing license. It is unclear when the license was issued in 1953, although NASCAR does not have the exact date. As you can imagine, Scott’s career was repeatedly affected by racial prejudice and problems with top-level NASCAR officials. However, his determined struggle as an underdog won him thousands of white fans and many friends and admirers among his fellow racers.

It is said from the day was born he wanted to be his own boss. In Danville, two industries dominated the local economy: cotton mills and tobacco-processing plants. Scott vowed to avoid that sort of boss-dominated life. He once said, “The mill’s looked too much like a prison. You go in and they lock a gate behind you and you can’t get out until you’ve done your time”. From boyhood, Scott raced bicycles against white boys. In his neighborhood, he said, “I was the only black boy that had a bicycle.” He became a daredevil on roller skates, speeding down Danville’s steep hills on one skate.

He ran an auto-repair shop. As a sideline and for fun, he took up the dangerous, illegal pursuit of running moonshine whiskey. This trade gave quite a few early stock car racers their education in building fast cars and outrunning the police. The police caught Scott only once, in 1949. Sentenced to three years probation, he continued making his late-night whiskey runs. On weekends, he would go to the stock car races in Danville, sitting in the blacks-only section of the bleachers, and he would wish that he too could be racing on the speedway.

Scott was thirty years old at the approximate times when he was sitting in the bleachers of local speedways, watching white men race. Up to then, he had lived his whole life under the rigid rules of segregation. He could neither use a white bathroom or a white drinking fountain nor eat at a white restaurant. Nothing in his past had prepared him for the unusual, life-changing experience that was about to take place.

The Danville races were run by the Dixie Circuit, one of several regional racing organizations that competed with NASCAR during that era. Danville’s events always made less money than the Dixie Circuit’s races at other tracks. “We were a tobacco and textile town — people didn’t have the money to spend,” said Aubrey Ferrell, one of the organizers. The officials decided they would try an unusual, and unprecedented, promotional gimmick: They would recruit a Negro driver to compete against the “good ol’ boys.”

To their credit, they wanted a fast black driver, not just a fall guy to look foolish. They asked the Danville police who was the best Negro driver in town. The police recommended the moonshine runner whom they had chased many times and caught only once. Scott brought one of his whiskey-running cars to the next race, and Southern stock car racing gained its first black driver.

Some spectators booed him, and his car broke down during the race. But Scott realized immediately that he wanted a career as a driver. The next day, however, brought the first of many episodes of discrimination that would plague his racing career. Scott repaired his car and towed it to a NASCAR-sanctioned race in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. But the NASCAR officials refused to let him compete. Black drivers were not allowed, they said. As he drove home, Scott recalled, “I had tears in my eyes.”

A few days later he went to another NASCAR event in High Point, North Carolina. Again, Scott said, the officials “just flat told me I couldn’t race. They told me I could let a white boy drive my car. I told ’em weren’t no damn white boy going to drive my car.” Scott decided to avoid NASCAR for the time being and race with the Dixie Circuit and at other non-NASCAR speedways. He won his first race at Lynchburg, Virginia, only twelve days into his racing career. It was just a short heat race in the amateur class, but for Scott, the victory was like a barb on a hook. He knew that he had found his calling.

He ran as many as five events a week, mostly at Virginia tracks. Some spectators would shout racial slurs, but many others began rooting for him. Some prejudiced drivers would wreck him deliberately. They “just hammered on Wendell,” former chief NASCAR photographer T. Taylor Warren said. “They figured he wasn’t going to retaliate.” And they were right–Scott felt that because of the racial atmosphere, he could not risk becoming involved in the fist-fights and dirty-driving paybacks that frequently took place among the white drivers.

Many other drivers, however, came to respect Scott. They saw his skills as a mechanic and driver, and they liked his quiet, uncomplaining manner. They saw him as someone similar to themselves, another hard-working blue-collar guy swept up in the adrenalin rush of racing, not somebody trying to make a racial point. “He was a racer — you could look at somebody and tell whether they were a racer or not,” said driver Rodney Ligon, who was also a moonshine runner. “Didn’t nobody send him [to the track] to represent his race — he come down because he wanted to drive a damn racecar.” Some white drivers became his close friends and also occasionally acted as his bodygards.

Some Southern newspapers began writing positive stories about Scott’s performance. He began the 1953 season on the northern Virginia circuit, for example, by winning a feature race in Staunton. Then he tied the Waynesboro qualifying record. A week later he won the Waynesboro feature, after placing first in his heat race and setting a new qualifying record. The Waynesboro News Virginian reported that Scott had become “recognized as one of the most popular drivers to appear here.” The Staunton News Leader said he “has been among the top drivers in every race here.”

In 1961, he moved up to the NASCAR Grand National (now Sprint Cup) division. In the 1963 season, he finished 15th in points, and on December 1 of that year, driving a Chevy Bel Air and won a race on the one-mile dirt track at Speedway Park in Jacksonville, Florida becoming the first and to date only top level NASCAR event won by an African-American. Scott was not announced as the winner of the race at the time, presumably due to the racist culture of the time.

Ironically, the second-place driver, was initially declared the winner, but race officials discovered two hours later that Scott had not only won, but was two laps in front of the rest of the field. NASCAR awarded Scott the win two years later, but his family never actually received the trophy he had earned till 2010–37 years after the race, and 20 years after Scott had died.

He continued to be a competitive driver despite his low-budget operation through the rest of the 1960s. In 1964, Scott finished 12th in points despite missing several races. Over the next five years, Scott consistently finished in the top ten in the point standings. He finished 11th in points in 1965, was a career-high 6th in 1966, 10th in 1967, and finished 9th in both 1968 and 1969. His top year in winnings was 1969 when he won $47,451 ($300,723.94 in today’s money).

This is not unlike much of what the ghost of the greats had to endure but their sacrifice changed the sport and the world. And that’s my Thought Provoking Perspective…

(Resource: Wikipedia)

 


Black Music Month: The Godfather Of Go-Go

It has been a year since the man who filled Washington DC with his legendary Go-Go music passed away. As one of the thousands of “Chuckaholics” Chuck Brown will live forever. “He’s like our Elvis.” So let’s all say, “Wind Me Up, Chuck” and my you Rest in Peace.

The Nation’s Capital still mourns the passing of Washington DC’s favorite son Chuck Brown known as the “Godfather of Go-Go”. Chuck made a name for himself in the 70s with the smash hit “Bustin’ Loose” and effectively birthing a new genre in Go-Go music. Largely a native to the Washington Metro area, Go-Go music is a byproduct of funk and soul backed by African rhythms, call-and-response chants and dances tailored made for the music. Brown was infamous for his “Wind Me Up, Chuck” routine and his hefty baritone voice was both melodic and confident.

Chuck Brown was a favorite of Washingtonians, enjoying popularity in the city and abroad that continued on for decades. The Godfather is considered by many to be Washington musical royalty, and his loss leaves behind a legacy of hits and thousands of mourning fans who grew up with his music.

The 75-year-old musician’s is said to have learned music in his early years in prison where the performer, singer, guitarist and songwriter developed his commanding brand of funk in the mid-1970s to compete with the dominance of disco. Like a DJ blending records, Mr. Brown used nonstop percussion to stitch songs together and keep the crowd on the dance floor, resulting in marathon performances that went deep into the night. Mr. Brown said the style got its name because “the music just goes and goes.”

In addition to being go-go’s principal architect, Mr. Brown remained the genre’s most charismatic figure. On stage, his spirited call-and-response routines became a hallmark of the music, reinforcing a sense of community that allowed the scene to thrive. As go-go became a point of pride for black Washingtonians, Mr. Brown became one of the city’s most recognizable figures.

“No single type of music has been more identified with Washington than go-go, and no one has loomed larger within it as Chuck Brown,” former Washington Post pop music critic Richard Harrington wrote in 2001.

Mr. Brown’s creation, however, failed to have the same impact outside of the Beltway. The birth of go-go doubled as the high-water mark of Mr. Brown’s national career. With his group the Soul Searchers, his signature hit “Bustin’ Loose” not only minted the go-go sound, it spent four weeks atop the R&B singles chart in 1978.

“Bustin’ Loose” was “the one record I had so much confidence in,” Mr. Brown told The Post in 2001. “I messed with it for two years, wrote a hundred lines of lyrics and only ended up using two lines. . . . It was the only time in my career that I felt like it’s going to be a hit.”

It was Mr. Brown’s biggest single, but throughout the 1980s “We Need Some Money,” “Go-Go Swing” and “Run Joe” became local anthems, reinforced by radio support and the grueling performance schedule that put Mr. Brown on area stages six nights a week. While rap music exploded across the country, go-go dominated young black Washington, with groups including Trouble Funk, Rare Essence and Experience Unlimited (also known as E.U.) follows in Mr. Brown’s footsteps.

Family, friends, and fans of the man known as the “Godfather of Go-Go”; we still love you and thank you for your musical contribution. Brown’s legendary Go-Go music played venue all over the world – can’t you still hear the crowds shouting “Wind me up Chuck”? May your soul Rest in Peace. And that’s my Thought Provoking Perspective…

Unsung Episode


Drama In The Church

th (4)I’ll start by saying “Here we go again”. We seem to continue to witness the fall of people held in high regard with titles like, and for the purpose of this post, use the word pastor loosely. You know those Mega-Church Pastor’s who adorn the grace of the pulpit who has fallen short of the long arm of the law, at least morally. Let’s see there has been the flashy televangelist Eddie Wrong and Creflo “The Dollar Man” known for preaching that prosperity is good.

Now we have Pastor, and I use this loosely also, Jamal Bryant’s fall from grace that began with an extramarital affair that tore up his congregation and destroyed his marriage. This guy was the leader of a mega church, the Empowerment Temple in Baltimore, Maryland, whose affair ended his marriage, disrupted his congregation, and almost destroyed his ministry. It is alleged that he had a child by a member of the congregation as a preacher.

Although this is not as bad as the Bishop, and I use that loosely, Eddie Long’s situation – somehow in my mind it begs the question – WTF? First of all, if Jesus where to come back today I am pretty sure he would do just as he did in the temple with the money changes. In my opinion, these leaders of huge flocks cannot effectively serve the community when they have the huge financial responsibility of such monstrosities. Frankly, it’s just business! Just sayin!

There is a very popular radio host who does a show from time to time called “Pimps in the Pulpit”. Let me be clear, I am not calling either of these Sheppard’s pimps but when you take from the needy to benefit the greedy. Well, we have to find a word that more accurately describes the mission other than pastor. The larger question is who are the followers of these guys? Are they just sheep lead blindly?

Let’s recap! Last year there was a Mega-Church preacher from Florida who was found dead in New York (allegedly) of a drug overdose with drugs found on his person (allegedly). Both Long and Dollar were among six televangelists investigated by Iowa U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley from 2007 to 2010, following questions about personal use of church-owned airplanes, luxury homes and credit cards by mega church pastors and their families. I won’t even touch the Catholic Church and their problems.

I don’t believe these are isolated instances and I am not saying that every church falls into this kind of negative category. But I would suggest that if there tax status changed some of these issues would be remedied. I also want to say I am not just picking on African American pastors. There are just as many whites and others who are just as foul in their devotion to the all mighty dollar and enjoy the sins of the flesh. Like the Catholic Priests!

I am not going to spend too many words on the frailties of faith leaders. Nor am I challenging anyone’s faith – but believers we are or should be believers in the word of God and the teachings of Jesus! Not some jokers with private jets or a huge worship palaces that you are paying for. If I can use a popular phrase that says “Game Knows Game” or you should.

Lastly, it might be a good idea to not be so blindly devoted to hustlers, con artist, or maybe I should say, pimps in the pulpit and you know who they are. Let me close by suggesting that maybe it is time to believe in yourself and know that you might find power in your soul. So, let’s get back to family, which is your strength! And that’s my Thought Provoking Perspective…

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R.I.P. CHUCK

It has been a year since the man who filled Washington DC with his legendary Go-Go music for so many years  passed away. I won’t say he left us because he never will. As one of the thousands of “Chuckaholics” Chuck Brown will live forever.

Family, friends, and fans of the man known as the “Godfather of Go-Go” we still love you and thank you for you musical contribution. Brown’s legendary Go-Go music played venue all over the world – can’t you still hear the crowds shouting “Wind me up Chuck”?

“We definitely love the city for the support, because he is the city,” another one of Brown’s daughters, Kaykay, said. “He’s like our Elvis.” In death, as in life, Brown’s memorial carried his style. D.C. native and boxing legend Rock Newman said that Chuck looked regal. “He’s in a gold casket in front of purple-lit drapes with his guitar by his side,” Newman said.

One last time I say, “Wind Me Up, Chuck” and may you Rest in Peace. And that’s my Thought Provoking Perspective…

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