I’m an old newsman by profession. It began early in my career at WCIT Radio when I was asked to cover a press conference in Lima, Ohio’s south end. It was in Victory Village, so named as a World War II housing area. Victory Village had seen better days in the 40’s, but in 1970 this would be the one place in Lima that a white guy really didn’t belong. The very thought of stepping one foot south of 4th Street was terrifying.
Like many cities, Lima too had it’s share of civil unrest but none as bad as that early August evening in 1970 It all stemmed following an officer involved shooting which resulted in the loss of life of an African American woman. Things were tense in Lima. Mayor Christian Morris signed an executive order calling for assistance from the National Guard. I was one of the witnesses to the signing of that order in the city’s Hall of Justice Building. Police Chief Bill Davenport was also on hand. Mayor Morris also had ordered a city wide curfew. A very eerie pall was cast over downtown Lima as the haze of tear gas blanketed Main Street in an effort to parry a group of black panthers and their followers. As they retreated to the South End, a press conference was called for later in the evening at the Mizpah Community Center. WCIT Radio’s news and operations director, Don Sherwood asked if I would cover the story. I would be accompanied by another reporter from WIMA TV. As I left the station, Sherwood jokingly said “nice knowing you pal” and away I went.
The TV reporter (whose name I can’t remember) and I showed up at the King Kennedy Center. The place was packed. We were the only two white guys there. A black nationalist from Detroit, festooned with a beret and bullet belt angled across his chest, stood up before the crowd and proclaimed “I have something to say but I’m not going to say it as long as the press is here”. GULP. Wait wait wait..that’s us!!! The next thing I knew, I felt a large hand clutching the back of my shirt, yanking me up saying “we gotta get you outta here now”. Turns out he was a body guard assigned to protect us. We got outside the building but as I turned around to see how many people were spilling out into the parking lot to do who knows what, I got a pair of brass knuckles in the jaw. I woke up in St. Rita’s Hospital. Fractured jaw. Funny thing is, with the exception of the lady who lost her life, the only person injured during this three day melee was me. There was a side benefit though. Dick Riggs, who owned the radio station, also owned the Baskin Robbins Ice Cream Shop at the American Mall. I had unlimited milk shakes..which was all I could eat.
So what does this have to do with Covid 19? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. I’m looking forward to the day when we can get back to reporting about other stuff. Aren’t you?