In the summer of 1961, when “Negro” anything, always meant “first” something, I was a rising senior, attending John C. Fremont High School in Los Angeles. I was a member of the Scholastic Sports Association, a daily high school sports reporting network associated with the Los Angeles Examiner newspaper.
One of the SSA brass was affiliated with the Hollywood “Miracle Mile” Post of the American Legion. In 1961–as it had done for countless years and most certainly continues to do even now–the American Legion took 800 boys to the State Capital in Sacramento for a week-long camp-out, ultimate reality show, and exercise in the American form of government called California Boys State. I was chosen to represent the American Legion Miracle Mile Post in 1961.
At the conclusion of Boys State, two boys are chosen to represent that state in the ultimate assembly: Boys Nation.
It was at Boys Nation one year later when Arkansas Boys Nation Delegate William Jefferson Clinton had his picture taken with Pres. John F. Kennedy, causing young Bill to believe he was then destined to himself become President of the United States of America. Which he did.
There were seven other Black boys at California Boys State in 1961. Most were very impressive “First Negro” type of Dudes. They all seemed to be scholar-athletes destined for great things in the future.
Me? I was more the Class Clown. Hey: Dare to Giggle. Dare to Grin. That’s my motto.
So, in a cynical moment, I sold my chance to be President of the United States, for $5. Here’s how the deal was “structured.” (I realize that no White Boy worth his salt would have paid any Negro Boy good money for the Negro Boy’s life-long chance to be President.) He paid me in special 1961 California Boys State money! Worth only slightly more than your basic “Monopoly” money.
But I still think I got the better part of that deal. Continue reading