By Charles Hallman
We lost three individuals this April; I personally didn’t know each of them, but came close to meeting one of them.
Charles Sumner “Chuck” Stone, Jr. died April 6 of congestive heart failure at an assisted-living facility in North Carolina at the age of 89. Born in 1924 in St. Louis, he was a Tuskegee Airman in World War II. Then, instead of attending Harvard — who accepted him, he instead went to and graduated from Wesleyan University in 1948, and later earned his master’s from the University of Chicago.
Stone was a tireless fighter for diversity, whether as a newspaperman at three Black newspapers, or in politics as an advisor for U.S. Congressman Adam Clayton Powell, Jr.
But Stone’s reputation was forever carved in stone during his days as the first Black columnist and editor at the Philadelphia Daily News (1972 to 1991). Because of his outspokenness against police brutality, Stone was credited with successfully convincing “dozens of suspects” to turn themselves in to authorities — many of them demanded that he was called because of their fear of the police. He also helped negotiate the release of six prison guards taken as hostages by inmates in 1981.
Stone was among the founders of the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) in 1975. “Chuck chaired the first meeting and became the first president,” said current President Bob Butler in a news release. “He provided the rudder that steered NABJ at a time when being a member was not always easy.”
The NABJ honored Stone with their Lifetime Achievement Award in 2004 — this reporter was in the audience that night, but unfortunately I didn’t get the chance to shake his hand.
His fights also extended in the classroom, as Stone began a parallel teaching career during his legendary journalist days at four colleges, including the University of North Carolina, where a high school summer journalism program is named after him.
His jersey number hangs in two arenas, including University of Minnesota’s Williams Arena, but I wonder if this present generation knows
who Lou Hudson was. The 13-year NBA star, one of the Gophers’ first Black basketball players in the early 1960s, and former Utah city councilman, died April 11 at the age of 69 in an Atlanta hospital. Hudson had suffered his second stroke in seven years last month.
“Young people today don’t know how good Lou Hudson really was,” said Dominique Wilkins in an Associated Press article.
I watched the 6’-5” Hudson play as a pro, but people who watched him in college at Minnesota said he had a “sweet jump shot,” which rightly justified his “Sweet Lou” nickname. He played his senior season with a broken hand, but still dropped 30 points in a game.
Born in Greensboro, North Carolina in 1944, Hudson attended Minnesota and was drafted fourth overall in the 1966 NBA Draft by St. Louis after his Minnesota years (1964-66). I saw him play many times during his NBA years — In 11 seasons with the Hawks, which moved to Atlanta during his tenure, Hudson scored 13,501 points, including a 57-point game in 1967, started in three All-Star games, scoring in double figures four times during his 11 seasons with the Hawks. He was traded to Los Angeles in 1977 and played two seasons there before he retired in 1979. He played in 890 games and had a 20-point per game career average.
His retired number is one of three former Hawks players that is retired, and one of four former Gophers as well. Hudson also was named 2003 Humanitarian of the Year by the NBA Retired Players Association and also made public appearances to advocate for stroke prevention after his first stroke in 2005.
It was the Bob Dylan’s 1976 top 40 hit “Hurricane” where I first learned of Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, who by that time had been in prison for nearly 10 years. He was later portrayed by Denzel Washington in an Academy Award nominated performance, but Carter, who died April 20 at home in Toronto, was a star fighter whose career was derailed by a murder conviction in New Jersey in the mid-1960s. He served 19 years before all charges and the conviction were finally dismissed because he was wrongly accused.
Carter was born in 1937 in Clifton, New Jersey and was no choir boy throughout his youth. He was sent to reform school as a youngster after stabbing a man, which Carter claimed self-defense, but later escaped and enlisted in the Army where he became a paratrooper. There he took up boxing, became a light-welterweight champion, and won 35 of 51 bouts by knockout and lost only five times.
The authorities finally found him, and Carter served 10 months in another reformatory. He later served four years in prison for assault and taking a woman’s purse. While in prison, Carter resumed boxing and after his 1961 prison release, he fought and won his first pro fight for $20.
“I was in my element now. Fighting was the pulse beat of my heart and I loved it,” wrote Carter in his autobiography.
He won 13 of his first 21 fights by knockout with a devastating left hook. A promoter called him “Hurricane” after he knocked out then welterweight champion Emile Griffith in 1963, but he lost a close decision to reigning middleweight champ Joey Giardello a year later.
Two men and a woman were killed in a bar in 1966, and Carter and another Black man were arrested. Although both men passed lie detector tests, the two men were later charged and Carter was sentenced to 30 years to life.
He got a new trial in 1976 after the New Jersey Supreme Court overturned the conviction due to recantations by witnesses, but a second trial again ended with a conviction and Carter was sent back to prison. A U.S. District Court judge in 1985 overturned both convictions on constitutional grounds, and Carter relocated to Toronto.
He founded Innocence International in 2004 and consistently lectured about criminal justice inequities. During his final days in his losing battle with prostate cancer, Carter campaigned for David McCallum, a man in prison since 1985 on murder charges to “be granted a full hearing.”
Finally, all three men: Stone, Hudson and Carter were fighters in their respective fields, in their own right.
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org