Jamie Reidy comments on the story of Dolph Pulliam, the first African-American television broadcaster in Iowa.
Dolph Pulliam served as defensive leader and emotional catalyst for the 1969 Drake Bulldog basketball team. His story is fitting at this time of year, as he and his teammates nearly did the impossible in the NCAA tournament: dethrone John Wooden’s UCLA Bruins.
I’d never heard his story before I read it in Rob Trucks’s deadpan.com interview. Really glad I did.
After turning down numerous job offers from major corporations, Dolph decided to stay in Des Moines. Yet he soon found his statewide popularity replaced by death threats from racists unable to handle a black man on their TV screens. Governor Robert D. Ray, with whom the ballplayer had developed a friendship, then got personally involved.
“The governor and I sat there and talked, and I told the governor what was going on, and he thought for a moment and he said: “Dolph, now I understand. They don’t know you like I know you.” And he said, “So what I’m going to do is: You’ll be getting calls from my staff, and they’ll tell you to meet me a certain location, or meet me at the airport, and I’m going to take you with me around the state of Iowa, and I’m going to have you onstage and you introduce me, and then when I get onstage I’m going to talk about you, and then I’ll do my business and that’s what will happen.”
Can you imagine a major politician doing something like that today? Wow. How selfless. How ballsy. Gov. Ray didn’t care about appearances or votes; he simply cared about right and wrong.
“We started doing that and the death threats stopped. They stopped. And later I asked the governor what had happened, and he said, “I just wanted the people that were doing this in the state to know that if something ever happened to you, this governor would not be very happy.”
The GMP salutes Dolph Pulliam for blazing a trail. We also hail Governor Robert D. Ray for recognizing a wrong and bravely righting it.
What other stories like this have we missed?
Photo by: Vectorportal