Ode To An Intrepid Brown-nose
I became infuriated when I read this post. My letter should explain everything:
My grandfather, Dr. Robert Walter Johnson who coached Althea Gibson and Arthur Ashe and many other black tennis players and who was instrumental in integrating tennis, was finally elected to the International Tennis Hall in the contributor category: thirty eight years after his death in 1971.
I contacted Peter Bodo and asked him if he would write something-anything about my grandfather – who in his anonymity, faced far longer odds than Bollettieri. Here was a man responsible for masterminding the development of the first two African American world tennis champions, yet who knew him?!
After saying that he would write “something”, I contacted him again, months later, to find out “when” he would be writing that certain “something.” He never did. Mr. Peter Bodo, aka,”The Conscience of the Tennis Community” wrote not one word about my grandfather. I guess Dr. J, as we called him, had more than enough connects without need of the Gandhi of the steno pad.
Tennis is an incestuous, segregated little country club and by all measures no more comfortable today with black people than it ever was. It has been said that there are no real journalists any more, only stenographers, typists, publicists, who keep their seat at the corporate trough by pressing their snouts firmly between the cheeks of the “insiders” that they must pretend to criticize once in a blue moon.
And doing their part to maintain the status quo.
Bodo’s post here is that kind of sham.
Nick is still alive to be written about and considered/re-considered. What a heroic gesture to pen an article about him, a guy still breathing, embraced, well paid and recognized. Meanwhile, Carl Bernstein refuses to publicize the accomplishments of a man who did great works in the shadows – and decided to keep him there. No need to wonder why.
Dr. J made it into the ITHOF last year, against all odds and without the help of Peter Bodo. There were NO writers from Tennis Magazine campaigning for his entry into the HOF, though his credentials and thirty eight year streak of non-recognition dwarfed Susan Lucci’s Daytime Emmy drought by a fair margin.
There was a grassroots effort – by family members, by online and Internet journalists, by Doug Smith (“Whirlwind: The Godfather of Black Tennis”) and Bud Collins to name a few. But there was mainly silence.
I happened upon this post and as soon as I saw the subject matter, I knew. The bile rose in me, at the magnificent, breathtaking hypocrisy on display. Thank God our family didn’t wait to receive “help” from this kind of puny source. We’d, of course, still be waiting.
Posted by: Julian Johnson