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Jill Silos-Rooney

actor, athlete, singer, and producer, was born in Newark, New Jersey, to Annabelle Patricia West and John Allen Amos Sr., a self-taught diesel auto mechanic and tractor trailer driver. Shortly after his second birthday, the family moved to East Orange, New Jersey, where they lived while John Sr. served in the military during World War II. His father left after the war, and his mother struggled to support her family by working as a domestic and then as a certified dietician. Amos recalled that, “the only time [he] ever saw his mother concede to possible failure was one time when she could not find any food in the cupboards. She had to ask him to go to the next-door neighbor to borrow food” (interview with John Amos by the author, 2010 Amos first joined the Metropolitan Baptist Church in Newark New Jersey at about ...

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Sandra Y. Govan

A Los Angeles native and later resident of Vancouver, Washington, Steven Emory Barnes is the third African American author after 1960 to have chosen science fiction and fantasy writing as his primary profession. Barnes established himself through the 1980s as a determined and disciplined writer, one who had followed a cherished childhood dream to become a commercially successful professional writer.

The youngest child of Emory F. Barnes and Eva Mae (Reeves) Barnes, Steven Barnes grew up in Los Angeles. He attended Los Angeles High, Los Angeles City College, and Pepperdine University, Malibu, California (1978–1980 At Pepperdine he majored in communication arts but withdrew from school before completing a degree frustrated because he thought no one on the faculty could teach him about building a career as a professional writer It was not until Barnes made contact with established science fiction writer Ray Bradbury who sent the novice ...

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Donna L. Halper

radio personality and advertising executive, was most likely the first black announcer in the history of broadcasting, on the air as early as 1924. His successful radio career would span four decades and make him a wealthy man. Cooper did not come from an entertainment background. Born in Memphis, Tennessee, he was one of ten children of William and Lavina Cooper. Jack Cooper quit school after the fifth grade to help support his impoverished family. He held a number of low-paying jobs and for a time got interested in boxing, winning more than a hundred bouts as a welterweight fighter. But he found his calling on the vaudeville stage, where he became a singer and dancer, beginning in 1905 and continuing well into the 1920s. He was more than just a performer, writing and producing skits and entire shows, often in collaboration with his first wife Estelle ...

Article

Jason Philip Miller

basketball player, was born Julius Winfield Erving III in Hempstead, New York, and raised by a single mother, his father having abandoned the family when Julius was only three years old. Since his family life was difficult to cope with, Julius spent a great deal of time on the streets and playing basketball at the local community courts. Julius received his familiar “Dr. J” moniker during a childhood pickup game; it was a nickname that would stick with him throughout his long and astonishing basketball career. By the time Julius was ten years old, he was playing with a local Salvation Army basketball team. He had already learned how to dunk—albeit on Prospect Elementary's lower baskets—and in just a few short years he was able to dunk the ball on regulation posts.

When Erving was thirteen, his mother remarried, and in 1963 the family relocated to nearby Roosevelt ...

Article

During his career Julius Erving—known to fans and announcers as Dr. J—set new standards of performance in his sport and made the slam-dunk into one of the most exciting moves in professional Basketball.

Julius Winfield Erving Jr. was born in East Meadow, New York. He grew up playing basketball on New York City playgrounds and then for Roosevelt High School. He recalled, “My first [slam] dunk was at the Prospect Elementary School, where they had 8-foot baskets and 13-foot ceilings. By the time I was in ninth grade, I was dunking the regular baskets.” Erving attended the University of Massachusetts, and during his sophomore and junior years (1969–1971), he led his team in scoring in forty-six of fifty-two varsity games.

In 1971 Erving left school to join the Virginia Squires of the American Basketball Association (ABA). He was named rookie of the year for the 1971 ...

Article

Joanna Davenport

It was a historic moment. In the 1990 Wimbledon women’s singles final, Martina Navratilova won her ninth singles title, a record held by no other person, when she defeated Zina Garrison, the first black woman to play on Wimbledon’s center court since 1958, when Althea Gibson won her second of two Wimbledon crowns. Being first has been a common occurrence for the professional tennis player Zina Garrison.

Zina Garrison, the youngest of seven children, was born in Houston, Texas, to Mary and Ulysses Garrison Her father died before she was a year old so Garrison was raised by her mother who worked as an aide in a nursing home When Zina was ten she began playing tennis at the local public park courts where she received instruction from the resident coach Impressed with her talent he entered her in local tournaments where she did well By the ...

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Adam W. Green

tennis player, was born in Houston, Texas, the youngest of six children, to Ulysses Garrison, a postal worker, and Mary Elizabeth Garrison, a nursing home aide. Though initially diagnosed with a stomach tumor, Garrison's mother discovered she was pregnant at 42 years old, ten years after her previous child. Her parents chose to begin her name with “Z” to emphasize that she would be the last of their children.

Garrison grew up in the working-class African American neighborhood of Sunnyside Gardens in Houston. When she was eleven months old, her father died of a stroke; three months later, her oldest brother Willie, a catcher in the Milwaukee Braves minor league system, was struck by a baseball, developed a tumor, and died two years later.

Garrison was ten years old when her older brother Rodney introduced her to a free tennis program at nearby MacGregor Park Two months ...

Article

Jon L. Brudvig

athlete, Olympian, and media personality, was born Rafer Lewis Johnson in Hillsboro, Texas, the son of Lewis Johnson, a laborer, and Alma Gibson, a domestic. Rafer had one brother, Jim, who later played in the National Football League, and two sisters, Emma and Dolores. When jobs became scarce during the Great Depression the family relocated to Oklahoma, only to return to Dallas a short time later where Lewis Johnson worked as a handyman for a company that manufactured drilling implements and Alma Johnson secured a position as a domestic for the proprietor's family. Texas acquainted Rafer Johnson with institutionalized segregation and racism. Like countless others, the Johnson family moved to California during World War II. Besides the promise of higher-paying jobs, the relocation also carried with it the hope of leaving Jim Crow permanently behind them. In 1945 when defense contractors began downsizing ...

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Wayne L. Wilson

football player, was born David Jones in Eatonville, Florida, five miles from Orlando. David's parents, Mattie and Ishmeal, who worked a variety of jobs including farm workers, had eight children, three boys and five girls. He was the seventh. The poverty-stricken family lived in an old, wooden house with no indoor plumbing until David attended high school. He was a three-sport star (baseball, basketball, and football) at all-black Hungerford High School.

However, all David dreamed about as a child was becoming a star professional football player. His father demanded that all three boys play the sport. But he noticed that David had the greatest potential for success in the pros. Jones said of his father in Pro Football Weekly, “He used to watch me practice at 5:00 in the morning doing my running when nobody else did. He supported the hell out of me” (Arkush, 27 Jan ...

Article

Mr. T  

Jason Philip Miller

actor, performer, and minister, was born Laurence Tureaud in the rough and tumble Robert Taylor housing projects in Chicago, Illinois. He was the youngest of twelve children. His father, Nathaniel, a minister, abandoned the family when Laurence was five years old, leaving the young boy's mother to raise her large family on a meager welfare check. Tureaud attended Dunbar Vocational School and won a football scholarship to Prairie View A&M in Texas. He matriculated in 1971 but was expelled after just a year (presumably for academic indifference, though the official reasons are unclear).

His academic career apparently at an end, Tureaud enlisted in the U.S. Army, where he served as a military policeman, but that too turned out to be a brief association. In 1971 he married Phyllis Clark The couple would have three children but later divorced Two years later he tried out for ...

Article

Jacob Andrew Freedman

football player and actor, was born in Williamsburg, Virginia, the second oldest of the three children of Clarence Taylor, a shipyard worker, and Iris maiden name unknown a clerk and cashier Growing up on the outskirts of town separated from his closest neighbor by a divided highway Lawrence had little contact with people outside of his family The only place he regularly socialized was at school where he was an average student with perfect attendance The family lived modestly Testing the household rules and trying to avoid his parents discipline gave Lawrence events around which he built an identity For example when sent to the grocery store with a check for the family s monthly grocery bill he purchased a large quantity of candy that he resold at school for a profit This business venture continued for years and was so successful that he became known as ...