My father, my influence
Although my mother Anne was masterful at keeping me and my father George from constantly bickering, he and I always remained at opposite ends of the totem pole when it came to politics and vocations. Ironically my two younger sisters fought more with my dad than I did. Go figure.
I was a high school student when I decided that I wanted to be an FBI Agent. Our social studies class had been studying the JFK assassination and the FBI had impressed me considerably with its professionalism and degree of intelligence. My father couldn’t understand why a black person, especially his son, would want to work for an arrogant, white, elitist group like the FBI. I, of course, did not agree with his assessment. I felt that minorities had been afraid to apply to the Bureau for fear of peer pressure. However, my father continuously conveyed his feelings about my pursuing a “safe” career like medicine or engineering, and not the FBI. That wasn’t going to happen.
J. Edgar Hoover had been dead three years to the day when I walked across the carpeting of the FBI Building. Hoover had enjoyed 48 years of authoritarian rule and my father (and other non-white American men) was glad to see him gone. My father had mentioned on several occasions “that only death will get Hoover outta that chair”. Of course he had been right as Hoover’s reign ended only with his death. My father’s attitude toward J. Edgar Hoover and Hoover’s known policies toward Black men, specifically my father’s hero – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. – was a constant wound on my father that would not heal. He told me on several occasions that it was a “well-known” fact that Hoover had become angry with Dr. King for criticizing the Vietnam War and the FBI. Hoover then retaliated, again according to my father, by bugging and wiretapping Dr. King’s life. My father and my father’s friends constantly reminded me in my youth that as young black men in America through Hoover’s various policing tactics that enforcing constitutional and legal rights for African Americans in the U.S. “were laws that a white man need not respect.” Pure Hoover.
I guess it boils down to this. I am very much my father. We are both opinionated. He is a veteran and believes in duty; ditto. He is very much a man and his respect for my mother goes unparalleled. He is the blueprint from which my life is sketched and I am honored to be his son.