Sam Lacy was a sports editor and columnist for the Afro-American Newspapers.
It has been suggested that I find my way back to the story of my Pop, Sam Lacy. I agree, but I must admit that there are some current events that warrant a mention from time to time.
I have been thinking a lot about Sam’s journey, and I want to take a moment to revisit the early years. It is hard to convince some people of how much time Sam and I spent together. Believe it or not, during the last five years of his life we spent at least an hour together every day. During these times he would share tales from his childhood.
Sam grew up in Northwest D.C. His older brother, Erskine, had a best friend—Duke Ellington. We all remember Duke as a famous musician, but few tales are told of his mischief as a young man. There is a story of Erskine and Duke in a scuffle with boys in another neighborhood. Being outnumbered, they decided that retreat was the best defense.
In the path of their retreat was a Sanitary Grocery store. In those days milk was delivered in bottles. When you purchased your milk, you paid an extra penny deposit for the bottle. When you returned the bottle, you got back your penny, and the bottle was placed in a case outside the store.
As Erskine and Duke approached this crate, they didn’t see milk bottles, they saw ammunition. They loaded up with milk bottles and turned on the pursuing gang. They would heave these bottles like grenades, and when they ran out of bottles, the pursuit turned again. After about four attempts, everybody was worn out and the war was over.
This is not an unusual story for Erskine. In an earlier account I shared the story of Erskine stuffing his undershorts and a pair of socks in his back pocket, picking up his pool stick and hitch hiking to Philadelphia. This was all to avoid having to kiss his dead aunt goodbye, which was the custom of the time.
Sam had a buddy of his own, Niji Ellis. These two were joined at the hip. They played basketball on the same YMCA team, and their games took them into some rough neighborhoods. Niji was the enforcer, and handled the rough stuff. On one occasion he braced the opposing goon from the other team with the words, “You’re big as I am, ain’t you?” From Sam’s point of view this was hilarious since Niji weighed about a buck twenty fully clothed with his overcoat on, and this other guy looked like the Great Wall of China.
To add to his personification as a character, when getting dressed the first thing Niji would put on was his hat. Then he would light a cigarette.
There was the day when Sam and Niji decided to ride their bikes to Baltimore. They got as far as Rhode Island Avenue and Route 1, and Bat Man and Robin decided to call it quits.
Then came the day when Sam got the word that Niji had died, and it was the first time I saw my superhero vulnerable.