See below for samples of my strongest work. This site is under construction and links are currently (Sept-Oct 2012) being added, organized, curated.
TIMELESS TIGERS: How the 1973 Memphis State basketball team captivated a city in turmoil and nearly toppled college basketball’s greatest team
It was the opening scene in a three-year saga that forever changed Tiger basketball, and the unbridled cheers from that crowd began a kind of catharsis in Memphis, on and off the court. Because while nearly all the fans inside the Mid-South Coliseum that night were white, all five Memphis State starters were black — a rarity for a program in the Deep South in 1970. Maybe basketball lacked the power to solve the city’s racial divisions, but it provided a welcome distraction and a needed point of hope.
When Finch, Robinson and company ended their journey with a loss to UCLA in the 1973 national championship game, the Tigers had more than just captivated Memphis with their talent and enthusiasm for playing a simple game. They had, in the process, helped people in the city learn to get along. Tiger fans in St. Louis at that 1973 Final Four brandished signs that said, simply: “Believe in Memphis.” It captured the mood of that unforgettable season.
CHESS KINGS: The Lennox Lewis chess team at Memphis’s American Way Middle School takes aim at another unlikely national championship
For all the attention the Memphis City Schools receive when things go wrong, the story of the Lennox Lewis Chess Team serves as a reminder of what can happen when a dedicated teacher meets eager young minds. Mr. B used an ancient game to connect with kids from an array of cultures and persuade them that chess is magic.
He did it by doing what great teachers do – engaging kids, hooking them on learning and the sweet, addictive taste of success.
By showing them a world filled with possibility.
By giving them hope, that most potent of all teaching tools.
MOVING MOUNTAINS: Martin Luther King Jr. 40 years later
The man is 76 now, in his 54th year on the job, and he’s maneuvering the leviathan of a truck through declining neighborhoods near the Memphis interstate. Elmore Nickelberry’s night shift has begun, and he commands truck S2007, its hulking yellow form recognizable to any 5-year-old in Memphis, its familiar snarling and chugging as distinctive and unmistakable as any of a city’s noises — a garbage truck, so essential to a city’s health, so often taken for granted.
And it is why, when he looks at Memphis and America 40 years later, the words Martin Luther King Jr. spoke in the final year of his life remain alive and relevant. It is why Thomas, the black preacher, has spent so much time writing a dissertation that he will soon deliver to Michael Leff, the white Jewish scholar.
“This is my stand to say this is who the man was and what the man was about and not just ‘I Have A Dream,’ ” Thomas says.
2009 Presidential inauguration
- Destined To Be: Sunday setup piece focused on Memphis’s civil-rights veterans.
Look at the numbers they say, the big, round milestone numbers freighted with generational significance. Obama was elected 40 years — two generations — after King’s assassination. The inauguration will come five days after what would have been King’s 80th birthday, just one day following the holiday honoring him. For those who read their Bible, for those who know King’s final speech in Memphis contained the African-American embrace of Moses, they understand that Tuesday’s inauguration officially anoints Obama as leader of the Joshua generation.
- Tale of two precincts — Shelby County’s most pro-Obama and anti-Obama precincts hope, pray ahead of inauguration.
Census figures show that the area surrounding Eternal Peace has been feeling negative socioeconomic pressures since long before the financial meltdown. More than 35 percent of households were below the poverty line before George Bush’s presidency, and those numbers have risen throughout the city of Memphis in the eight years since. Conditions are very different in Collierville’s 38017 ZIP code. Only 3.3 percent were below the poverty line, and the median household income of $79,259 is some $60,000 more than in 38106, Eternal Peace’s ZIP code.
- Washington, D.C. — A Memphis view of the inauguration of President Obama.
Indeed, on a bustling, noisy day, perhaps the most quiet came after the new president gave the nation a to-do list he said demanded “action, bold and swift.” “All this we can do,” Obama declared. And then, his voice rising: “All this we must do.” Obama paused, and from out past the tower of cameras and the suddenly still crowd, the echoing words traveled back to him.