Over the weekend a reporter from a major media outlet called. He has been wanting to do an extended profile on me for well over a year, but I have continued to delay the reporter. What I finally decided to do was to speak to him off the record in great detail with the understanding that I would let him know when I was ready to go on the record so he could run his story on me.
This reporter had, to my amazement, already begun to talk with many elected congressional Democrats that I am friends with and several people I know who work for President Obama. These people all read my columns and told the reporter that “they wished more Black Republicans would speak out on issues like Raynard.”
Some Republicans think I am too blunt and too critical of my party. So I have decided to use this column to give my readers some insight into how I have evolved into the type of Republican I have become.
I was born and raised in St. Louis, MO. If you are Black in St. Louis, you are automatically a Democrat. There is no discussion, no vote, no choice. I attended Soldan High School and was president of my senior class; thus I knew many of our elected officials—all of whom were Democrats.
So off to Oral Roberts University (ORU) I go to attend college. ORU was and still is one of the best religious schools in the U.S. Every semester we had to sign an honor code. Basically the code said they we would live a values based life on and off campus and if we violated the code we could and would be expelled from school.
We also had to attend mandatory chapel services on Wednesday and Fridays from 11:00 am to noon. They took attendance and if you had three unexcused absences, you were automatically suspended from school.
Upon my graduation with my degree in accounting, I returned to St. Louis.
It was upon my return home that I first realized that the Republican Party was more compatible with my beliefs than the Democratic Party. So my pastor, Sammie Jones of Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church, told me he wanted to introduce me to some Black Republicans. You need to know that Jones was and still is a big Democrat back home.
The first person he introduced me to was Bill White, one of the most influential Republicans in the state. He also owned and operated several Black radio stations across the country. White also played professional baseball for the Kansas City Monarch of the Negro League.
As fate would have it, White said he had a project he wanted me to get involved in. He had a friend who was about to file to run for mayor of St. Louis on the Republican ticket. His name was Curtis C. Crawford, another Black Republican.
White arranged for me to go by and meet with Crawford and he said that he would open doors for me all across the country within the party and he did. When he found out I had a degree in accounting, he asked me to be treasurer for his campaign, making me the youngest person in the city’s history to this day to hold such a position.
Crawford was an attorney by training who had received several appointments by President Nixon. He served as regional director for the Small Business Administration (SBA) before Nixon appointed him to be a commissioner on the U.S. Parole Board, the first Black on the board since its creation some forty years earlier.
Though we lost the election, my visibility within the party skyrocketed as a result. This led to me meeting and establishing relationships with the likes of John Ashcroft, Roy Blunt, Wendell Bailey, etc. I had known our then senator, Jack Danforth since high school.
Out of nowhere I get a call from the Bush family asking me if I would consider chairing then vice president George H.W. Bush’s campaign in St. Louis for president. Of course I said yes and the rest is history.
Over the years, I spent many thousands of hours at the feet of people like Bill White, Curtis Crawford, Art Fletcher, Sam Cornelius, Jim House, LeGree Daniels, Jewel Lafontant, Bill Coleman, etc. They were Black Republicans but were Civil Rights icons simultaneously.
Unfortunately, most Black Republicans of today have no institutional memory of who these people were and have no curiosity to find out. Their stories are well chronicled in the nation’s two hundred Black newspapers; but far too many Black Republicans see little or no value in Black newspapers. Black newspapers are the history books of Black Republicans, if these Black Republicans would simply take advantage of what’s right before their eyes.
So, I criticize my party because this is what these legends taught me to do. I chastise today’s Black Republicans because I “willingly” carry the burden of years of conversations at the feet of Black icons who didn’t have to make a choice between their Blackness and being a Republican. They said yes to both and made America and the Republican Party better for it.