Tuesday, January 11, 2022

The Day I Met Sidney Poitier

Sidney Poitier and Harry Belafonte were booked for the second half of the Chicago CBS noon show where I was working in 1972. They were in town to plug the movie in which they were co-starring called Buck and the Preacher and which Poitier had directed, a first in his career. 

The daily program featured the news and the weather followed with soft interviews presented by the hostess, Lee Philip. But Lee was on vacation as was my boss, the usual producer of the show. 

Substituting for the hostess that day was  Janet Langhart (the current wife of William Cohen, the former US Secretary of State). I was substituting for the producer of the show and was responsible for filling her in on the guests of that day and on the film's story.

It was standard procedure for all guests for the show to appear at the studio (a former roller rink and a block long) a half hour before the show. My regular job was to usher them to the Green Room, offer them coffee and let them know that Lee would be in shortly to meet them before the show began. Guests were instructed to arrive before noon.

On that infamous day, noon arrived without a sign of our guests' presence.  No phone call. No heads up communication. 

My mind was already on Plan B. I couldn't remember experiencing a no-show situation in the two years since I had been working at CBS. I didn't want to upset Janet. She was new to her role just like I was new to mine.

I started going through my boss's rolodex looking for ideas. It was now 12:05 and the news anchor was talking about a possible strike for the Chicago schoolteachers and getting ready to send the cameras over to the weather desk. Still no Harry and Sidney.

I'm not sure what we all decided Plan B would be, but whatever it was, I made my way toward the studio to brief the stage manager and then head to my place in the control room next to the director.

At 12:10, two tall, slim, gorgeous-looking African American gentlemen immaculately dressed in elegant suits and ties hurried into the studio. It was them! They had made it just in time. 

Of course they were enchanted with Janet Langhart. She was one of the few African American women in the broadcasting business in the early seventies. And she was as beautiful as they were handsome.

The two guests were both so engaging and entertaining and wonderful and they looked like they were totally enjoying themselves and had no notion of the panic they had given us.

In particular, I remember Sidney Poitier's response to a question that I had prepared for Janet and that she had taken literally. About the film she inquired, "what is the plot?"

Sidney Poitier rolled those great big eyes of his, smiled a wide grin, and responded "the plot?" as if to say "Really? You want to know something that basic?" Fifty years later I can still remember this moment and how horrified and embarrassed I was that I had phrased the question for Janet in such a naive way. 

Despite my faux pas, the glamour of that moment is indelible in my mind. The two men were icons and it was such a treat to see the human side of them. And, of course, I was honored to have worked with Janet as well.

Mimi Pockross is the author of Pulling Harvey Out of Her Hat: The Amazing Story of Mary Coyle Chase. Find her at www.mimipockross.com

Sunday, January 9, 2022

A Jewish Libra’s View of the Holocaust

I was nine when I learned about my mother’s relatives being murdered by the Nazis. I was snooping around boxes in the basement of my home and found the telegrams that had been wired to my mother.

 Of course, it was a shock, but I buried my revelations and instead began to have nightmares. 


My mother never mentioned anything to me about this traumatic part of her life. On my own, I learned more about the story as I reached my teen years when movies like The Diary of Anne Frank and Exodus came out and my father handed me a new book called The Last of the Just that reviewed the history of discrimination and atrocities against the Jews and ended with stories of the genocide that took place during World War II. The term “Holocaust” was not even used then and only later was it introduced in the seventies when the series “Holocaust” aired on television. Of course, I watched the whole series, but by then I was married and had children of my own.


As the stories trickled out while I was growing up, I began to understand why I had only one set of grandparents. Occasionally my mother would recall happy incidents from her upbringing in Germany, but never once did she mention why or how her family had died.


I was raised in Chicago in two different “assimilated” places, more gentile than Jewish. When my parents moved to the expanding suburb of Skokie in the early fifties, they would never have imagined that one day it would have the highest number of Holocaust survivors in the country.


When I was growing up, I was the first Jewish child in my fourth-grade class and, though as I grew older there were more Jews in my school, it was always clear that there was a division between the Jews and the Gentiles. There was even a schism between Jews whose roots were in Central Europe as opposed to those whose ancestors were Eastern European. As my mother had desired from the beginning, I tried to blend in with the majority, at that time White Anglo Saxon Protestants. Sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t. I wasn’t tall and blonde and so there were a lot of places I didn’t really fit. My efforts to be a cheerleader or to be photographed for the school yearbook were in vain. I don’t know whether I attribute this to the fact that I hadn’t the physical or inherited tools to figure out how to “fit in” or whether I was just not that charismatic.


My mother and father never associated with the Holocaust survivors who moved to Skokie. Their group of friends were all from the Reform Jewish congregation they had started when they arrived in Skokie. A few of the couples they knew had emigrated from Central Europe near the time when my mother had also arrived. Many had married first or second-generation Jews and mostly they were professionals or academics. They had missed first-hand the horrors of Hitler’s wrath. No doubt many of them had relatives who stayed in their native countries and perished, but I never heard them talk about it or bring up the subject. And never did their children who often became my friends ever discuss the subject either.


The only Holocaust survivor I knew growing up was my mother’s seamstress that altered my mother’s and my clothes. I still remember with horror seeing the numbers on her arm when she was pinning up the hem of my skirt.


Since I have grown up, the divisions between ethnic and racial groups has expanded and the noticeable discrimination of Jews has somewhat subsided. When I was becoming an adult, it was easier to get in to college that originally had “quotas.” And there was less difficulty buying a home in the neighborhood of one’s choice. It was even a bit easier to get a job in the corporate world if your religion was Jewish. Still, when I went to college and tried to pledge a non-Jewish sorority, it was recommended by its leader that I join a Jewish one instead. It is not surprising to me that even today we still see so many outbursts of displeasure and violent attacks on American Jews. It’s still a problem.


As I grew older, there were many incidents that made my thoughts about my Jewish past keep changing. I allied with the Jews moreso when I saw the musical Fiddler on the Roof even though I learned later that the way my relatives lived was different from how Tevye’s family lived in their tiny Russian village. I was deeply affected when I was a young mother and heard Gerda Klein, a Holocaust survivor speak at a luncheon I attended with my friends. And when I read Orphan in History about a Harvard graduate whose high-profile parents hid from him his Jewish roots, I had to think even moreso about my future relationship with my religion.


The more I heard personal escape stories or read about them, the more I questioned how to accept my past. I had been raised in a Reform Jewish home where we celebrated the major Jewish holidays and where both my brother and I were confirmed, but my brother, unlike his Russian Jewish father was not bar mitzvahed. I knew I wasn’t going to become an Orthodox Jew. I wasn’t even going to be a more observant Jew though I did send my children to Sunday School and Hebrew School. I wasn’t going to get active in Jewish organizations that I admired and donated to but of which I did not feel comfortable becoming an active participant. Yet I am still haunted by what happened to some of the people in my tribe even though they thought it could never happen to them. 


I hope that I can contribute in my own personal way to help work toward a better world. And I’m hoping telling my story will help both Jews, Gentiles and people of other tribes make peace with themselves and then hopefully we can all learn how to get along with each other.


Look for the future publication of my first novel.”Sarah’s Tribe,” a fictionalized version of this story.


Mimi Pockross


Wednesday, December 15, 2021


                         Happy Holidays from    
   Elwood, Jimmy, Mary, Mimi    
                and HARVEY!

Monday, November 1, 2021

Pooka Day and Mary Chase

Today is November 1st, the Day of the Pooka in Ireland!  

One of the most famous pookas is Harvey, the creation of Mary Chase, the Irish playwright who won the Pulitzer Prize for her play Harvey about a six foot tall invisible rabbit who only Elwood P. Dowd can see.

Harvey opened on Broadway on Pooka Day, November 1st in 1944 and ran for four and a half years.

In Irish lore a puca (one of many iterations of the word) is a large animal, maybe a goat or a horse or a rabbit who is known for spreading mischief. Harvey is one of the nicer versions. There are many that are as not as benign.

Here's to Harvey on Pooka Day!



Monday, August 9, 2021

Mount Rushmore and Beyond, A Wild Ride

 It's been a while since my husband and I have taken a road trip. This one was with our adorable grandchildren, ages 10 and 13 and our destination was Mount Rushmore, a place my husband and I had visited once before and one that I had visited with my parents when I was growing up, one of many road trips I took as a child.

But my eyes had never looked at the monument quite like it did this time. That's the beauty of revisiting places you've visited in the past.

Several things caught my attention, several political. 

I found it interesting that South Dakota was looking for a way to draw people to their state when they settled in on creating Mount Rushmore. The original idea advocated by the state historian was to focus on Western heroes, but when they engaged their US Senator and hired the sculptor, the emphasis became more national.  Another interesting tidbit was that the sculptor, a Danish immigrant named Gutzon Borglum, after insisting that the sculpture be national in nature and timeless in its relevance to history, and who was a Republican, voted for Calvin Coolidge, a Democrat because he supported the project over Coolidge's opposing contender. I also found it interesting why each of the four presidents were chosen, i.e. each represented an "eternal reminder of the birth, growth, preservation and development of a nation dedicated to democracy and the pursuit of individual liberty." Washington because he was the father of the country who chose not to be a king, Jefferson, not for his role in the Declaration of Independence, but for expanding the country by half with the Louisiana Purchase under his presidency, Lincoln for saving the Union, and Theodore Roosevelt who, by building the Panama Canal, expanded trade for the country and for the world and who encouraged the business side of the country's goals. 

To see people from all parts of the country and of the world come together to marvel at the accomplishment that began in 1927 and culminated in 1941 after fourteen years of hard work and clever innovation, made me feel that there is hope for our country. Mount Rushmore to me renewed my belief in democracy. Even though I did see different representations of America, for example, the Amish, a few Black families, some bikers that were attending the nearby Sturgis rally, I still felt there weren't enough of us Americans there to see this incredible site and to rethink what makes our country great. 

Another new observation occurred to me as I traveled to and from my destination, that of the country surrounding the site, the cowboy culture of the West, the rise and fall of the indigenous people, the gold rushers, the collective dissatisfaction of visitors like the bikers and ranchers and residents who reside in the wide open spaces of Wyoming, Nebraska and South Dakota. It's a different world out there. One can start a bit to understand why they value their independence and why, somehow or another, they need to be brought in under the big tent of democracy as spokesman as well.

Thursday, July 29, 2021

The City of Angels

 It's been a while since I have visited the City of Angels. What a contrast to my tiny quiet ski village where I have lived for the past three years and to the mid-sized city of Denver where I lived before that for thirty years.

What struck me more than anything else was the complete acceptance of diversity throughout the city. Though I did not go everywhere, my impression was that races, genders, elders, and youth all seem to want the same things: good hotels, nice restaurants, enjoyable pastimes. It was a replica of all the commercials we see on television where everyone gets along and has a good time together, no matter whether you're the worker or a family or a group of friends.

Of course the traffic is ridiculous and the means of getting around daunting. To one of our destinations we were on a two way busy street for at least ten miles! And the homeless tents line the avenues.

Still, I love all the references to the film industry and Hollywood. In my home town you would never see a blockade adorned with photos of Matt Damon and his new movie Stillwater imposed on it or vintage pictures of Charlie Chaplin in a historic women's club.

The bougainvillea and hydrangea bushes are in full bloom, so rich you can't even see the branches.

And the California cuisine? Inventive with abundant amounts of kale, arugula and lesser known greens, a farmers' market entirely devoted to fresh fruits and vegetables, and creative versions of produce like canned kiwis and marinated plums.

The beach summoned us although the boats in the harbor all needed paint jobs. (Blame it on the pandemic). We saw tons of volley ball games, kids playing in the sand, girls in summer dresses, fancy parties in individual stalls.

The bevy of activity is exhausting but invigorating. It renewed my appreciation for why people live in megacities like the City of Angels despite all the problems that go along with that choice.

Saturday, July 3, 2021


The memories of my childhood education are the foundation for my beliefs today. 

They are from a white middle class suburban community where in the 1950s and early 1960s schools were supposed to be a microcosm of American society. 

Probably my highest achievement was giving the graduation speech for my grammar school, "Good-bye Cleveland, Hello High School." I guess that meant my teachers thought I was somewhat of a role model and also that I would get the job done. I was also proud to have been selected to be a member of an after school singing octet with my amazing music teacher, Mrs. Smith. I know I enjoyed the practices almost as much as the performances.

It was not all success for me in the cocoon in which I grew up. I didn't make cheerleading in the eighth grade, only in the seventh grade. I was selected to play the viola in the school orchestra rather than the coveted violin slot. 

My school, a lovely blonde building in the middle of a residential neighborhood, became the backbone for the life I would later lead. 

It was there that I learned to sing the Negro spiritual "Ain"t a That Good News" from Mrs. Smith and where I learned to diagram sentences from Mrs. Norkett and memorize the preamble to the Constitution from Mrs. Lago. It was there that I wrote a paper on "A House Divided." It was with my schoolmates that I played jacks at recess, traded baseball cards with the guys, and traveled to see the Chicago stockyards on a field trip.

After school many of my classmates and I would often walk home together after stopping at Tom's candy store to get a treat. And when I got home to my 1500 square foot house, I would relax with my brother as we watched Howdy Doody, Clarabelle and Mr. Bluster, and Kukla, Fran and Ollie and later Spin and Marty on our twelve inch television. Tim Considine (Spin) was so handsome.

I guess those easy, breezy days had to end when we said good by to Cleveland and hello to high school. For me, the competition would get greater and the ability to stand out would become more difficult. I always admired those who were comfortable with their innate abilities who just seemed to fall naturally into place. Most of us wanted more and struggled to find our places.

Those early happy days are the basis for everything else I have done in my lucky long life. I am usually pretty optimistic. I take my defeats and move on and try to alter the steps I take to gain some progress. As my father always said, you take two steps forward and one step backward. And I take moments off from my continual fierce ambition to just have a good time. What could be more American?

Mimi Pockross is the author of three books, most recently Pulling Harvey Out of Her Hat: The Amazing Story of Mary Coyle Chase. Harvey became a movie in 1950!

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

The Denver Public Library and Me

A few days ago I gave a virtual presentation to the Denver Public Library about my book on Denver Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Mary Coyle Chase. 

First, it was a thrill for me to address the library audience and they did not disappoint. There were, according to librarian Andrew Wickens and host, twenty people in attendance and the best part is that they were all book and library lovers. You can't have a better audience than that!

My assignment from Andrew was to tell a bit about the book and how I used the library to help me to tell Mary Coyle Chase's story. That was no trouble at all since I spent countless hours there doing my research.

The joy for me, whenever I give a presentation is the feedback after my talk and my slide show. Becky Toma, a long-time follower of Denver theater, was "present" and talked in detail about the time that Jimmy Stewart appeared at the 35th anniversary celebration of "Harvey" at the Bonfils Theatre. She recalled how glamorous Jimmy Stewart and his fashionable wife Gloria made such an impression on the Denver audience who were aghast when he made an appearance. She had many other memories of Mary Chase as well since Mary Chase sat on the board of the Bonfils Theatre.

One of those in attendance had a copy of Mary Chase's book "The Wicked Wicked Ladies of the Haunted House" with her. Another attendee wanted to know if I had spoken to members of the Chase family and how they reacted to my book. 

To me there is no better gratification for these presentations than meeting those interested in my book about Mary Chase. I learn so much when we can connect.

Friday, May 14, 2021

And the Award Goes To...

When I was seven years old I won first prize on the Morris B. Sachs Amateur Hour, a local ABC television production in my hometown of Chicago. I sang "Chocolate Ice Cream Cone" and I wore my Bluebird uniform since the contestants on the show were all Camp Fire Girls. My award was a cash payment of $75 and a Gruen wristwatch engraved on the back "First prize winner, Morris B. Sachs Amateur Hour, 1950." When I returned to the show to compete with finalists from the the show's winners for the entire season, I lost. It must not have disappointed me too much. Throughout my life I still entered all kinds of contests and competitions, some of which I won and some of which I lost. I was a finalist for homecoming queen but not voted into the court. I lost every year I tried out for cheerleading except one year in middle school. In my senior year I won the lead role in my school musical but only after several rejections in prior years. And on and on.

They say that to be a writer you have to have a tough skin. I can attest to that. I have a drawer full of rejections. But I've had some successes too of which I am very proud.

In my old age, I am still entering contests and over the past year submitted three applications for my writing. I was chosen to be a finalist in one category. The winner is still to be announced. I have to admit that I was disappointed that I did not win in at least one of the other two categories, but I've learned through the years "you win some and you lose some." My husband's favorite saying is one by Winston Churchill that goes "Success is going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm."

Mimi Pockross is the author of three books, most recently Pulling Harvey Out of Her Hat: The Amazing Story of Mary Coyle Chase.

Find out more about her at mimipockross.com

Monday, April 19, 2021

Drama Queens


Recently I sat in on a Zoom meeting of aspiring writers of all ages, but mostly young ones. The range in age was twenty to seventy-something and I was the seventy something. I had been invited because I had recently published a book and some were curious as to how I was able to do this. The subject for the evening was a general discussion of writers, playwrights and poets and the frustrations of trying to advance one’s career. 


There were about twelve of us and the median age was around 40. The twenty-year old was a student and had to leave in the middle of the meeting to study for exams. Another was struggling to write in between taking care of her ailing spouse. Another was in between jobs after she was let go during the pandemic, and another was a wife and mother of four grown children teaching at several schools while trying to write on the side. 


The complaints for all were about gender parity, ageism, writers’ block, rejections and a frustration with why they weren’t making as much money as Danielle Steele or Nora Roberts. 


I looked at the shining beautiful faces of these women and I was not at all upset that I was in my older years even though my books have never yet made the best seller list. I sympathized with their struggles. They are basically mine as well. But there was a certain acceptance on my part of my strengths and weaknesses, my successes and my limitations that I believe only comes with old age. And I had very few of their obligations! 


Perhaps the reason that I am relatively content is because of my latest project, a book about a woman named Mary Chase who in 1945 when women were not a major part of the work force, won a Pulitzer Prize for her play about a six-foot-tall invisible rabbit named Harvey. She was 37 at the time, a wife and a mother as well. She was never able to match or exceed her initial success as a playwright but she continued to write until she passed away at the age of 74 because she said that she always felt the most content when she was writing. 


Unlike most of my peers, who have long since retired and are either on the golf course each day or by the pool, having lunch with the girls or going to book clubs, I feel the same way as Mary Chase even though my achievements are not anywhere near the ones of Mary Chase.

In my old age, I still want to keep plodding along. I’m just happy that so far my health has held up and I can take daily walks, enjoy my grandchildren and have fiery political discussions with my husband at breakfast as we read our morning papers.


I shared some of my life stories with these women and they were actually appreciative even though I was hesitant to offer them. I told them about all of my rejections before I was successful in finding a publisher. I told them about gender disparities I experienced when I was a speech and drama coach and all the sports coaches received extra stipends and I did not. And about the lack of pay for a weekly column I wrote for two and half years and for which my publisher paid me a paltry salary and offered me golf clubs instead. And I talked about the need to balance one’s life with other pleasures rather than spending every moment trying to do better.


To be appreciated for my contributions to the discussion was a great feeling and one I did not expect, the feeling that by sharing my experiences and struggles, they might actually find some comfort. I’m looking forward to hearing more about their accomplishments. And I will not be envious.

Monday, April 5, 2021

My Pandemic Book Launch

At the beginning of March in 2020, I was still at work editing my manuscript for Pulling Harvey Out of Her Hat: The Amazing Story of Mary Coyle Chase when Covid struck. 

At the beginning of March I was one of the first to come down with a case of my own that lasted several days. Almost on schedule, the final touches were being made to ready my book for publication. The book was due to be published in October, and, with the exception of a few glitches, actually did appear then.

I slogged through the next few months getting ready for my "launch." Not sure if there would be any launch, but I got ready anyway.

I wrote some articles which I was lucky enough to get published. I made up a virtual presentation for Zoom. I wrote to  all the bookstores and to my mailing list to let everyone know that my book would be out in October. And, I started to use the social network outlets that I had been avoiding dealing with.

The good thing about this past year is that I had to be even busier than I would have been normally, just not on what to wear or where to go or who to visit. The bad thing is that everyone had to consolidate their businesses and, of course, that meant me too. Thus independent bookstores that would ordinarily at least have entertained the thought of doing a book signing reserved their efforts to selling best sellers or books listed by trade publications, not boutique publishers like my own. 

Still I can't complain. I've honed my virtual presentation and have been delighted that there have been quite a few of them. And regularly Amazon ranks me high, although it varies when I don't check in on Facebook.

When I published my last book, these barriers did not exist and life was sooo much easier. 

Still I am grateful for all my cyberspace communications. There have been so many delightful moments in a year when so many tragic moments have occurred all over the world. It puts life into perspective. I'm not sure I was going to win the National Book Award anyway. It humbles me. I am grateful for all the wonderful things about my daily life and for realizing that even if my book launch was not on the Red Carpet, I have survived.

On to my next book that I am mid-way of writing.

Monday, March 1, 2021



                                                                Mary Coyle Chase

                                                             "Harvey's Mom"

                                                                           1907 to 1981

She was 37 years old when she won the Pulitzer Prize in Drama for her play Harvey in 1945, only the fourth woman to have done so since the onset of the award in 1917, and still today remains today the only Coloradan to have done so.

She was a wife and a mother who was known by Broadway critics as a "housewife who wrote plays." She didn't let that bother her, lived with her times, and never let her gender get in the way of reaching for the top.

Her play about a six foot invisible rabbit called Harvey and his friend Elwood P. Dowd has been produced around  the world and continues to be a popular choice even today more than seventy-five years later. The movie of the play starring Jimmy Stewart is consistently listed by the American Film Institute in the categories of comedy and fantasy.

Many of the protagonists portrayed in her plays and books are strong, independent women.

Above all as the Denver Post once said when she passed away, Mary Chase was a "nice person."

To Mary Chase. HURRAH!!

Read more about Mary in my book Pulling Harvey Out of Her Hat: The Amazing Story of Mary Coyle Chase. 


AMAZON: https://www.amazon.com/Pulling-Harvey-Out-Her-Hat/dp/1538131684/ref=sr_1_1?crid=1MR1B6FXUMJ3Y&dchild=1&keywords=pulling+harvey+out+of+her+hat&qid=1594222892&s=books&sprefix=pulling+harv,aps,169&sr=1-1

GOODREADS: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/48768527-pulling-harvey-out-of-her-hat?ac=1&from_search=true&qid=RRvlZMsj1S&rank=1

BARNES & NOBLE: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/pulling-harvey-out-of-her-hat-mimi-pockross/1134735749?ean=9781538131688

ROWMAN & LITTLEFIELD (LIMELIGHT EDITIONS): https://rowman.com/ISBN/9781538131688/Pulling-Harvey-Out-of-Her-Hat-The-Amazing-Story-of-Mary-Coyle-Chase


Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Frankie: A Teaching Moment

Frankie was one of the first African Americans I ever met and I was twenty-one at the time of our meeting.  I had grown up in an all-white suburb outside of Chicago, a very segregated city even today, had attended two land grant universities where I do not recall meeting any people of color and had moved to DC with my new husband.  This was only a few years after the 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education decision to integrate American public schools. 

I was hired to be a “speech improvement teacher.”  There were ten people in the program, three whites and seven African Americans and our job was to attempt to remove the “Negro dialect” from the students we were selected to teach.  Frankie, one of the African Americans, was in my program.  Since I was the new kid on the block (the program had been in existence for a few years) I was instructed to accompany each of the “veterans” for a few sessions so I could pick up some of the techniques that were used in the program.  


When it came my turn to accompany Frankie, I knew I was in the presence of someone special.  I was in awe of her intellect, her ability to connect with her students, with her creativity and especially with her drive.  This was a woman, I learned, whose mother was a maid and her father was a postal worker and she was filled with determination to rise above her modest upbringing.   I didn’t have to fight what she was fighting, I was a middle class Jewish girl, but I had some of that determination too.  Hers was more fierce and her outcome much greater.


I returned to Illinois after one year in DC but in some way must have continued to stay in touch with Frankie.  I learned that she had applied and been accepted at Michigan State University for a master’s degree in communication.   I continued my speech teaching career for several years and then applied to Northwestern’s graduate program in communications.  It was ironic that at the same time, Frankie had been accepted into their PHD program.


Frankie was always in a hurry and had little time for me.  She was always “fitting me in” to her busy schedule.  I think the last time I saw her she had been in an automobile accident and asked that I bring her something to eat at Evanston Hospital.


The next thing I knew she was the first African American White House correspondent for CBS.


Although I don’t know the specifics, I know her career evolved through stints on public television and ultimately wound up with her professorship and deanship at the University of Maryland. Once I found her on the internet at a roundtable with the iconic African American journalist Gwen Ifill. Wow!

Five years ago  I received my regular Northwestern alumni magazine and when I thumbed through the pages, I stopped on the obituary page and rested my eyes on the photograph of someone who looked very familiar.  It was my friend Frankie Thornton (later known as Lee Thornton) who I had met in Washington, D.C. in 1965 when she and I were both in the same teaching program in the DC public school system.  She was only a few years older than I, and she had died after a brief bout with pancreatic cancer.


Her death came as a shock.  I have so many feelings that I harbor inside of me though our relationship was really pretty superficial. 


The most important is that I was honored to meet her and the many other accomplished and able African Americans that were in my DC program.  Their stories were pivotal in formulating my own view of America.  I was never the same after that year.  These women ran the gamut of reactions to the suppression of their race.  Some were angrier than others.  Some were more lighthearted and not as committed to “the cause.”  I was especially proud to have been in the company of Frankie/Lee.  She was someone to look up to and admire regardless of her race and her humble upbringing.