Saturday, February 7, 2015



By Cash Michaels

WLLE REMEMBERED TONITE – Tonight, Thursday, Feb. 12th, 7p.m. at the Hunt Library on the Centennial Campus of NCSU, there will be a special mini-documentary and panel discussion remembering the golden days of radio station 570 WLLE-AM, which is more affectionately known as “WiLLiE”.
            WLLE was THE radio station for the black community of Raleigh back in the 1960s, 70s, 80s and 90s before it was sold to a Lexington, Kentucky company in 1997. The station produced some of the greats, including Dr. Jocko, Daddy-O, Sweet Bob Rogers, Chuck Harris, Chester “CD” Davis, and of course, the legendary gospel king himself, Brother James Thomas.
            CashWorks HD Productions has produced a mini-documentary remembering WLLE for the occasion, and it has been quite gratifying, indeed, to interview so many of the former on-air personalities and supporters of the station. All of the memories about what the station meant to the community have been both positive and extraordinary.
            On the panel tonight will be Mrs. Margaret Rose Murray, who hosted “Traces of Faces and Places” on WLLE for over 30 years; Jimmy “JJ” Johnson, who hosted “JJ’s House Party” on WLLE starting in 1968; Thad Woodard, just retired president of the NC Bankers Association and one of WLLE’s biggest fans and supporters in his youth, and NCSU Prof. Sheila Smith McKoy, who will also share her memories, and will moderate.
            I worked at the station during the 1990s, and I’ll be sharing some memories during the panel discussion, so be there tonight, Thursday, Feb. 12th, 7 p.m. at the Hunt Library Auditorium on the NCSU Centennial campus. The event is free and open to the public.
            HAYTI HERITAGE FILM FESTIVAL – The 2015 Hayti Heritage Film Festival begins tonite in Durham at the Hayti Heritage Center. Independent films by black filmmakers from across the nation will be showing their latest work, starting tonite at 6 p.m., through Saturday, Feb. 14th. Indeed, my documentary, “Pardons of Innocence: The Wilmington Ten,” will be screened Saturday, 12 noon at the festival. Admission is free, but you do need a ticket. Contact the Hayti Heritage Center at 919-683-1709, or email them at
            COACH SMITH – If ever there was a man who stood for all of the right things, and then backed it up every chance he got the chance, it was UNC Tar Heel Coach Dean Smith. Smith died last weekend at the age of 83, but the plaudits and accolades have been flooding in all week since the news, and nothing but good things have been said.
            Coach Smith was a great man of dignity and purpose. He believed dearly in the goodness of is fellow man, and during the ‘60’s civil rights movement, bucked the system of racism and segregation by recruiting Charlie Scott not only as his first black player, but the first black player in the Atlantic Coast Conference. And he had no problem taking Charlie with him to a “whites only” restaurant, and defying the folks there not to serve him.
            Coach Smith was also a man who believed deeply in the power of young people, and that if given good leadership and structure, their talents will flow to the surface as a team, an as winners.
            Just ask Michael Jordan.
            Two years ago while doing research for our film on the Wilmington Ten at the State Archives, I came across a letter Coach Smith wrote to then Gov. Jim Hunt, asking him to pardon the Wilmington Ten. If anything confirmed for me that this man was all about freedom and justice, that letter did.
            We join the world in saying goodbye to Coach Smith, indeed one of the finest human beings we have ever seen. Thank you, Coach Smith, for all that you’ve done. Our prayers are with the family.
STUART -  Over the weekend I came across a New York Times article about an memoir by the late ESPN sportscaster Stuart Scott titled, “Every Day I Fight (Blue Rider Press) which is due out in March. According to the article, it was originally scheduled for release sometime in May, in hopes that Scott would still be alive, but when it was apparent that wouldn’t be the case, the publishing date was moved up.
As you know, Stuart Scott died of cancer on the morning of January 4 of this year. He was 49 years old and the father of two daughters.
The legacy that Stuart Scott has now left is secure. With his brilliant rap style of delivering sports, Stuart brought a new and younger audience to ESPN, making  them as important to reach as anyone else. His book, according to the NYT’s story, will detail how and why that happened, and what Stuart felt was his true impact was.
By now you know the story of how, on April 21, 1987, a young Stuart Scott, about to graduate from UNC – Chapel Hill, came to WLLE – AM, where I was program director, seeking to get his first sports reporting job. I remember the date because just minute earlier, we had Mrs. Coretta Scott King at the station, and all of us were still coming down from that.
I didn’t have a job to give Stuart (we didn’t do sports), but I did take the time to listen to his audition tape, sit down with him and offer some advice about how he should proceed in broadcasting.
I remember telling Stuart (because I also use to tell my first wife, the late broadcaster Felicia Ledesma), to always be yourself. Apparently Stuart listened, and the rest is history.
So I, for one, look forward to reading Stuart’s new book, which also details his tremendous fight to stay alive amid the darkness of cancer.  And I hope to speak to Stuart’s co-author, Larry Platt, an awardwinning sports journalist.
I think it is very ironic that Stuart, who is buried here in Raleigh, will now have the last word about his life.
As it should be.
BRIAN WILLIAMS  - If you’re a journalist, there is nothing more devastating to your career than to be caught in a lie. Doesn’t make a difference whether it’s a little white one or not, for the moment your readers or listeners know that you are even capable of doing such a thing, your career is pretty much over. The trust that you had built up with them for so many years has been ruptured. Never again can they watch you, listen to you or read your stuff  without asking. “Is that true?”
NBC News anchorman Brian Williams, certainly one of the best in the business, is facing the music on those questions now. Williams, who is also the managing editor of “NBC Nightly News,” has wisely taken himself off the air temporarily while his network investigates accusations that Williams has, in years past, fabricated stories about major news events that other witnesses claim just aren’t true.
All of this is based on Williams recently admitting that he “misremembered” a military helicopter he was riding in being attacked by rocket fire in Iraq in 2003. But military personnel riding with Williams say that isn’t true, and a helicopter that took off an hour before the one that Williams was on was actually assaulted. 
NBC is now investigating claims by Williams that he saw a body float by his hotel during the height of Hurricane Katrina on 2005, and also that he had gotten sick from drinking infected water there.
None of this bodes well for Brian Williams, and there are those who are saying if it wasn’t for the fact that his newscast makes NBC tens of millions each year, he would have been fired as soon a the stuff hit the fan. They point to several black journalists who were caught lying who were immediately dismissed.
Go-to-guy Lester Holt, who does the Weekend Today Show and Weekend Nightly News, will be filling in for Williams until a final determination is made. Many say Holt should naturally takeover the Monday – Friday newscasts should Williams be shown the door.
We’ll see.
But this much I know…what is happening to Brian Williams is a tragic thing to see, because he’s already admitted to half of it. How he survives any of this is anyone’s guess.
Make sure you tune in every Thursday afternoon at 4 p.m. for my talk radio show, ''Make It Happen'' on Power 750 WAUG-AM, or online at And read more about my thoughts and opinions exclusively at my blog, ‘The Cash Roc” (
           Cash in the Apple - honored as the Best Column Writing of 2006 by the National Newspaper Publishers Association. Columnist Cash Michaels was also honored by the NNPA for Best Feature Story Journalist of 2009, and was the recipient of the Raleigh-Apex NAACP’s President’s Award for Media Excellence in Sept. 2011.
Until next week, keep a smile on your face, GOD in your heart, and The Carolinian in your life. Bye, bye.


            [PITTSBORO] As many had expected, NC Democratic Party First Vice Chair Patsy Keever was elected to become chairman of the beleaguered party by members of the State Executive Committee. Keever, who represents the moderate wing of the state Democratic Party, succeeded former Pittsboro Mayor Randy Voller, who endured a controversial two-year term. Keever’s immediate tasks are to bring a divided party back together, retire the party’s debt, and fundraising for the 2016 presidential and gubernatorial elections.

            [RALEIGH] Saying that his plan would make North Carolina a “national model,” Gov. Pat McCrory shared his “State of the State” bi-annual vision in a joint session of the state Legislature last week. McCrory said progress had been made during the first two years of his administration, with unemployment dropping and more job creation. The governor said the state deserves to “have the best of everything” by way of improved educational opportunities, transportation, energy and technology, in addition to greater government efficiency.

            [CHARLOTTE] Public schools statewide with high concentrations of high poverty students did poor under North Carolina’s new performance grading system, released last week. The majority of high poverty schools received a D or F, with only one actually getting an A. Meanwhile schools with no more than 20 percent of students on free or reduced lunch received an A or an B. Only one received an F. State lawmakers say the new grading system helps parents better judge the job schools are doing. Critics say the grades are too simplistic and unfair.


By Cash Michaels

            Thousands of demonstrators are expected to converge on Raleigh this Saturday, Feb. 14th for the 9th Annual Moral March on Raleigh/Historic Thousands on Jones Street People’s Assembly, starting from South Street in downtown Raleigh (across from Shaw University) at 9 a.m. with a pre-march rally, with the march to the State Capital beginning at 10 a.m..
            Over 150 coalition social justice groups are coming together this year, bringing together over 10,000 participants.
            The Moral March caps off an entire week of social action led by the NC NAACP and the Forward Together Movement.



            Even though the Raleigh City Council unanimously agreed Jan. 21st to sell the vacant Stone’s Warehouse building on East Davie Street to Transfer LLC to develop
into an upper-class mixed retail center, no public hearing date has been set as of Tuesday of this week for citizens to express their concerns. The sale means that the Rex Senior Health Center next door will now have to move, meaning that elderly patients may now be inconvenienced. The development will not allow for low-income affordable housing, even though it will be located in Southeast Raleigh.

            Dana Cope, the executive director of the State Employees Association of North Carolina, resigned Tuesday amid published allegations that he used association money for his personal purposes. Cope admitted that he had “blurred the line between is personal and professional life. Published reports said a landscaping company that did work at Cope’s home also got a no-bid contract of $109,000 to do landscaping work at the SEANC headquarters. Another $8,000 was allegedly spent to pay for Cope’s flying lessons, in addition various personal credit card charges billed to the association. The Wake District Attorney’s Office has asked the State Bureau of Investigation to probe the allegations.

            Last week, the Wake Board of Education unanimously voted to approve raises for teachers and other certified staff, even though bod members freely admitted that the raises weren’t substantial enough to be what was really deserved. Some pre-tax raises were as high as $100.00 a month, and as low as $16.50 monthly. The board wrestled with how to adequately spread the $3.75 million it had on hand, saying that state lawmakers had not done enough with teacher pay raises approved last year.


                                                     UNC COACH DEAN SMITH

By Cash Michaels

            This week, as the world mourns the passing of legendary UNC Tar Heel Head Basketball Coach Dean Smith, he is being remembered as a trailblazer not only for his championship winning hardwood strategy, but also for standing strong for social justice,  and against racial discrimination.
            “He pushed forward the Civil Rights movement, recruiting the first black scholarship athlete to North Carolina and helping to integrate a restaurant and a neighborhood in Chapel Hill,” said Pres. Barack Obama of Smith in tribute.
            But while many know of how Coach Smith recruited Charlie Scott as the first African-American to play Atlantic Coast Conference basketball in the ‘60’s, and how he supported former Chapel Hill Mayor Howard Lee when the black man tried against all odds to purchase a home in an all-white Chapel Hill neighborhood, it has never been revealed, until now, that Dean Smith also tried to use his considerable influence with then Gov. James B. Hunt in 1977 to secure pardons for ten wrongly convicted civil rights activists known as “the Wilmington Ten.”
            In July 2013, while doing research for the documentary, “Pardons of Innocence: The Wilmington Ten” at the NC Archives, a Carolinian reporter discovered a previously unknown missive from Coach Smith to Gov. Hunt. Dated July 25, 1977 on “University of North Carolina” letterhead from Smith’s “Basketball Office,” a copy of the extraordinary letter was made for possible use in the film. However it was never used in the production, so the letter copy was held until this week, after Smith, at age 83, died at his home in Chapel Hill Saturday evening.
            When Gov. Hunt first took office in 1977, the Wilmington Ten – nine young black males and one white female led by the fiery Rev. Benjamin Chavis -  had already been tried, convicted and sentenced to a combined 282 years in prison in 1972. Defense attorneys were unsuccessful appealing those convictions to state courts, and an appeal to the US Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals was pending.
            Upon taking office, Hunt indicated that he wanted to review the historic case, and once all of the state appeals ran out, he would step in if needed.
            It was during this time that letters from literally all over the country and the world began pouring in to Gov. Hunt’s office, both pro and con.
            One of them was from Dean Smith.
            Addressed to “The Honorable James B. Hunt, Jr. – Governor,” Coach Smith wrote:
            “Lee Upperman, our former basketball manager and now one of the attorneys for the Wilmington 10, has allowed me to read the Petition for Pardon of these ten people,” Coach Smith wrote to Hunt. “Without knowing the full details, other than what I have carefully examined in the Petition for Pardon, I would still urge you as a citizen to truly pardon these ten who have already served what many would consider a just sentence for what they had been determined guilty.”
            Smith continued, “Apparently there is no chance for a new trial and for them to serve the number of years given them in a rather strange way, would seem to be excessive.”
            Coach Smith concluded his letter to the governor with, “As a citizen who supported you for Governor in the November election, I would urge you to pardon the Wilmington 10 if you do have that right.”
            “Most sincerely, Dean E. Smith.”  The coach signed it simply “Dean.”
            But the letter didn’t finish there.
            In what apparently was Dean Smith’s handwriting, he adds a postscript:
            "Bob Seymour has provided me with some additional material on these 10 people which would lead one to believe injustice was done.”
            Smith then initialed the handwritten notation.
            The significance of Smith’s July 1977 letter is the fact that he marked the envelope “PERSONAL & CONFIDENTIAL” meaning that he wanted his request to be seen, and considered, only by the governor, and not be made public.
            Given the raging national and worldwide controversy about the Wilmington Ten case, and how they were falsely convicted for the arson destruction of a white-owned grocery store in Wilmington during the height of racial tensions there in February 1971, Smith would have found himself in the crossfire between civil rights and law enforcement groups who were bitterly divided.
            While African-Americans and white liberals would have welcomed someone of Coach Smith’s stature and high profile in support of their worldwide movement to free the "freedom fighters" Wilmington Ten, Smith would have been instantly vilified by members of the NC judiciary, North Carolina’s business community, and even conservative US Sen. Jesse Helms - all of whom who considered the Ten to be dangerous radicals - and wrote numerous letters to Gov. Hunt opposing freeing them.
            His controversial involvement would have undoubtedly put an unwanted cloud over his basketball program at UNC if word ever leaked at that time, and his judgement on race would have once again been questioned.
            Because of a recent change in policy, letters sent to the Governor's Office of Executive Clemency in the past ten years to be considered during pardons cases are no longer considered public record, in an effort to protect those who communicate with the governor, who has the sole discretion in issuing pardons.
            In the State Archives, an unsigned drafted letter dated Sept. 1, 1977 apparently from Gov. James Hunt, responds to Coach Smith, thanking him for his missive, and telling Smith that until all of the state courts considering appeals in the case have decided, he will abide by a policy of not stepping in.
            “If, at some time in the future, we consider any action for any of the individuals involved, we will give your thoughts due consideration,” wrote Hunt to Coach Smith. “ I thank you for sharing your ideas with me on this case.”
             History shows that a few months later, on January 23, 1978, Gov. Hunt went on statewide television, and announced that he would not pardon the Wilmington Ten, but would reduce their harsh sentences. However in December 1980, after all of them had been released from prison, the US Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Virginia overturned the Wilmington Ten’s convictions citing “gross prosecutorial misconduct,” and ordered North Carolina to either drop the charges, or conduct a new trial.
            The state did nothing for 32 years, thus leaving the Ten in legal limbo. Not until the National Newspaper Publishers Association, led by the Wilmington Journal, defense attorneys Irving Joyner and James Ferguson, and the NCNAACP, mounted a successful national campaign in 2012 to secure ten pardons of innocence from then Gov. Beverly Perdue, were they finally legally exonerated.
            Calling the Ten victims of "naked racism" and "political prisoners," Gov. Perdue said she granted the pardons of innocence because she couldn't find any evidence of their guilt, but did agree with the US Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals that prosecutors in the case indeed broke the law in framing the ten activists.
            Dean Smith was right in 1977 when he wrote, "...injustice was done."
            This week was the first time anyone associated with the Wilmington Ten case were told or shown anything about Coach Smith’s bid to gain their freedom.
            After reading the letter, Rev. Dr. Benjamin Chavis, now president of the National Newspaper Publishers Association, said in an exclusive statement to The Carolinian and Wilmington Journal newspapers, “Dean Smith was a bold leader who stood for racial equality when it was not the popular thing to do.  Smith's courage made him more than one of the greatest basketball coaches in the world. He triumphed off the court as well and won progress for all humanity. Long live the legacy and spirit of Dean Smith.”
             Another Wilmington Ten member, Wayne Moore, also paid tribute to the great coach and leader.

            “I have known for a long time that Dean Smith was not only a champion as a coach, but that he was also a champion for social justice,” Moore, who now lives in Michigan, wrote.  “Being the first coach to grant a scholarship to a black player at UNC at a point where Jim Crow and Civil Rights were clashing on the doorsteps of justice, took a great deal of courage. There were immediate calls for him to be fired, but he stood his ground and went on to become one of the greatest coaches in the history of basketball.”
          “Still, his greatest legacy might rightfully be the passion he openly displayed for racial justice and equality. The fact that this letter is written on UNC stationery is a testimony in and of itself to his bold approach he often took.”
            Attorney Irving Joyner, professor of law at North Carolina Central University School of Law in Durham, and one of the defense attorneys for the Wilmington Ten, wrote, “I have always been an admirer of the courage that Dean Smith exhibited in his coaching and community affairs.”
            “His decision to bring Charlie Scott from New York to desegregate the UNC-Chapel Hill basketball team changed the complexion of NCAA basketball at a time that he was not forced to it. At the time, Dean Smith knew that desegregating that basketball team and the campus was the right thing to do. For him, it was a matter of principle,” Prof. Irving wrote.
            “Likewise, I treasure and appreciate his championing of the early efforts to pardon the Wilmington 10 in 1977 and since that time because he personally knew that it was the right thing to do,” Joyner continued. “I deeply regret that Governor Jim Hunt did not accept his advice. Those and other equally courageous acts endeared Smith to his community, his school, and to the many people who were engaged in the struggle for equal rights and racial justice.”
             Prof. Joyner concluded, “We pray that these lessons of racial harmony and racial justice will serve as an inspiration, and guide to others who find themselves in positions of power and influence.”

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