Tales From The Top: Ain't No Ghetto, This Is My Home

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Veterans Day Reflection

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Rogers Parker

I'm writer, social media maven & tail-end baby boomer.

My dad, Leo A. King, served in the military during World War II. He spoke proudly of his experiences in the "Negro" Army and how he earned the respect of his white commanding officers.  After the War he leveraged his veteran status to promote civil rights and demand equal justice in the Jim Crow South--in at least one instance before sit-ins had ever been conceived of. Sadly, I heard the story for the first time at his memorial service almost six years ago.

Leo King_Army portrait.jpg

Leo A. King

He went down to Kansas City, KS, to visit relatives after the War. Two of my cousins were just boys then. My dad took them to the local five-and-dime for some ice cream. The way my cousin told the story, they didn't want to go because they knew better: Blacks were not served at that establishment back then.

But my dad insisted and so they went downtown. He walked the boys into the store and up to the counter and stood there, waiting for somebody to notice them. My cousin said he remembered feeling antsy and extremely uncomfortable. He was about 9 years old at the time.

After being ignored for several minutes, the manager came up to my dad and told him that they didn't serve Negroes. According to my cousin, my father, who was a tall, thin man, stood up even taller, looked the man dead in the eye and said, "I fought for you and for this country and I'll be damned if I'm going to stand here and not be treated with respect. I would like a scoop of ice cream for each of these young men, thank you very much."

My cousin said his jaw about dropped to the floor when the blustery white man complied with my dad's wishes and for the first time in his young life he was served a bowl of ice cream at the local five and dime.

One of my friends noted that my dad served our country in war and in peace. I know for sure he made a difference in the way he lived his life. On this Veterans Day I honor the memory of my father: He was always his own boss.

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