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January Roots

January 15, 2021

January Blog 


Happy New Year everyone!!! I am glad that 2020 is over and what a soap opera it was. I have many other adjectives to describe it, but a kid might read this. 

About a week ago I was getting ready to come into the office and I was watching CBS this morning. Gail King was talking about an interview that she had with Professor Henry Gates who is a genealogist I think for Harvard. They were talking of the importance of knowing where you came from (Ancestry). It turns out that Ms. King found out that she was 1/3 white. As they were talking, I found myself saying to no one in particular, (because you do that when you live alone) these guys are doing this about 45 years after a guy by the name of Alex Haley wrote his bestselling novel “Roots”. They even made a television series based on the book.   I know at this point your asking why I am talking about this. Be patient, I am going to make a point. First, let me tell you about how I met Mr. Haley. 

I met Alex Haley in 1981 when he came to the Coast Guard Academy. They were planning a news conference for him to discuss “Roots 2”. I was responsible for his agenda and given the task of interviewing him. But, when I saw him, he was tired and honestly did not look like he was feeling to well. He asked me if there was anyway that he could get out of the news conference. The press was already starting to work their way into the large conference room so I could not take him out the front door. Fortunately, the Academy has catacombs that go under the buildings and we used them to avoid the press and the Officers that wanted to rub elbows and have their picture taken with a famous author. 

After getting out of the building without being seen, we jumped into my beat-up Toyota and went back to my apartment where I gave him a polo shirt, a couple of aspirin and my big chair where sat down and unwound while I changed out of my “Dress Blues”. After about a half hour he suggested that we grab some dinner. We took off to the Steak Loft in Mystic CT. There over a pitcher of beer and a steak, I listened to his stories and life experiences for quite a while. Although he spoke quite a bit about “Roots” and how he thought it was important, he also dropped the bomb that he was in fact the very first Photojournalist that the Coast Guard had ever had. He started out by writing letters to sailors’ girlfriends for the sailors that could not write very well.  He became well known among the crew as the “man with magic pen”. From there the rest is history.  

I guess my point is that Professor Gates has brought back the importance of knowing where we came from, Alex Haley was the guy who started the whole thing. I just want to give the kudos where they really belong. 

There are four people that I have looked up to as a roll model in my life. Alex Haley is in my top two. I wish I could have spent more time with him. I could have learned so much about him and understand more about his roots and how they molded him as the man I met and had/have so much respect for.  

He told me that it was good to learn of where you came from and about your family. But to remember that although our family came from someplace else, we are all Americans, and we should be proud of that. 

Here’s hoping that you all have a great Year, and you stay safe.