Last Friday afternoon, I was sitting in Top Round, a restaurant just outside T-Mobile Arena. My buddy and I were grabbing something to eat before we were going to head inside to watch the Vegas Golden Knights battle the Dallas Stars in the first game of the NHL’s Western Conference Finals. I glanced at the tv on the wall and saw the headline scroll across the bottom of the screen: Jim Brown, NFL Hall of Fame running back, actor, and civil rights activist, had passed away at the age of 87.
He had passed away at his home in Los Angeles the day before, but this was the first I had heard of it since I was on vacation last week and not really paying attention to the news of the day. When I saw the headline on the tv screen, I immediately flashed back to that day I actually met this legend. I even had the opportunity to interview him on the air.
It was the early 1990’s, and I was the Program Director and afternoon drive personality at a Top 40 radio station in San Bernardino, CA. Our community was being ripped apart by gang violence at that time. There were a lot of drive-by shootings in the surrounding communities within the Inland Empire of Southern California.
So, our radio station decided to try and do something about it. We instituted a “Stop The Violence” campaign on the air. We even planned a community event at the San Bernardino Spirit baseball stadium. There was a candlelight vigil. We took the time to announce the names of all the local youths who had been killed by gang violence in the past year. It was a very solemn event.
During our interview I learned that Brown was instrumental in helping to curtail the gang violence in Los Angeles a few years earlier. He had also created the Amer-I-Can Foundation in the late 1980’s. Per Wikipedia.org, his organization strived to turn gang members and former prisoners away from violence by teaching them “life skills.”
Jim Brown heard about our “Stop The Violence” campaign and asked if he could speak on the topic. He arrived at our station during my afternoon show, so I had the opportunity to meet him. I’m a pretty big guy at 6-foot 2-inches, but Mr. Brown seemed enormous to me, even though we were about the same height. When we shook hands, it felt like I was shaking hands with a catcher’s mitt.
What I remember most about meeting Jim Brown was his intensity. He was a soft-spoken man. A very intelligent man. He did not get his point across by yelling and acting out. He spoke with dignity, common sense, and intelligence. He was extremely impressive, not just because of his size, stature, celebrity, or what he accomplished on the football and lacrosse fields. He was impressive because of his intensity, honesty, and forthrightness.
I know he would never remember me from that meeting and interview, but I will never forget the day I met Jim Brown.
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Larry Martino is the long-time Afternoon Drive personality on 96.3 KKLZ. The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of Larry Martino and not necessarily those of Beasley Media Group, LLC.