Sunday, March 29, 2009

Sugar Ray Robinson

"Sugar Ray" Robinson, a world champion boxer whose real name was Walker Smith, Jr., called many places home. Montgomery County, Wheeler County and Laurens County along with New York and California were all home to Ray at different times during his lifetime. Many people don't realize that he was a native of Georgia. As a result, Robinson is not a member of the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame. Ray's parents, Walker Smith and Lula Hurst, lived in Laurens County and were married here on February 20, 1916. His father was born near Rentz and grew up on the Peterson place south of Ailey. His mother's family roots were on the Hurst plantation in Washington County.

Ray Robinson recounted in his biography that his father, Walker Smith, farmed a small plot of ground, earning about forty dollars a month raising cotton, corn, and peas. In 1920 his brother in law, Herman Hayes, invited the elder Smith to come to Detroit, Michigan to seek a better living. Walker Smith received his first weekly paycheck in the amount of sixty dollars. It did not take long for Mr. Smith to figure out where he needed to work. The family stayed behind until Mr. Smith could establish a home. "Sugar Ray" recounts the trip that his mother, his sisters, and he took from Dublin to Detroit. Sugar Ray didn't seem to remember that he was born in Ailey, Montgomery County, Georgia. When he was seeking his birth certificate for medicare coverage, he found it in the Probate Court of Montgomery County. The house where he was born still stands across the railroad from the Thompson Lumber Company sawmill.

Sugar Ray's parents had their share of marital problems. At the age of six Ray was sent back south after living all but the first of his pre-school years in Detroit. He lived with his maternal grandparents near Glenwood in Wheeler County, just below the Laurens County line. He attended school there. He stayed in Dublin at times with his mother and grandmother before going north in the early 1930s.

Robinson's maternal grandmother, Anna Hurst, lived in a house at 518 South Jefferson Street in Dublin. Laurens County sold the house for taxes in 1935. Robinson's aunt, Maud Ree Hurst, purchased the house in 1938. Robinson fondly remembered the times he spent with his uncle Herschel "J.B." Hurst at the cotton market in Dublin. Uncle J.B. spent a lot of time with Junior buying him a boxes of Cracker Jacks on their trips in to town on Saturdays. The family operated a store next to their home on South Jefferson Street. J.B. and his brother Gus were mechanics in Dublin. Willie Lee Wells, another aunt, was slain by her husband Felix Wells in 1941.

As a boy, Ray was always looking for a fight. His aunt Maud Ree Hurst Foster remembered him saying "I want to find me some body to beat up!" Ray idolized his Aunt Maud Ree and tried his best to be like her. The Hursts have a strong sense of family. Many members of the Hurst family and related families still live in Laurens County. Maud Ree Hurst Foster, a delightful lady, has returned home to Dublin. Anna Hurst loved to watch Ray dance. She often asked Ray "come on 'Sugar', dance for me." The pet name stuck with the young man for the rest of his life. One day Sugar Ray brought one of his friends with him when he stopped in Dublin to see his grandmamma. That friend was a pretty fair boxer himself. Imagine the sight. There was Anna Hurst standing on her front porch asking Sugar Ray Robinson and Joe Louis, two of the greatest boxers ever, to dance for her. Early in his boxing career Robinson, was known as "Harlem's Dancing Dynamite and the Pride of Harlem."

Walker Smith, Jr. took the name "Sugar Ray" Robinson as an amateur boxer. As an amateur Ray won New York City titles in 1939 and 1940 with a career record of 69 knockouts, 40 of which were in the first round, in a total of 85 matches. Robinson's first professional fight was a 2nd round knockout of Joe Echeverria on October 4, 1940. He won his first 40 fights before losing to the legendary Jake LaMotta in February 1943. From then on Robinson was undefeated for over eight years. On December 20, 1946, Robinson won the World Welterweight Championship over Tommy Bell. Sugar Ray successfully defended his title five times. Sugar Ray defeated Jake LaMotta for the World Middleweight championship. That summer he lost the title to Randy Turpin in only his second professional loss in the ring. Ray took the title back in a rematch. Ray defeated Carl Olson and knocked out the great Rocky Graziano in his title defenses. He was knocked out for the first time in his career by Joey Maxim on June 25, 1952.

Sugar Ray retired after the Maxim fight, but returned to the ring on November 29, 1954. On December 9, 1955 he defeated Bobo Olson to regain the Middleweight title. After defeating Olson in a rematch in 1956, Robinson lost the title once again, this time to Gene Fullmer on January 2, 1957. Five months later, Robinson won the Middleweight title for the fourth time in a rematch with Fullmer. He lost the world title again in September of 1957, this time to Carmen Basillio, Ray regained the title in a rematch with Basillio on March 25, 1958. Sugar Ray surrendered his title for the last time against Paul Pender on January 22, 1960. The last five years of his career were spent fighting younger fighters with only moderate success. Sugar Ray Robinson, then 45 years old, lost his last fight on November 10, 1965 to Joey Archer in a 10 round fight.

Over his 202 fight - 30 year career, Robinson only lost 18 fights, most of those being the twilight of his career. After his career in the ring, Sugar Ray appeared in several television dramas. Sugar Ray Robinson, who once showed his athletic prowess on the streets of Dublin, was regarded by many as the greatest boxer of all time. He was a five time Middleweight Champion, a one time Welterweight Champion, and was revered by Muhammad Ali as "the King, the Master and my idol."

Monday, March 2, 2009

William Lafayette Hughes

A Renaissance Man

William T. Hughes was a man of all things to his native hometown of Dublin. A man of humble beginnings, Professor Hughes was one the Emerald City’s most dedicated and respected citizens during the golden age of the city.

William Lafayette Hughes was born in Dublin, Georgia on May 8, 1873. His father, Pinkney Hughes, was a farmer and an adult slave at the beginning of the Civil War. His mother, Annie McLendon Hughes, was also born in 1842. William’s older siblings were Betsy, Susann, Fred, Laura and Eva. On his paternal side, William’s grandparents were the Rev. Allen and Mrs. Charlotte Hughes.

Little William attended the meager schools in the Dublin area. His parents were dirt poor, like many others, so William and his entire family had to work hard just to survive. By the late 1880s, William made it his life’s goal to attend college. In order to save enough money for tuition, the young man worked as much as he could. An intelligent student, William was hired as a teacher in the Dublin City School system in 1889, the first year of the separate city system. He was only sixteen years old.

With a sufficient sum in hand, William enrolled at Atlanta University. He attended four terms in that place, which he found, “helpful and inspiring.” After a year of reading law in the offices, Pledger, Johnson and Malone, Hughes studied for one year at Morris Brown to become an attorney. He completed his studies, but for some reason, never applied for admission to the bar.

Hughes returned to the classroom and was later elected Principal of the Colored School at Tennille, Georgia, where he served for seven years. His experience as a teacher and his superior intellect landed him the moniker of “Professor Hughes.”

In 1903, William Hughes was appointed by the Postmaster of Dublin as the city’s first Negro mail carrier. In those days, postmaster positions were political appointments. More black citizens were given positions of authority under the administration of President Theodore Roosevelt than at any other time in the South since the days of Reconstruction. Hughes served for many decades and was a popular figure on the streets of Dublin. But, his Federal duties did not extend only to delivering letters. Hughes served for a short term as a revenue agent and a gauger. He also operated a small store for a brief time.

Professor Hughes was known far and wide across the State of Georgia in the circles of fraternal organizations. From 1901 to 1903, Hughes served as the District Grand Master of the International Order of Odd Fellows. He remained active in that organization, serving many years as the Grand Auditor of the local district. Hughes, an articulate speaker, was always in demand to speak before civic, social and religious groups. Hughes was also active in the Knights of Phythias, an organization devoted to the promotion of cooperation and friendship between people of good will, through service to others.

Raised a member of the local Republican party, Professor Hughes was selected as a delegate to the National Convention of the Republican Party in 1940. In Philadelphia, Hughes and his fellow delegates nominated Wendell Wilkie, who unsuccessfully attempted to unseat President Franklin D. Roosevelt for a third term.

Though he retired from teaching at an early age, William Hughes was a life long advocate of education. He served as a trustee of the Central City College in Macon, Georgia. Hughes, believing that the Negro should support education morally and financially once said, “Let the colored man supplement the school fund in this Sate, and run the schools longer, pay the teachers more, and secure better teachers.” “This,” he added, “should apply to the South.” Mr. Hughes believed in reading. He was known to have one of the biggest and most attractive library of books in the city.

His father, Pinkney Hughes, was one of the first black citizens to advocate vocational education school for the colored students of Laurens County appeared in an advertisement in an 1886 issue of The Dublin Post. A.S. Dickson, President of the Dickson Institute, invited all of Dublin to join with him and Vice President Pinkney Hughes in a meeting to solicit funds for the school.

In 1917, the Central Colored People's Fair was incorporated by E.L. Hall, J.I. Clark, E.D. Newsome, Seaborn Daniels, Freeman Hill, C.B. Adams, H.N. Clark, M.H. O'Neal, W.A. Kemp, Thomas Mitchell, R.W. Thomas, Joe Hall and Frank Kilo. The second annual fair was held in November of 1917. E.D. Newsome was chairman of the event. Highlights of the fair included a parade, agricultural exhibits, the Ging Carnival Company, and a "Wild West" Show. Thirty one-hundred people showed up on Wednesday of the six-day fair.

In 1918, the Fair Association elected W.L. Hughes as President of the fair. Other fair officers were: E.L. Hall, Secretary; J.W. Dent, Secretary to Board of Directors; and E.D. Newsome, Manager. The board was composed of W.L. Hughes, J.W. Dent, E.L. Hall, W.A. Jenkins, E.J. Newsome, D.F. Kemp, W.T. Wood, Major Thomas, and E.D. Newsome. That year's fair was scheduled for November 4, 1918.

W.L. Hughes was active in supporting the soldiers and his country in World War I. He led the War Savings Stamps sale in the Negro community and was a leader in the Red Cross activities in Dublin.

Hughes and his wife, the former Miss Mary Barnes, were active members of the First African Baptist Church. He was often called upon to attend church and Sunday School conferences at both the state and national level. He married his bride, a daughter of Robert and Rebecca Barnes, on February 22, 1899.

William and Mary Hughes lived in their comfortable home at 423 South Jefferson Street in a neighborhood where many of Dublin’s most successful black citizens once lived. Their daughter Rebecca married Ernest Spurgeon Myers, Sr. Their son, Ernest, Jr., was a long time and respected educator in the Dublin city school system.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

QUINCY TROUPPE - Dublin's All Star Player

Dublin's All Star Player

Quincy Trouppe was born in Dublin on Christmas Day of 1912. He was the youngest of ten children. His family's last name, originally spelled Troupe, was taken after the Civil War. His ancestors were probably slaves of Gov. George M. Troup of Dublin. The Troupes moved to St. Louis around the time of World War I.

Trouppe broke into professional baseball as a catcher in 1931. The St. Louis Stars of the Negro Leagues signed Trouppe to a contract which paid him $80.00 per month. The Stars won the league championship that year. In 1932 he played with the Detroit Wolves, the Homestead Grays and the Kansas City Monarchs. The following year he played for the Bismark Cubs and Chicago American Giants, the champions of 1933. Trouppe played with the Bismark Cubs from 1934 through 1936. After retiring in 1937, he came back to play with the Indianapolis ABC's for 2 years. In 1938, the fans voted Trouppe to the Western Division All Star team as an outfielder.

Trouppe spent eight seasons in the Mexican Leagues with the Monterey and Mexico City teams from 1939 to 1944 and from 1950 to 1951. While playing and managing in Mexico, Trouppe hit .307, .337, and .306 with Monterey and .364 and .301 with Mexico City. Trouppe sought the help of the Mexican League President in 1944 to allow him to continue playing in Mexico. Trouppe returned from Mexico late in 1944 to become a player/manager of the Cleveland Buckeyes. Trouppe led the Buckeyes to the championship of the Negro American League. While hitting only .245 during the regular season, Trouppe hit .400 leading the Buckeyes to a sweep of Josh Gibson and the Homestead Grays in the World Series. Quincy Trouppe finished his last two seasons with Buckeyes hitting .313 and .352. His team won one more American League pennant, but lost the World Series to the New York Cubans. Trouppe then played for the Chicago American Giants in 1948, hitting .342 with 10 home runs. He then left the country again to play for Drummondville, Canada of the Provincial League in 1949 where he hit for a .282 average. In 1950 and 1951 Trouppe returned to the Mexican League playing for Guadalajara and hitting .283 and .252.

During the off seasons he played in the winter leagues in Cuba (1950-1), Columbia (1953-4), Venezuela (1945-7, 1951-3), Puerto Rico (1941-2, 1944-5, 1947-50), and enezuela. It was during one of his eight seasons in Mexico that he added the extra "p" to his last name. Trouppe managed the Caguas team to the Championship of the 1947-8 Winter League in Puerto Rico.

During the latter half of his career, Trouppe was considered one of the best catchers in the league. He was known for his superior handling of pitchers. He earned the nickname of "Big Train" and "Baby Quincy." Trouppe, a somewhat powerful switch hitter, used a heavy bat and was a good curve ball hitter. Most of his power came from the right side. A typical catcher, Quincy was not too swift on the base paths. Among his teammates were the legendary Stachel Page, "Cool Papa" Bell, Buck Leonard, Ray Dandrige, and Josh Gibson. Until 1947 Negro leaguers were systematically excluded from the major leagues. After fellow Georgian Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier, Negro leaguers slowly began to get positions on major league teams. The Cleveland Indians, who had signed the first Negro Leaguer in the American League, decided to give Quincy Trouppe a tryout. Quincy reported to spring training in 1952. At the age of thirty nine he had a hard time competing with the young defensive star catcher Jim Hegan. Hall of Fame Cleveland pitcher, Bob Feller, described Trouppe as "having a likeable personality and very hard- working." Feller knew nothing of Quincy's hitting skills, but he stated that "Quincy was a very good receiver. He had an excellent arm, kind of like a Roy Campanella or Gabby Hartnett. He was very good calling pitches and blocked the bad pitches well." Feller had seen Quincy when he played for the Buckeyes and remembered that "he was a very good manager and a true gentlemen."

Quincy played in six games and managed only one hit in ten at bats. Trouppe didn't think he had gotten the chance he deserved and declined the Indians offer to play on their Triple A farm team in Indianapolis. The St. Louis Cardinals hired Trouppe as a scout from 1953 through 1956. Quincy lost a chance to sign future Hall of Famer, Ernie Banks. He tried to sign Roberto Clemente with the Cardinals, but lost out to the Pirates.

Quincy Trouppe was an all star in 17 of his 23 seasons in the Negro League. He spent seven years as a catcher- manager. He played in five East/West All Star Games, with his team winning each time. He ended his career with a .311 lifetime batting average, 25th highest in the history of the Negro Leagues. Quincy was selected an all-star in half of his twelve seasons in winter ball with a lifetime batting average of .304 in the Mexican League and .254 in Cuba.

In his latter years Quincy Trouppe became somewhat of an archivist of the Negro Leagues. In 1977 he wrote an unpublished autobiography "20 Years Too Soon." His collection of memorabilia and information led to the establishment of a Negro League Hall of Fame in St. Louis and was used by Ken Burns in his PBS documentary, "Baseball." Quincey Trouppe died in Creve Coeur, Missouri on Aug. 10, 1993.