Law in Contemporary Society

Coffin Nails: Suicide in the Pursuit of Integration

-- By RyanGlover - 13 Mar 2015

The American Negro simply wishes to be both an American and Negro, without being spit and cursed upon by his fellows, and without having the doors of opportunity closed roughly in his face. ~ W.E.B. DuBois


My father spent his high-school summer’s working in a steel mill in Gary, Indiana to support his bedridden mother and two younger brothers. And during the school year, he supported his family through basketball hustling—luring lesser skilled basketball players into gambling pennies and nickels.

In 1961, my father moved to Nashville, Tennessee to attend Fisk University, where he earned a full-ride scholarship to play basketball. Under the tutelage of his Afro American History professor, my father not only learned his history, he learned how to read and write.

By the end of his senior year, my father’s Afro African History professor convinced him to apply to law school. And with his admittance, the Veritas motto had shielded him from the 1969 lottery.

He began his legal career as a civil rights attorney, eventually becoming the national executive director for the Law Students Civil Rights Research Council.


I fondly remember playing chess with my father at the dining room table when I was young. I remember his hearty laughter as I tried to defend against a scholar’s mate for the first time. I also remember the moment his cheerful disposition was displaced by a competitive ruthlessness once I became familiar with the basics. From then on, he began to enforce two rules without exception. First, if I touched a piece, I had to move it. Second, if I let go of a piece after making a legal move, I was unable to retract that move. My initial response to play as quickly as possible repeatedly left me frustrated; time and again, I found better options after my turn had ended, and my father was more than happy to capitalize.

My mother, who despised my father’s overly competitive nature, wanted me to win as badly as I did. Oftentimes, she peered over my shoulder and encouraged me to slow down, weigh my options, and learn from my mistakes. She often asked questions such as, “What does it look like he’s trying to do?” and “What should you have done instead?” And in an amusing fashion, she ignored my father’s acrimonious glances and continued to cheer me on.

Cultural Capital: From Lower to Middle Class - The Development of Anomie

Years after beginning his career at the Law Students Civil Rights Research Council, my father became a general partner at the law firm of Isham, Lincoln & Beale. In order to maintain his position for the betterment of Blacks, he joined the board of the City Colleges of Chicago. There he fought to increase the number of Blacks in colleges, and ensure that they would receive an education that will allow them to succeed.

When I was nine, my father, who had recently resigned from the board of the City Colleges of Chicago, began his last job as the President of TLC-LC (formerly known as TLC Beatrice International Holdings). It was through this that he had the opportunity to become a joint member of the Saddle and Cycle Club (a private club committed to old traditions and blue-blood rituals).

We continued our Saturday morning chess matches at the Saddle and Cycle Club before lunch; we upgraded our wooden board to marble chess set. His weekend jean overalls and open-toed sandals were replaced by dress pants and boat shoes. He also no longer leaned over the table in wait, but sat back in his chair, crossed his legs, and puffed on a Dominican cigar that a fellow member had introduced to him.

After my father chowed down the chicken fingers and macaroni and cheese he ordered from the kid’s menu at lunch, he generally ventured into the Cigar Lounge where he later emerged with a shift in dialect and a sudden interest for the arts—to which my mother and I quietly laughed at his localism and new found interests.


I looked forward to our weekend chess matches mostly because it signified my father’s return home from his office in New York. But I had other reasons to be excited; after years of losing to my father, I was finally nearing a victory. I had even prepared to gloat with a ceremonial victory dance to the tune of his favorite chant: the Chicago White Sox version of “Na-Na, Hey-Hey, Goodbye”.

Then, in an instant, my opportunity to overcome a meaningless challenge had vanished. Shortly after my sixteenth birthday my father was diagnosed with lung cancer. At first, our matches became less frequent, but as his condition worsened we stopped playing altogether. The following year he had passed away. I remember the time I spent with my father before the coroner took him away. I remember holding my younger sister in disbelief that I had just lost the person most important to me. Yet, the worst was the heavy feeling in my stomach that rose every Friday when he didn’t come home.


Webs Webs

r4 - 29 Jun 2015 - 20:52:49 - MarkDrake
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