William "Brother Doo" Smith
I was 11 years old when I first met a black boy. We had moved from Knoxville. where there were no black children in our school, to Loudon. On the first day of 7th grade in my new school, I had to go to the cafeteria with the other children who rode a bus. The only place to sit was in the back corner where most, maybe all, of the black boys were. I marked my seat, and as I sat down, I heard a voice saying, "Are you new here? My name is William Smith. Most people call me Brother Doo." He then introduced me to Jim Brown, Chuckie "Thin Man" Johnson and Carl "Boo Boo" Hawkins. This quartet of black boys were my first friends in my new school.
During our high school years, the principle would call me to the office when a local farmer needed hay haulers. My black buddies were the first I would ask. Not only did their work ethic match mine, I knew that they needed some extra money to make their lives normal like many of our other friends in school. We worked hours in the fields of local farmers laughing, sweating, razzing each other while we were paid $5.00 per hour.
What I remember most about these boys was their soulfulness. We were kin to each other. We were brothers from another mother and father, but were more alike than we were different. It was not until I was an adult that I realized why I bonded with them - they were poor like me, but we didn't know it. Poverty was our heritage. Not having enough was our common kin. We were raised on Pinto Beans, Collard greens and fried Potatoes. Our clothes, while clean, were not new, but hand-me-downs.
Although we don't regularly see each other today, I still count them as many of my best friends. When I see them a football games or reunions, we enjoy an immediate bond that began that day over forty years ago. All of us are doing well today. Each have a steady job: one is a pediatrician in the D. C. area, one went on to play football at Clemson and the Washington Redskins for a while, and the others have meaningful jobs and are raising their grand children today.
On this Martin Luther King Day, I am grateful that Brother Doo did not judge me because of the color of my skin, but showed me the content of his heart when he first said, "Are you new here? My name is William Smith. My friend's call me Brother Doo!"