Author: Michael Brown

Good Night . . . and Roll Tide

(Originally published August 4, 2011; edited and republished August 27, 2020)


It all started because the highfalutin Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Clayton, Missouri, a well-heeled inner-ring suburb of St. Louis, didn’t have any Diet Coke in the house.

Hard to believe, I know, but true. All they had was Pepsi. I’m a Southern man, and I don’t cotton well to Yankee pop (HQ in NY), its North Carolina roots notwithstanding. I blame my mama. She filled my baby bottle with original Coke so she could get some precious sleep (pretty sure she didn’t read Dr. Spock).

It worked. She caught some Zs, and I caught an addiction and a mouthful of cavities.… Read the rest

Always do the right thing

Da Mayor: “Always do the right thing.”
Mookie: “That’s it?”
Da Mayor: “That’s it.”
Mookie: “I got it, I’m gone.”
Do the Right Thing, Spike Lee (1989)

Did Dr. George S. Benson apologize for his racism?

That was, without a doubt, one of the first questions that came to mind among the leadership at Harding University when the online petition to change the name of the campus auditorium from George S. Benson Auditorium to Botham Jean Auditorium dropped in June 2020.

I also believe–very strongly–there was a “Drop what you’re doing!”, five alarm fire, all-hands-on-deck search for an exonerating piece of evidence that would have shown that George Benson apologized, showed remorse, or otherwise recanted the obviously racist views that he held and expressed openly in the 1950s and 60s.… Read the rest

It’s the way it is, but it doesn’t have to be, Part 2

Well, they passed a law in ’64
To give those who ain’t got a little more
But it only goes so far
Because the law don’t change another’s mind
When all it sees at the hiring time
Is the line on the color bar, no, no

That’s just the way it is
And some things will never change
That’s just the way it is
That’s just the way it is, it is, it is, it is

–Bruce Hornsby, The Way It Is, 1986


During the academic year 1954-55, an unknown person in the Harding College (now Harding University) admissions office received an application from a young man named Wilbert Neal Whitley who lived in Council Bluffs, Iowa. … Read the rest

Chapel protests, or hey, someone really *is* awake!

Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity.

–1 Timothy 4:12 NKJV

I am indebted to Harding University President Dr. Bruce McLarty for sharing Larry Bills’ story at the beginning of his message to the Harding community about the 18,000-plus signature petition to remove George S. Benson’s name from the auditorium on campus and rename it after Botham Jean.  This was, for me at least, an unforeseen development driven in part by public and alumni reaction to the story I published in the Arkansas Times on the Statement of Attitude protest by Harding students in 1957 during the Little Rock Crisis but one which I accepted with dutiful resignation if not outright enthusiasm.Read the rest

It’s the way it is, but it doesn’t have to be, Part 1

“Said, hey little boy you can’t go where the others go
‘Cause you don’t look like they do
Said, hey old man how can you stand
To think that way
Did you really think about it
Before you made the rules?

He said, ‘son
That’s just the way it is
Some things will never change
That’s just the way it is’
Ah, but don’t you believe them”

Bruce Hornsby, The Way It Is, 1986


When Larry Bills, Harding College Class of 1958 music education major, stood to lead all three stanzas of the school’s Alma Mater near the conclusion of the school’s annual Black and Gold Homecoming Banquet in 2018, it was the realization of a decades-old dream birthed by the disparity between the way it is and the way it should be.… Read the rest

Recent correspondence

On 06/24/2020 6:15 PM MICHAEL BROWN  <                         > wrote:
Hi Bill,
Greetings from Alabama, where we strive to not only be #1 in college football, but new coronavirus infections per capita as well. Roll Tide.
I imagine Mark or “JN Armstrong” have already sent you this, but I thought I would pass it along just in case:  https://harding.edu/benson
Of course it could never be otherwise. I find it all very wearisome. However, I did take note of McLarty’s dismissive description of my literary quest for truth as a mere “newspaper article,” the subtext being, of course, “Fake news!”
People still don’t get it.
Read the rest

Hacked in Huntsville

HackedThe word, appropriately enough, came to me through a text message on my iPhone, one of dozens a day. It was from Number Two Son in Pensacola: “Hey what’s up with your blog? I tried getting on and there’s this weird face and it says you’ve been hacked!”

I was close to a computer, naturally, and even if I hadn’t been, I had my “device” tucked in my white clinic jacket. I clicked on the link to Ocular Fusion–what I saw widened my mouth and caused me to inhale sharply, like a fish out of water, gasping for air.

Instead of seeing 7 years and 75MB worth of middle age angst, I beheld the emerald-eyed, pallid face of a corpse, its mouth covered with strips of tape like a sealed crime scene.… Read the rest

Redlining: A Tale From the Trenches of Primary Care in America

If you could walk in my shoes, and look through my eyes, as I daily fight the good fight in the trenches of primary care in America, you might see something like this:

It would begin with a fight between two homeless men, probably over some spare change or a scrap of food, under the I-565 bridge. One of them, a 61-year-old black male, would get the worst end of the exchange–a fist fit neatly into the orbit of his right eye, his assailant’s bare knuckles impacting like rocks from a slingshot.

The concussive force of the blow would send a shock wave through the eye and crystalline lens, which is about the size and shape of a plain M&M candy.… Read the rest

Name Them, One By One

“There’s a story called the ‘Cowtail Switch’ from Liberia that states that as long as a person’s name is spoken, they are never truly forgotten.”

–Laconia “Lott” Therrio, therapist, chaplain, professional storyteller, first African American student association president, Harding University

From the beginning, I believed that my story about a large group of white, Christian college students in the 1950s protesting racial segregation, at the same time as, and in the shadow of, one of the American Civil Rights Movement’s early battles at Little Rock Central High, had the “legs” to travel far.

But only now, three months after publishing my story ‘Distinctions Which God Has Not Made’ in the Arkansas Times, can I truly see just how far–and deep–it ran.… Read the rest

Same Song, Second Verse

I’ve been reading a book, Lost in Shangri-La, A True Story of Survival, Adventure, and the Most Incredible Rescue Mission of World War II by Mitchell Zuckoff

Great stuff. I would like to submit for your consideration the following passages on the aboriginal inhabitants of the Baliem Valley in New Guinea and their penchant for incessant war:

“When compared with the causes of World War II, the motives underlying the wars were difficult for outsiders to grasp. They didn’t fight for land, wealth or power. Neither side sought to repel or conquer a foreign people, to protect a way of life, or to change their enemies’ beliefs, which both sides already shared.

Read the rest