Shuttlesworth, Jobs and Davis; they Changed the Game

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Anyone looking to add additional faces to an amended Mt. Rushmore with just 3 names who changed the course of their profession could do much worse than the 3 we lost within the span of 4 days last week.

Of course I'm referring to Apple co-Founder and icon Steve Jobs, Civil Rights icon Fred Lee Shuttlesworth, and the latest to join his ancestors, sports figure, owner/General Manager Allen (Al) Davis of the Oakland Raiders.

Shuttlesworth died on the same day as Jobs, and being that he is from a time period so different and much earlier especially in the minds of young pop-culture-minded blacks, that his loss was barely noticed or noted.

While Jobs death lit-up the social networks, Shuttlesworth posts on facebook attracted very few comments. Maybe he should have designed a chip, instead he was enlisted in a war for things most of us Blacks take for granted, little mundane concerns like public transportation, what kinds of schools should blacks attend.

You would think most people could care less about his opinions on these matters, after all he was just a truck driver and a Pastor. But strangely-enough they cared so strongly as to make several attempts on his life. Shuttlesworth had affiliations and a combative nature that got him watched, he was a member of the Alabama NAACP until the state outlawed them, then he and others formed a successor group; the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights.

At some point he co-founded the Southern Leadership Conference on Transportation and Non-Violent Integration along with Martin Luther King Jr., Ralph David Abernathy, Bayard Rustin, Ella Baker, and Joseph Lowery. This group was a precursor to the widely-known Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC).

Regarding the attempts on his life Shuttlesworth was once quoted as saying he would "kill segregation or be killed by it." It almost did, once he and his wife was attacked by a mob led by Bobby Frank Cherry; one of the principles of 16th Street Baptist Church bombing, after trying to enroll his kids into all-white schools. Getting his kids into all-white "Bombingham" public schools was one of his bones of contention; on another occasion he was beaten by some cops for trying to enroll his daughter into an all-white school. Things that blacks take for granted today, we can directly thank Rev. Shuttlesworth for.

Many of your pants-saggin' children like to scream and curse on buses to and from school, Shuttlesworth helped make it legal for them to be able to ride on that bus and enter a public and/or segregated school in the first place. Shuttlesworth leaves us in a world that is taking black youths backward educationally; in 1969 the Black literacy rate between the ages of 14-24 reached a peak of 99.5% (compared to whites of the same age at 99.8).

A report in 2009 says "nearly half of the nation's African American students attend schools in which graduation was not the norm (compared to just 11% of White students)." Many Black youths today consider literacy to be strictly a white thing. Religiously we may be going even more downhill without Shuttlesworth, there is hardly no one to replace him in terms of black activism and church leadership and outreach. Not with the growing legion of greasy-headed, greasy-palmed pretty boys and divisive Mega-Church leaders.

Steve Jobs legacy seems doomed to be both good and bad unless those who survived him at Apple can find a way to turn the corner of work-related suicides and depression other than forcing employees to sign a "no-suicide" agreement.

Jobs mind was brilliant and innovative, along the lines of his good friends like that other Steve (Wozniak), Bill Gates and later on Philip Emeagwali of Nigeria (whose IQ is listed at 190). While there is no doubting the impact of his accomplishments, I remember well the beginning of the computer-craze back around '82/'83, the rise of Apple and MacIntosh as competitors to IBM and the invention and mass-marketing of the home computer.

Today Job's revolution seems to have surpassed Star Trek technology without the beaming with his IPads and IPhones, we were amazed by how easy he made it look until a few investigators and journalists began looking into allegations of slave labor in China and Malaysia. Then it dawns on me how slavery can launch any country or corporation into achievements normally ahead of their time. Columnist/commentator Alberta Parish of the buffalo bullet wrote a stormy expose that cut through all the sunshine of condolences and glowing praise for Jobs in the immediate wake of his passing.

A huge chunk of the most exciting games in the history of the National Football League have come at the hands of the original Men in Black; the Raiders. Off the field-unlike most sports teams-the Raiders prove to be equally interesting if not just as exciting. Most of this is due to the actions and decision-making of Allen (Al) Davis. For most of his association with them they were the winningest team in team sports. Born on Independance Day and dead just 2 days before Columbus Day, yes there was an Oakland Raiders before Davis joined them... but he discovered them. He gave them a personage that stood apart from the other teams in the AFL and eventually the NFL after Wayne Valley hired him as coach and General Manager. He would eventually become majority owner, and then AFL Commissioner, playing a role in forcing a merger with the senior NFL.

Two of the Raiders 5 best head coaches were minorities with Tom Flores (grossly ignored for Hall of Fame induction) leading them to 2 Superbowl victories and almost matching John Madden's regular season wins with the Raiders at 83. It was Davis who hired the first Black coach in modern times; Art Shell, who responded with leading the Raiders to the playoffs 3 of the 5.5 seasons during his first tenure (54-38).

Many of the greatest players in history have worn the Silver and Black, and played for the maverick Davis, but his most bitter feuds were reserved for his two best players, Qb Ken Stabler and Rb Marcus Allen respectively. That these leaders played a key role in two of Davis 3 Superbowl victories meant little or nothing to him at all. With Stabler the dispute began with the the team falling to 9-7 (considered a slump in those days) back in '78 and escalating to an offseason war of words with Stabler firing to AP in July of that year "I have no love for him. He wanted me to bury the hatchet, I'd like to bury the hatchet right between his shoulder blades."

Things didn't improve that season as they stumbled to another 9-7 season with Stabler enduring a bad elbow, and more war of words between him and Davis. Eventually he was traded.
Marcus Allen was just flat-out blackballed. His autobiography "Marcus" he give his firsthand account: "The coaches I learned, were being told not to play me. Schroeder (then quarterback Jay) confided he'd been given instructions not to throw to me... Terry Robiskie, our offensive play-caller, had actually ignored instructions from the owner's box on several occassions in '89, inserting me into games when the staff had been instructed not to play me."

I remember back then thinking this was too ridiculous for words, during an important late-season game against the Cardinals Robiskie disobeyed Al's Marcus prohibition again and Allen made a key first down and the winning touchdown. "Afterward Davis was waiting for Robiskie at the entrance to our locker room. Grabbing him by the arm, he pulled Terry aside, 'Goddammit, you defied me,' he said... 'What the hell? We won the game,'" smiled Davis.
It was petty and divisive behavior like this that Davis' displayed that proved his onetime ingenuity was eroding, yes there were the big court victories vs. Pete Rozelle and the NFL during the '80's, but these and the two Superbowl victories between the '80 and '83 seasons made him feel invincible.

I wrote years ago that in the long run Davis' attitude towards his team became comparable to Enzo Ferrari's attitude toward his car in Formula-1 competition, forcing great drivers for the team to perform with what writer Doug Nye called "perennially limited Ferrari machinary." In the face of rising technology  and declining F1 victories, his attitude became 'this is a Ferrari, what's the problem?' Of course this was before they signed Michael Schummacher.

The problem was, fire-red no longer struck fear into the hearts of rival F1 teams. Who can deny Davis went through a similar phase? Reaching a point where he simply could not figure out why the black uniform's no longer intimidate opposing players. It looks to many like Davis mustered enough last remaining common sense to hire his own Schummacher in Head Coach Hugh Jackson. This guy is considered a carbon-copy of the classic Davis; a use of halfbacks and fullbacks to wear the opponent's defense down, the return of the long-bomb and hard-hittng defense to bring back what was once-known as "Raider Mystique."
That mystique seems to have one more element included with it; the "no cause of death is being disclosed" press release. Judging by his looks over the past couple seasons that opens the issue up to a lot of speculation. Davis looks like he either contracted just about every disease imaginable, or Marcus Allen finally got hold of him for a few minutes.
Whatever your sentiments about these 3 achievers, there is absolutely no denying their influence on the way we live and look at life today. The important thing is to lift a cold one to their optimism, but-especially in the case of Jobs and Davis-learn from their mistakes.

Chris Stevenson is a syndicated columnist. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook contact him at

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