Basketball Hall of Fame Coach Red Auerbach and Harold Bell
Posted: February 24, 2019
By Gary Johnson
This is not an article about whether or not people like Harold Bell. Spoiler Alert: A lot of people don’t like Harold Bell! But that doesn’t mean that he hasn’t made a positive difference in the lives of others.
The “I Don’t Like Harold Bell” line is LONG. You can ask former NFL Running Backs Larry Brown and NFL Hall of Famer Jim Brown, former NBA Star and Mayor of Detroit Dave Bing, Boxing Manager/Promoter/TV Host Rock Newman, former Georgetown University Basketball Coach John Thompson, Boxing Promoter Don King, Broadcaster Glenn Harris and more.
That’s not the point of this article. February is Black History Month. As we enter the end of the month, one can say, if you’re going to be fact-based about history, then you can make an argument that “good things come to those who wait,” as this article was not posted at the beginning of February.
Harold K. Bell is a complicated individual. He is polarizing and that’s not automatically a bad thing. Harold Bell is principled in his truth. He is relentless to prove his points and defend his positions.
He is also an advocate for children, who can be moved to tears when he sees other people being marginalized and mistreated. Harold has used his “microphone” to give voice to the voiceless.
And finally, at times, Harold Bell can be his own worst enemy.
I told you the man is complicated.
Despite being in the public eye for over 40 years, I can make a compelling argument that Harold Bell is deserving of wider recognition.
Let’s take a brief look at Harold’s career and read why I make this statement.
Harold Bell is a fourth generation Washingtonian and a product of the “inner city projects” of Washington, DC. In 1965, after spending two years chasing his NFL dreams without any success, he returned home to work for the United Planning Organization. The organization hired three neighborhood workers for its self-help program – Petey Greene, H. Rap Brown and Harold Bell. In 1968, Harold was caught in the middle of the riots that hit inner-cities all around this country were experiencing after the shooting death of our Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.
As a teenager, Bell worked as a “Caddie” at the Burning Tree Country Club in Bethesda. There, he began a friendship with club member Richard Nixon. Yes, that same Richard Nixon who went on to become President of the United States. (Click here to read about their long friendship). Years later Bell was quoted as saying Nixon “was the first white man that ever acted like he cared about me.”
In the late 1960s, Bell was appointed to the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports. He ran recreation centers and mentoring programs for troubled youth at area military installations. He recruited Washington Redskins players, such as Roy Jefferson, Larry Brown, and Harold McClinton, to mentor kids.
Bell’s reputation was such that local radio and TV host Petey Greene, (who was the “coolest” dude in city) began putting Bell on his WOL radio show in 1969 for sports segments. A few years later, Bell got his own show, “Inside Sports,” making him the city’s first black sports talk host. The show ran for decades on WOL and WOOK. In 1975, Harold Bell became the first black TV sports host in the market by producing a show on Muhammad Ali that aired on WRC-TV.
Harold’s “Inside Sports” format, featured topics on racism in sports and in America, which was frowned about at that time. Harold Bell was the first sports radio host to play message music and host media round tables, another first during that time.
Harold never conducted a “softball” interview. If you went on his show or agreed to be interviewed at an event, you better be ready to for hard and honest questions that deal with the issues. The man studied and did his homework in advance. Don’t take my word for it. Go back and listen to his interviews with Muhammad Ali, Red Auerbach, George Foreman, Don King, Andre Agassi, Jim Brown, Sugar Ray Leonard, Dr. Harry Edwards and the late boxing historian Bert Randolph Sugar.
Hattie Bell, Boxing Historian Bert Sugar and Harold Bell
In 1999, Harold hosted a function for Earl Lloyd, the NBA’s first Black player with the old Washington Capitals. The purpose of the event was to get Lloyd, who made his NBA debut in 1950, into the NBA Hall of Fame. Lloyd, who retired in 1960, was finally inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2003. Harold help get Green Bay Packer great Willie Wood in the Football Hall of Fame.
Harold didn’t stop at getting people into the Hall of Fame. Harold is a civil rights activist. He helped get people of our jail. Just ask, NFL Hall of Famer Jim Brown and local high school and college talent Jo Jo Hunter and numerous other athletes. Harold also helped athletes who were deserving of wider recognition, get wider recognition. Athletes like Gary Mays, a multi-sport star at all-black Armstrong High and a local Washington, DC, playground legend despite having lost his left arm in a childhood gun accident.
Harold and his devoted with Hattie started a foundation for children named “Kids In Trouble.” From 1958 to 2013 Harold and Hattie hosted Christmas Toy parties. In addition, through their foundation they have helped thousands of children grow and lead successful and productive lives.
I’ve seen Harold Bell interact with children. He doesn’t publicize a lot of what he does to make children grow up to be good citizens. I’ve seen what he’s done with my son. Together, they do a YouTube show together.
Whether you like him or not, Harold Bell has proven to be a man for all seasons. I’ve given you my two cents.
Harold and Gary Johnson, Publisher – Black Men In America.com
Here are some other notables and what they have to say about Harold Bell. (Not too bad for a “polarizing” figure).
“Harold and I have a lot in common. He too has persevered and stood fast for the principles in which he believes.” — Muhammad Ali
“Harold I am so proud to see you have returned to work with young people whose lives once resembled your very own.” — President Richard Nixon
“Harold, you help prepare me for the NBA” — Dave Bing (NBA Hall of Fame)
“Harold Bell has always provided a platform for those without one” — Jim Brown (NFL)
“Harold, I am the Welterweight Champion of the World today because you were there when no one else was.” — Sugar Ray Leonard, Boxing Hall of Fame
“Harold has always been a voice for people who didn’t have a voice. He has always called them as he saw them. He has been an inspiration and motivation for me and a lot of other black broadcasters.” — James Brown (NFL CBS Sports)
“Harold you have always been a voice for the people and we love you for it.” Judge Luke C. Moore — (DC Superior Court)
“Harold Bell is a unique sportscaster, former athlete, youth leader and social critic all Rolled into one.” — Bill Taaffe, (Sports lllustrated Magazine)
“Harold Bell and Inside Sports makes sense.” — Red Auerbach (NBA Hall of Fame)
“Harold Bell maybe controversial but I have yet to hear anyone call him a liar.” — Earl Lloyd (NBA Hall of Fame)
“Harold Bell is a One Man Community Action Program. I don’t think I have ever met anyone like him. ” — Nicholas Blatchford (Columnist Washington Star Newspaper)
“Harold I thank you and my office staff thanks you for allowing us to be a part of your annual Christmas toy party for needy children.” — Senator Strom Thurmond (R-SC)
“Harold Bell is the Godfather of sports talk—the good kind.” — Dick Heller, Washington Times
“Harold Bell is the Heavyweight Champion of sports talk.” — Don King (Boxing Hall of Fame)
“Sports talk as you see it today all started in Washington, DC with Harold Bell and Inside Sports.” — Johnny Sample (NFL Legend)
“Harold you can be a tough man sometimes but your work with children is commendable.” — John Thompson, (Georgetown University)
“Harold Bell if you had been white you would be a millionaire. People would have been calling Howard Cosell the black Harold Bell.” — Gene Kilroy (Ali Business Manager)
“As his own success took him out of the projects, he could not forget who he once was and where he came from.” — Lou Stokes (D-Ohio)
“No one is indispensable, but there are some people more necessary than others, Harold Bell is one of those people.” — Washington Star Newspaper Editorial
“Harold you are my hero” — Dave McKenna City Paper
“Harold Bell is a One Man Community Action Program and this city is far better place for him remembering where he came from.” — Washingtonian Magazine
“Harold, I have always admired the warrior inside of you. If we had more journalists like you, we would own this town instead of letting all the cheer-leading media scam artists have their way. People are just too weak minded to resist. That’s sad, but true.” — Sports Columnist Rick Snider
“Harold, I want to personally thank you for being my champion” — Willie Wood NFL Hall of Fame
Harold Bell is the Godfather of Sports Talk radio and television in Washington, DC. Throughout the mid-sixties, seventies and eighties, Harold embarked upon a relatively new medium–-sports talk radio with classic interviews with sports celebrities, politicians and news makers of the day. The show and format became wildly popular. Harold has been an active force fighting for the rights of children for almost 50 years with the help of his wife Hattie through their charity Kids In Trouble, Inc. To learn more about Harold Bell visit his official web site. You can check out Harold’s work on this site by clicking here.
Photo credit of Harold Bell at top of this feature by Darrow Montgomery (Washington City Paper)
Gary is the Founder and Publisher of Black Men In America.com, an online news and magazine, Black Boating and Yachting.com and several other online sites. Gary is also the author of the book “25 Things That Really Matter In Life,”: A Quick and Comprehensive Guide To Making Your Life Better—Today!