A Tribute to the Fathers –
The other day, I saw a photo my father took of my younger brother Emory and his little league baseball team. Emory is the little fellow ,second from left. The coach, I believe was Dr. Joe Hayden. All the boys seem to be paying attention to Dr. Hayden. We played baseball at Winterhalter Elementary School in the Russell Woods Baseball Association. The league attracted hundreds of youth and for several weeks it was the high point of my spring and summer. Then and now, Detroit had what could be described as “De facto Segregation.” When we moved to Detroit from New Orleans, the first year we lived in the Boston -Edison neighborhood. The second year we moved to Russell Woods. In 1960, many of the children who lived in my neighborhood were white and Jewish. The next year, the neighborhood was almost entirely African American.
The African American fathers and mothers in our neighborhood were hardworking, dedicated men and women who wanted to provide the best for their children. Our neighborhood was a sweet mix of all types of people. On my block, there were auto-workers, teachers, preachers, and in the biggest homes on one corner was a husband and wife team where the wife was a leading pediatrician and her husband a top surgeon. On the other corner was a man who was one of the biggest “Numbers” or illegal lottery gangsters in Detroit – and he had the prettiest lawn! These people were black. Dick “Night Train” Lane, a member of the Detroit Lions lived a couple of blocks away with his wife, the great singer, Dinah Washington. Berry Gordy and the “Supremes lived across the street from the football player. We had a wonderful neighborhood with a mix of ordinary and extraordinary people.
The commissioners for the Russell Woods Baseball Association were Forest “Foots” Green and Melvin Jefferson Sr. Their children played in the league with the rest of us. Some of the people who played baseball with us were: Saul Green, son of the commissioner of the league – his father, “Foots” later became the first Ombudsman for the City of Detroit, and Saul became the first African American United States Attorney for Detroit; Mel Jefferson Jr. is now a noted tax lawyer, his father, Melvin Jefferson Sr. became the first African American Fire Commissioner for Detroit; Bennie Napoleon, the county sheriff and his brother, Hilton, played in the baseball league; Charlie Beckem, who works for the mayor, played in the league. My team produced three medical doctors: Dennis and Arthur Harris and John Metters; at least one lawyer, James Parker; a great musician, Spencer Barefield; and a preacher, city-councilman: me.
It was a great league. In my opinion, what made the league great was the fathers who supported it. Men like Dr. Joe Hayden, served as coaches and mentors. My father, who was a pastor, did not coach, but he supported the league with his attendance at games and taking photos like the one in this post. I remember striking out on the last bat of the last inning of a championship game. I was so upset and angry with myself that I stormed off to my father’s car and tried to hide under the back seat. My father was consoling and eventually got me out of the back seat.
I say all of this because not every African American father is a jerk. We hear so much about the “Absent black father”, but what I experienced as a child was the exact opposite. As a matter of fact, most of the fathers I grew up with in my neighborhood were great men who took the time to nurture not only their children, but the children of others. When I think of the fathers from my neighborhood, I think about the image of God as a “Heavenly father” with compassion for all. To me, it is a beautiful image of peace and serenity.
Psalm 103: 13 As a father has compassion for his children, so the Lord has compassion for those who fear him. 
Questions for Reflection:
- What are the similarities and differences between our Heavenly Father and our earthly fathers?
- What are your best thoughts about your father or the father-figures in your life?
Prayer: Our Father, who art in heaven, I thank you today for the earthly fathers of this world. I thank you for their love and strength. I thank you for every father who has struggled to provide for their family. I thank you for the influence and devotion good fathers have displayed. I thank you that my father helped to make it possible that I might have life. Grant this day that every father might accept a greater commitment to children of all ages. Encourage every man to be a father to the fatherless and an inspiration to their children and the children of others. Through Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior I pray. Amen.
Written by Rev. Dr. Nicholas Hood III
Photo by Rev. Dr. Nicholas Hood Sr.
Additional Prayers Photos and Meditations from Rev. Dr. Nicholas Hood III at https://nicholashoodiiiministries.wordpress.com/
More about the ministry, mission prayers, photos and publications of Rev. Dr. Nicholas Hood III at www.nicholashoodiiiministries.org