To honor all fathers and role models, we feature four very special men
Deems Melvin: Leader of the Band
My mom and dad taught middle school in Lynchburg. They actually both taught at the same school. It doesn’t matter where they teach, because they have that “teacher telepathy,” so whenever you mess up, and I’ve done it, they find out, even before the phone calls are made to home.
I was exposed to a lot of things at an early age. I had piano lessons. My dad was in a band and I used to listen to them jam in the basement and practice. They were playing R&B at the time. He had a twelve-piece band with horns, keyboards, the whole thing.
He played baseball still while I was growing up, and he taught me how to throw a football. He can sing. I kind of patterned a little bit after him. He’s a passionate person, I’m very passionate.
Leland Melvin is a U.S. Astronaut. Originally from Lynchburg, he graduated from the University of Richmond and University of Virginia. He resides in Houston, Texas, although he visits Richmond frequently.
Pete Baltimore: Her Real Life Hero
I never had to rely on the television characters such as Batman and Captain America to find my hero, because for as long as I can remember, my hero has been my daddy, Mr. Pete Baltimore; a man of faith, love, hope, strength, and most importantly, of family!
Even though I am older, I still affectionately call my father “daddy,” as I will always look up to, admire, and respect him for all he is and all he does.
Before his days of retirement from the Pennsylvania State Police, my dad would come home from a long day’s work and tell me and my little sister bear and shark stories that would have us clutching the covers with anticipation of what would happen next and hanging on to every last detail, although the ending of most stories were snores.
We were blessed with a little brother some years later. Daddy is very active in my brother’s life, serving as a baseball coach, Scout master, and supporter of everything my brother is involved in.
When I packed up my truck announcing my decision to move back to Richmond after graduation, I had no job and no apartment, but the desire to establish myself. I was only able to do so with the help, support, prayer and love from my father.
Although I am several states away, and a few years into adulthood, I still look at my father, tilt my head and say, “Aww, Daddy,” in pure admiration, appreciation, and love.
I am so thankful to have such a wonderful man in my life… I love my daddy!
Patrice Baltimore, 23, is a graduate of Virginia Union University. She is a graduate student at VCU.
Wilbert Williams: A Role Model for Celebration of Life, Manhood
by Michael Paul Williams
Originally published June 22, 1992, Copyright Richmond Times-Dispatch, used with permission. Michael Paul Williams is a well-known journalist with the Richmond Times-Dispatch. His columns appear twice weekly.
Dad had his own way of celebrating Father’s Day.
We’d suggest eating out, our treat. He’d respond with a predictable lack of enthusiasm. We can eat better at home, he’d protest.
Dad had a wonderful way with barbecued ribs, sweet potato casserole and his “soul pot” of chitlins and pig’s feet. Dad knew food and was not easily impressed by restaurants. But he’d go along with our Father’s Day program. I surmised later it was for his amusement.
Of course, the restaurant food would be tepid and bland. The service comatose. The check indigestion-inducing.
Dad would reach into his wallet, pull out his credit card and pick up the tab. He’d try to restrain himself, but an “I told you so” would always escape.
I always suspected this moment was the peak of his day.
This Father’s Day was different.
Dad died on March 19, after a nine-month battle with lung cancer. He left a huge void in my life, one that could have easily metastasized into bitterness.
But I’ve come to realize that for 33 years, I was blessed with something missing in an increasing number of African American households – an everyday father who was a positive role model.
I couldn’t celebrate Father’s Day this year. So I’m celebrating my father’s life. Happy Father’s Day, Dad. This one’s for you.
Our culture has tended to celebrate its matriarchs. Somewhere along the way, African American fathers began to take a pounding. Many people fear that black male heads-of-household are an endangered species.
Absentee fathers. Alcoholic fathers. Abusive fathers. Deadbeat fathers. Obviously, the rap sheet against the black male often isn’t a bum rap.
The depressing numbers speak for themselves. Nationally, more than half of black families with children under 18 are held together by women.
As Gov. L. Douglas Wilder said: “Making babies is no act of manhood; rather, the passage into manhood begins with making mature decisions and lifelong commitments, and forming structured, loving families.”
Dad lived commitment. He spent 36 years at Virginia Union University, where he was the director of food service. But he wouldn’t leave for work each morning until he’d fed his two sons breakfast.
Each evening – usually as Walter Cronkite told us the way it was – Dad would return. He’d greet us warmly, jingling his keys and whistling like a thrush. Clearly, he was delighted to be home.
He married Mom, a Korean War widow, in 1957. In the bargain, he inherited a 4-year old son from Mom’s first marriage. Dad’s distribution of love and parental guidance to my brother and me was so evenhanded through the years that biological distinctions blurred into irrelevancy.
When “Pooh” played football for Benedictine High, Dad and I would attend the games each Friday night. As my brother dashed down the sidelines toward another touchdown, no one was prouder than Dad. ‘That’s my boy!” he’d yell, arms upraised in triumph.
“Pooh” and I grew up and left home, but would generally find our way back around mealtime on Sunday evenings.
Even if Dad hadn’t prepared the meal, he was at his best playing the convivial host. Carving the meat, badgering guests into second helpings. Handing me an ice-cold beer as we watched the game.
Dad wasn’t one to impart lessons in a heavy-handed fashion. He wasn’t a lecturer. Didn’t have to be. The examples he set – his love and respect for Mom, his devotion to his job, his Gibraltarlike faith in the face of his illness – were so vivid that a script wasn’t necessary.
In his easygoing, effortless manner, Dad shaped me in his own image. He taught me how to be a man.
I don’t have any children, yet. But that shouldn’t stop me from imparting some of the wealth Dad bestowed. It’s time to give back.
I plan to take a more active role in the shaping of some youngster’s life, perhaps as a Big Brother.
I personally know many African American males who are successful, are gainfully employed, and have never seen the inside of a jail cell. They can serve as fine examples for a youngster in need of their time, wisdom and love. Fractured black families are nothing new. But we have a proud history of extending beyond the boundaries of our bloodlines. Of looking out for each other. It’s another part of our heritage we’d do well to rediscover.
Let’s make Father’s Day a celebration of black manhood fulfilled.
Joseph Souto Amado III: A Brother in Manhood
I have had a lot of dreams and aspirations from the time I was born to the present. When I was 11, I wanted to be an NBA player. When I was 16, I wanted to be the next music mogul, like Russell Simmons. All those years I was searching for the perfect role model. I was blind to the fact that I sat at the same dinner table every night with the man who should have been my role model from the start. When I was a kid, my dad worked a lot and I didn’t get to see him as much as I would have liked too. For a long time I held that against him and our relationship suffered. Now that I am older and beginning to start my own family, I understand why he worked so much. It wasn’t because he wanted to be away from us. It was because he wanted a comfortable life for his family. As a child, you cannot understand that. But now as a man, I understand it very well.
After the passing of my grandfather in 2004, I realized how precious the time with my father really is. He is everything I could ever want to be and more. My only wish is to one day have my child look at me the way I look at my dad. He is my role model, my mentor, my fraternity brother and most of all, my friend. Dad, you’re my hero and I love you.
Joseph Souto Amado IV graduated Radford University with a degree in Marketing. He lives in Richmond and is currently Promotions Director for Radio-One, Inc. who operate 92.1 Jamz, Kiss FM, and Praise Radio. Both he and his father are members of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc.