Interview with Edwin Pope

OK, Mr. Pope, tell me a little bit about your background, ah, with particular interest and emphasis on your family's perceptions and assumptions about Black people especially sports figures, and give me that Joe Louis story that I mentioned to you earlier.


Joe Louis won the heavyweight championship when I was about, ah, 11 years old and growing up in, in Athens, Georgia and just really getting into the newspaper business. I, ah, remember by first salary in the newspaper business was two 11-cent movie passes a week. And that probably contrasts with what Joe Louis earned from the heavyweight championship and what today's champions earn. In any case, Joe Louis was my first real sports hero and he was also my father's real, true sports hero. My father never went out of the house at night, but he listened to the radio for all of Joe Louis' fights and I felt that, ah, we were sort of united in this bond that we had with Joe Louis. But as soon as I graduated from the University of Georgia, went to work for United Press in Atlanta one of the first interviews I had was Joe Louis, who was then on a, sort of exhibition tour, after coming out of the army, and I had my picture taken with Joe Louis at the Atlanta airport, beautiful picture. I was very proud of it. Took it back over to Athens, showed it to my father. He was absolutely outraged. Told me not to come back in the house again as long as I had that picture. And I really, had a very difficult time with it. I couldn't understand how idolizing him as a sports hero he could, ah, draw that perception that it was wrong for me to be standing there beside him because he was White, he was Black and I was White. Ah, eventually it, ah, it was all settled in our household but it was very tough for, for my father as well as for me because that was the way he'd grown up. That wasn't the way I had grown up. But that was the way he'd grown up and I had to try to understand that.