My friend and teacher, Mae Breckenridge-Haywood is the president of the African American Historical Society of Portsmouth (VA). Over the years, Mae has persevered in capturing and assembling the rich history of the African American experience in the Portsmouth/Norfolk area of our country. While this post isn’t about Mae, I must say that she is testament to what a person can do if she or he sets their mind to doing it.
Mae has just come into possession of a large collection of old photographs and articles of relevance to the Portsmouth area. Lo and behold, she found the picture of Junius Kellogg at what I will call his most “triumphant moment,” when he was given an award for his honesty by the citizenry of Portsmouth in May 1951.
Before continuing on, I need to divert you one more time and have you read the blog on “Pete” Glazer that I recently posted, for there is a direct connection to that post and this one. It was Pete who, behind the scenes, brought the “Junius Kellogg Honesty Day” together.
As I have mentioned in other posts, it was on January 12, 1951 that Junius turned down a bribe of $1,000* from a former player connected to the mob, to shave points in a game against DePaul University on January 16, 1951. He ultimately refused the bribe, was forced to go undercover, and revealed the biggest scandal in the history of collegiate sports. The scandal, and Junius’ role, is covered in depth in the manuscript for “The Man Who Saved Basketball.” The short-hand version was that Junius Kellogg was elevated to national status and celebrity for his courageous and moral stance. He was showered with gifts.
Junius’ fame did not go unnoticed in his hometown of Portsmouth. Pete Glazer, who was a devout Jew, wanted to do something special to honor Junius, and perhaps bring the city together. The city came together and through hundreds of donations raised $1,000. They invited Junius to visit and speak, and much to his surprise, presented him with a $1,000 check. Junius (true to form) immediately turned the check over to his “best girl,” his mother Lucy Williams Kellogg.
Unfortunately, there is no record of Junius’ speech, but undoubtedly it was similar to his speech in front of the student body at Manhattan College on January 17, 1951, when he talked of honesty and how money should not compromise our ethics. Also of interest in that Junius had been called back into the U.S. Army (very briefly) for a second time during the period he spoke. It was at Ft. Meade, not far from Portsmouth, and he must have gotten a pass.
There were two flags on either side of the American flag on the podium. One is obscured in the picture. One flag was the I.C. Norcom High School flag and on the other side, was the Ebeneezer Baptist Church flag. Church and school always carried great meaning for Junius.
*$1,000 in 1951 was roughly equivalent to $10,000 in 2018.