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Warrior Wilbert 'Bill' Tatum: 1933-2009

ALTON H.MADDOX JR. | 4/12/2011, 4:39 p.m.

David N. Dinkins' mayoralty stood on the shoulders of Bill Tatum and the United African Movement. Within 72 hours of Hawkins' assassination, United African Movement was in the streets of Bensonhurst. Mayor Rudolph Giuliani would retaliatorily unleash his bloodhounds against United African Movement and the Freedom Party in 1994.

Tatum had already been warming up, however. On Nov. 28, 1987,Tawana Brawley was found after she had been kidnapped and raped in Dutchess County by law enforcement agents, including Steven Pagones and Harry Crist Jr. Dutchess County had compromised its authority to investigate Brawley's complaint.

When State Attorney General Robert Abrams, instead of a Dutchess County grand jury, declared Brawley's claim a "hoax," many Blacks jumped ship, including all Black politicians. Tatum remained steadfast in his belief that the investigation into Brawley's complaint was a state-sponsored cover-up. His pen did the talking for him. "Scottsboro Boys" would revisit New York City in April 1989.Six Black and Latino youth would be indicted for the rape of the Central Park jogger. The news media had refused to publish the name of this white rape victim although the news media had no qualms about publishing the full name of 15-year-old Tawana Brawley.

Since Bill was never "too swift" and was unable to understand or obey white commands, he let the cat out of the bag. The name of the Central Park jogger was "Patricia Meili. "Tatum made this revelation even though his newspaper depended on white ads.

For all other Black leaders and politicians in New York City, "he who pays the piper calls the tune"is the mantra. Tatum was a breath of fresh air. No Black politicians would stand with me in my struggle to secure reinstatement to practice law by showing that I had been framed and rail-roaded.

Black-oriented commercial radio has admitted that I am persona non grata in New York City, even though no other Black person has been more openly defiant against white supremacy since Cong. Adam Clayton Powell Jr. In recent times, no other person has shown greater sacrifice. Knowing that my association with any media outlet would be a threat to white advertising, Tatum, nonetheless, believed that my voice should be a part of any discussion in the public square. This was a man who could admire the courage in others to fight white supremacy.

No other commercial media organization in New York City would touch me with a 10-foot pole. It is of greater interest that Tatum and I never discussed any of my writings in his newspaper. He simply promised that as long as he was alive, I had space in his newspaper to express my unadulterated opinions. He kept his promise. Even before Bill made his promise that my voice should be heard in the public square, he had asked me to assist his daughter, Elinor Tatum, the heir of the paper. Bill was about to embark on a trip to Europe for a major operation. For more than a decade afterwards, he was able to help his beloved daughter. Fathers especially love their daughters, and Bill was no exception.