Yesterday, Lincoln Alexander, a Canadian trailblazer and human rights icon passed away at the age of 90. I can’t help but feel that few people lived a more eventful or “impactful” 90 years and for those reasons while it is sad when someone passes, I feel we should definitely celebrate his life and his candour. Any man who lived life honestly, spoke freely and defined hard work by always persevering, has earned the right to be recognized in the many that he already has been (and hopefully will continue to be posthumously. When the opportunity presents itself, make sure that you read his autobiography,”Go to school, you’re a little black boy” or view the documentary with the same title that chronicles how the son of a maid and a porter could go on to become an MP and Lieutenant Governor. In dissecting his story and reflecting on his life its amazing that the place he called home was also home to an athletic icon who himself is living a distinguished life.
Chuck Ealey, who was the focus for Stone Thrower, the fantastic Charles Officer documentary which is part of the TSN Engraved on A Nation series, also achieved racial and professional success in Hamilton. As a young man growing up in Ohio, Ealey was fortunate to end up at a high school where his coach was less concerned with the stigma of a black quarterback and much more concerned with winning. With winning as his focus, he decided he would give Ealey the start and he never looked back. All he did, was lead them to several State Championships. He was recruited to play at the University of Miami BUT as a third string quarterback, so he opted for the University of Toledo where he could start immediately. Toledo lost the last game before Ealey arrived and lost the first game after he graduated but a funny thing happened in between: they went 35-0! The Ealey led Toledo team completed the longest unbeaten streak in Collegiate football history.
Think it was enough to make him an NFL top pick? Nope! Again he was asked to switch positions to either running back, cornerback or wide receiver. Much like Linc did before, he refused to take no for an answer and told NFL teams that if he wasn’t going to play quarterback, they shouldn’t draft him. In the end that brought him to the CFL where he lead the Hamilton Tiger Cats to the 1972 Grey Cup.
In a time when our youth struggle to find appropriate role models and are unsure of where to turn when they need guidance, I’d like to propose these two gentlemen as Canadian heroes. If you feel like there are some obstacles that are standing in your way be it race, sex or economics, look at these two men. They managed to work hard, try their best and when they were told no, work harder. I feel we’ve lost one hero but at a time when we usually look south for black heroes, we can stay right here in Canada and find a two legends who helped build Hamilton.