The 1st African-American Champion Race Car Driver

I saw a movie about the 1st black race car champion driver a few years back that starred Richard Pryor called 'Greased Lightning'. It is the story of America's 1st black race car champion Wendell Scott. This was recently brought back to my attention by an advertisement for this same movie that is to come on TV-One this Saturday. I brushed up up my history of this great sports hero by doing a little research and again, this man and his story fits neatly into what I am doing with the Marshall Taylor Project. Scott was the 1st, and only African-American then and only, to date to accomplish this great feat! He won dozens of races during long and storied career and one NASCAR Event and finished in the top ten an amazing 147 times. This feat was so admirable because he was always working on a very tight budget, didn't have the best pit crews and numerous other challenges because no one really wanted to sponsor a black Race Car driver.

Like Marshall 'Major' Taylor, he had to contend with racism but he overcame the odds. Like Taylor, one of his wins was snatched from him by the judges awarding the win to one of his well known white rivals during an event. NASCAR did do the right thing a few days later by reversing the decision of the judges after irrefutable evidence of Scott's win. Scott, like Taylor many years before him had to overcome the many obstacles that went along with being the 1st and only black in a major sport to compete. There were racers who wanted him to fail at every turn and even conspired to bring about his failure but he kept on pushing and experienced great success as a stock car driver!

Pioneering blacks in American sports were men of vision and one thing they all shared in common was a love for their chosen sport and the will to succeed despite incredible odds. I marvel at the likes of Tiger Woods, Major Taylor, Wendell Scott, Jack Johnson, Arthur Ashe and others were true visionaries within the black community. After you read this, I want all of you to take a moment to reflect and research the careers of some of the African-American community's greatest and least talked about sports heroes. Without them, the groundwork for the mega sports stars of today would never have been laid and more importantly, the can do attitude of an entire community may never have existed! PLEASE CLICK ON THE LINK BELOW FOR MORE OF SCOTT'S STORY.


It's Jimi Hendrix Baby

On last night I watched a movie that detailed the life of Rock Star Jimi Hendrix who was big in the 1960's rock scene. Unfortunately, as is the case with to many famous rock stars in the past 40 years, he died of by smothering himself in a drug induced sleep. He said something in the movie very profound. That statement was "Fame and happiness don't seem to be the same thing, I'm missing something." Jimi seemed to be what we would refer to as eccentric. His thought process had him on a whole other level than most of the rock stars of his time and he was named the #1 Guitar player in a list of top 100 of all time.

Because Jimi was doing something very different than any other African-American artist at the time, he was the subject of much ridicule from many blacks. He was called a 'Sell-Out' and many other negative things because of his style. I can never tell any of you how much this type of labeling infuriates me! I won't go into that because that particular issue isn't relevant to this blog, but what I will say is that all of you may not fit into the nice little box that those people around you try and put you in. To you I say, be like who God made you to be (God didn't make any of yall to be drug addicts and don't bother with the 'Weed is from the Earth argument). It may be an eccentric, you may do some things that others will find strange and ultimately ridicule you for. Do not be discouraged, be encouraged with the thought of, "Wow, I am a pioneer!" Although Marshall Taylor was idolized in his day by many blacks, there were those that thought he 'Didn't know his place' much like Jimi Hendrix.

Again, I was fascinated by the fashions that Jimi wore and was known for, in his honor, I am working on a design with psychedelic colors and various materials for a high fashion look. I may even design some rims with funked out colors instead of staying within the chrome arena. My project is coming along with the recopy of all of my designs on a large sketchpad. Unfortunately, some of my early designs won't be recopied and I am just going to put them in a vault because after giving it a 2nd look, I realize that those particular designs just aren't as funky as I originally thought. I have just finished drawing all my handle bar 'Samples' and Rim design samples and next up are the sprocket and pedal samples. I am so excited today because as I keep sketching, I again realize how many years I have missed out on because unlike Jimi, I listened to the crowd and tried to fit in. Don't be like me!


What an Opportunity!!!

I was recently meditating on the sheer magnitude of what it is I envision doing with this project. What an enormous burden to resurrect such a great icon from yester year as Marshall 'Major' Taylor. The burden of resurrecting a legacy of a forgotten sports hero should be handled very delicately and not rushed into without thinking of all the ramifications. I have personally read the Autobiography written by Major Taylor himself and the biography written by Andrew Ritchie withmajthe help of Taylor's daughter, Sydney (named after Sydney, Australia where Taylor was treated with the utmost respect and color wasn't an issue) in 1988.

Taylor's Autobiography, written with his own pen, presents a man that had many struggles on the Bicycle Race Track because of his race. Although the book, titled 'The Fastest Bicycle Racer in the World', was poorly written, through the pages of his book, I found him to be a very dignified man whose ceaseless focus was to overcome all obstacles thrown in his way regardless of the personal cost to him. He rarely spoke of his family or how his post racing days affected his outlook on life. A broader more objective look was given to Taylor by Andrew Ritchie in his 1988 Biography of Taylor called "The Extraordinary Career of a Champion Bicycle Racer." After alot of research that stretched from the United States to France and Australia, interviews with Taylor's only child, Sydney, I gained much more appreciation for Taylor than I derived from his own writings. Taylor's writings, while a few struggles with other riders were mentioned, painted a very rosy picture of his career while Ritchie's writings gave much more detail.

What I found of particular interest in Ritchie's book that Taylor never addressed was around 1907-1910 when Taylor's career was winding down and he no longer was the best of the best (age started to catch up with him) how he struggled and felt incredibly insecure about not making as much in prize money as he used to and his worries (indicated in letters to his wife Daisy) about wanting to buy his wife nice things but he could no longer do so because he wasn't winning as much as he had just 4 years earlier. After his 2nd retirement from racing in 1910, he really struggled to adapt because he was no longer traveling the world and was forced to be at home with his family. He started getting depressed and would isolate himself, within his house, from his wife and daughter.

I said all of that to say this, my project of presenting Marshall Taylor to the world is going to present the man as dignified, driven, a pioneer, and as the greatest African-American sports hero of all-time. Taylor did something no other African-American in the history of the world had done, become a World Champion Bicycle racer which was an all white sport at the time, he integrated a major sports team (bicycle racing) at a time when integrating anything in this country was unheard of! Marshall Taylor Bicycles is going to do what no other bicycle company has done, that is to totally capture the inner-city consumer through bicycle design and decor that speaks directly to their culture. It will be done with the class and dignity that personified the man, Marshall 'Major' Taylor.