One of the rare privileges in my life was when I worked as administrative assistant to J. Raymond Jones, known as “the Harlem Fox.” Ray was at that time NYC’s most powerful politician. Bobby Kennedy came to him to ask his support for his brother’s presidency.
Because he had replaced a corrupt NYC head pol, Carmine DeSapio, who ended up serving time, Ray was assumed to be similarly corrupt. By chance that we were living in a housing project on 125th St. while graduate students, Lyn and I became involved with Ray and his political club, George Washington Carver on 145th St. Lyn and I were the other white couple connected with the club — the first being a money lender. We were held suspect for several years until people realized that we really cared about Harlem and its people. What downtown ‘reformers’ did not realize was that Ray was a reformer. His motto was that Harlem should “get off the plantation.” Most of its pols until Ray had been sell outs to the highest bidders downtown. Such as the NY Times were completely misinformed about Harlem, Ray, etc. and smeared his efforts whenever, but he managed to bring into office there and later some of our leading African American pols — David Paterson’s father, Basil Paterson, David Dinkins, Charlie Rangel and others (how sad to see Charlie in trouble at this late day in his career).
While we were there, Lyn was supported and elected as our Democratic Committee representative. Ray bailed me out with the administrative assistant job the summer between graduate fellowship support and my first teaching job at Vassar.
As such I saw him at work reforming things, saw the misrepresentations of so-called down down reformers (one turned out to be a drug dealer), the lousy media coverage, etc.
One big gaff on my part was that I was among other things supervising some young girls working as volunteers in the office. They loved to sing together while they worked. One day I told them to stop so that I could concentrate — Ugh!
Ray continued on in office and I greatly regretted missing his funeral where he was finally honored properly.
This period was a fascinating part of our life along the way and brought us close ties to Harlem where Lyn contributed greatly until her untimely death last summer. I recommend an impassioned comment on her shortly after her death by our good friend, Michael Adams:
“A war is just if there is no alternative, and the resort to arms is legitimate if they represent your last hope.” (Livy cited by Machiavelli)
Ed Kent [blind copies]