Writer's Note: This is the first of a two-part series about Murfreesboro native son Bobby Glanton-Smith's communications' career in California. Second part will detail his professional association in Hollywood with NFL great Jim Brown and NBA legend Jerry West.
Bobby Glanton-Smith has his feet planted in two worlds.
Today, the author is California cool and walks with the likes of American sports legends Jim Brown and Jerry West.
In a former life, he acknowledges being an illegitimate child back in the "Black Bottom" section of Murfreesboro.
In his recently-released book - "Real Men Don't Play" - the author may not tell it all, but gets close to the bone when it comes to describing what it was like growing up in the Jim Crow South.
He deals with religion: "The Deep South, since time immortal, has been fanatical about two things: Religion and football."
That's where he describes himself and community childhood friend Jerry Anderson, who went on to play in the NFL, as "illegitimate."
"Jerry and I became best of friends out of commonality ... our fathers were absent and we had to deal with indignities attached to 'illegitimate' children," the author stitched back in time. "Both of our grandmothers were hustlers, with very little formal education. Miss Mamie, Jerry's grandmother, operated a small lunch diner out of her home in the 400 block on State Street. My surrogate grandmother, Miss Ann McClellan, operated an after-hours joint that attracted a racially diverse clientele four nights a week. Our mothers were hard-working single parents, and we (Jerry and I) loved playing sports."
It was from that culture, after graduating from Murfreesboro Central High School and MTSU, Bobby moved his talents to the West Coast.
"I'm not a religious man, but I am spiritual and I believe in the work my friend and associate, Jim Brown, is doing with gang members," Bobby shared in a recent interview while visiting friends and family back in Middle Tennessee.
In his book, he describes working with the famous Brown: "There are some things one must not do: You don't pull on Super Man's cape, you don't spit in the wind and you absolutely don't tell Jim Brown what to do with his life.
"I'd watched No. 32 dominate professional football at the peak of his illustrious career in the 1960s," the author wrote in the first chapter of his book. "And I marveled at how he walked away from the game on principle, when the owner of the Cleveland Browns demanded he report to training camp in the summer of 1966 ... while Jim was finishing up an action movie he was starring in out in Hollywood."
Today, Bobby is publicist/editor/author for Amer-I-Can Community News & World Report, a publication helping brand the organization's goal of social change, focusing on helping Los Angeles gang members evolve into productive society.
"Thus, I got the title for this book from Jim Brown, a man's man who doesn't play around," Glanton-Smith explained. "I can bear witness he is a friend to the underdog, a man of principle and compassion, and a real man personified."
In his book, Glanton-Smith also focuses on "local heroes" back home, including Jerry Anderson and George D. Osborne.
More about Osborne: "Although black soldiers have fought and died in practically every war Americans have engaged, we know very little about the men who donned the uniforms. One of those valiant soldiers was my first cousin, George D. Osborne.
"George D. was 6'3" and strikingly handsome. At 18, he had learned to take care of himself and overcome obstacles not of his own making. And for those reasons, he was widely respected in the 'Black Bottom' of Murfreesboro" ... where ... "the colored folks on State Street lived below the poverty line all the way back to the Emancipation Proclamation.
"Everyone in our family especially my grandmother, Mary Irene "Momma Sister" Smith and Uncle Robert Smith, took an interest in George D.," Glanton-Smith accounts.
Although Glanton-Smith loved riding in his Uncle Robert's 1956 Buick, the author described heavy emotions when they drove his cousin to Nashville International Airport.
"I was old enough to know George D. wasn't going on vacation," Glanton-Smith penned. "By 1967, enough blood had been spilled in those (Vietnam) jungles for me to be concerned about my cousin's safety."
Being five years younger than his "boyhood hero," young Glanton-Smith described the devastation he felt when George D. was eventually killed in a Vietnam jungle battle.
"George D. had been on his own since age 8, and worked at Morgan Electric before being drafted in the Army," the author noted. "He planned on marrying his childhood sweetheart, Mary Ann Carter, a great person from an awesome family."
Beside the tarmac at Nashville Airport, was the last place the 13-year-old Glanton-Smith saw his friend, "George D. was more than a cousin; he was my guiding light."
It was after the Viet Cong's 1968 Tet Offensive, which helped turn America's public opinion negative regarding Vietnam that young Glanton-Smith to learn about death being part of life.
"As we drove toward home I couldn't help but notice the inordinate number of cars parked on both sides of State Street," Glanton-Smith shared. "I knew something was wrong."
His childhood role-model had died in battle.
"I had shed tears 11 months earlier at Nashville Airport ... but when we walked into the funeral home to view the body, it hit me like a ton of bricks," Glanton-Smith added. "George D. was really dead. I'd been holding out that a mistake had been made. When I made it to the flag-draped coffin, my heart sank."
Like millions of other Americans in that era, young Glanton-Smith developed anger and concern about innocent young Americans losing lives in Vietnam.
"Others from Murfreesboro had returned in body bags, but there is just as much collateral damage ... the living dead who can't recover from wartime experiences ... Vietnam was an undeclared war, that produced nothing but pain, suffering and dissension across the United States!"
In the book's foreword he explains the motivation to write his first of multiple-planned books.
"I've known and interacted with men from every conceivable walk of life, from the famous to the infamous, from highly-skilled to the salt-of-the-earth. One thing all these men had in common was integrity - they said what they meant and meant what they said.
"Growing up in the Deep South in the 1950s, I watched real men fight for the right to be treated with dignity and respect. I wrote 'Real Men Don't Play' in order to give subsequent generations models of possibility for personal and professional development."
The writer devoted an entire chapter to the life of Murfreesboro football legend Jerry Anderson, focusing on his brief stardom in the NFL, and ultimately, giving his life to save the lives of two young people.
"The 1971 Murfreesboro Central High Tigers was a masterpiece football team ... the team went 13-0 ... second team players on that team received full athletic scholarships ... the team won the state championship by defeating Memphis Melrose High 36-0," Glanton-Smith wrote describing glory days at old Murfreesboro Central.
He noted Central players, such as Carl Watkins, Pierre Lyons, Terry Sneed, Luther Allen, Sonny Anderson, (twins) Leo and Cleo Martin, Donnie Howse and "some of the toughest white boys to ever step on a football field ... David Alsup, David Parsons, Donnie Bradden, Tim Hagler, Buddie Miller and Mike Damascus. The run to the championship was a juggernaut!"
"Jerry (Anderson) didn't have great speed ... he compensated for his lack of jet propulsion by mastering angles, a brilliant football mind, the meanness of a junkyard dog, and uncanny nose for the football," assessed the author about his childhood close friend.
After attending Tennessee State University briefly, Anderson walked on at Oklahoma, where he became a star and eventual NFL draft choice by the NFL Cincinnati Bengals.
In his book - "The Bootlegger's Boy" - Oklahoma Head Coach Barry Switzer described Anderson's play: "He was the toughest, most physical defensive back I ever coached."
When Anderson made the Bengals' squad, the author and Central High teammate Carl Watkins often went to see Jerry Anderson in games. That was the year the underdog Bengals beat Terry Bradshaw, Franco Harris, Lynn Swann and John Stallworth and other Pittsburgh Steelers in the Super Bowl.
But Anderson's time with the Bengals was cut short a season later in a dispute with Bengal management. He later played in Canada and for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, where a shoulder injury ended his pro career.
"I'd stayed in touch with Jerry over the years, and invited him to come out and hang out with me in California, when I learned he was having emotional problems," Glanton-Smith accounted. "Jerry was having trouble adjusting to life after football."
Then, tragedy struck!
"I was awakened early May 28, 1989, by phone calls from Murfreesboro telling me that Jerry was dead," Glanton-Smith detailed. "On May 27th, he'd taken some kids fishing in the rain-swollen Stones River. When he heard the desperate cries of two boys caught in swirling waters, Jerry Sprang into action. Without hesitation, Jerry dove into the raging waters and retrieved one of the boys. Exhausted, he nonetheless went back in the water, and steered the other boy to safety. When Jerry attempted to exit the river, he was sucked under by a rip tide and never surfaced."
Jerry Anderson's drowning happened five years to the day after he'd saved three boys in Oklahoma from drowning.
"Jerry died as he had lived," his lifelong friend and author wrote in summation. "He was always the one on the front line, standing up when others sat down. I'm proud to have known him as a friend."