Leonard Reed

Tough Times
The Entertainer, injury
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Pictures, courtesy of Leonard Reed

Tough Times

Courtesy Leonard Reed

In January of 1937 Leonard was in a serious auto accident while in a car owned by one of the relatives of his friend Joe Louis, the heavy weight. This accident lead to his 4F classification in World War II and therefore to his work with the USO, on tour to entertain troups.

Leonard loves the size of this headline which is much larger (and at the top of the page) than the headline about FDR's second-term inaugeration. The headline is from Saturday, January 23 1937 (the Chicago Defender).

The Orpheum Theater in its heyday. This was the second Orpheum and was constructed around 1900. It was torn down in 1961. Where it stood (1212 Baltimore) radio station KPHN now occupies a front window in that location, next to the Muehlbach hotel. It was from this theater that in 1923 or 1924 Leonard won a Charleston contest.

When the organizers of the contest realized that he was not white they decided not to pay Leonard his prize and instead brought in the strong-arm guys. He grabbed his prize money from the drawer and took off. The contest officials yelled "Catch that nigger!" and people started running to do just that. Of course Leonard was light of skin and the audience had just seen him win the contest. Leonard, running, also started yelling "Catch that n....!" - as he tells the story.

Most of the people running to catch that "n..." assumed they were trying to help Leonard. They asked Leonard, "Which n...?" and Leonard replied, "The one that got my money!" Once he got out of the theater Leonard headed for the train yard and hopped a freight for three days out of town before returning.