A Very American Coup By Michael – Louis Ingram, Editor-in-Chief...
The Judge Has Passed
HOUSTON — Lloyd Wells, a man who loved athletics, especially the Black athlete, recently passed away. He accomplished a number of firsts during his nearly 80 years of life. He was a member of the first football team at Texas Southern University.
He was the first Black to be a full-time scout with the Kansas City Chief football team. He was one of the first Blacks to present all-star football and basketball games featuring Black youth who couldn’t participate in other such games because of the color of their skin. That happen in 1950s and 1960s Texas.
During his time he also worked a sports reporter for the Houston Informer and Houston Forward Times Newspapers. He also had a photography businesss in Houston at one time. Also during the 1970s he worked for Muhammad Ali during his reign as “The Greatest”. He would do the same for boxing champion Tommy “Hitman” Hearns in the 1980s.
The Marine sergeant who fought in World War II and the Korean War loved sports. He loved watching great athletes. Some of his most enjoyable moments were in sporting arenas and stadiums.
Wells was always fighting for black athletes. He was also in other fights. Thru his columns in black newspapers in the early 1960s he wrote of segregated seating at Houston Oiler football games. His efforts eventually led the Oilers to drop such practices.
In the early 1960s he developed relationships with several athletes that would be life lasting. One was with Otis Taylor. The great wide receiver would lead the Kansas City Chiefs to a Super Bowl win over Minnesota in 1969. Wells met Taylor in Houston when the young athlete was a student of Houston Worthing High. Taylor went on to become an All-American at Prairie View A&M University.
During the early 1960s the American Football League and the National Football League were at war for players and fans. Before they merged Wells would prove to be one of the most valuable men in the battles.
His legacy was getting many of the top Black players to sign with the Kansas City Chiefs and the AFL. Taylor was one of his biggest catches. The Dallas Cowboys thought they were about to line Taylor up with Bob Hayes as their receiving duo. But in steps Wells, and Taylor joined Kansas City. During his tenure as a scout with the Chiefs, Wells signed many all-pro and future Hall of Famers.
“Lloyd was one of the main reasons we were in the first Super Bowl and won the fourth one,” the late Hank Stram, the head football of the coach in that era, said many times. “He was out of sight. Without him we don’t make it.”
Backing up a moment, the impact of Wells on the Houston scene in regard to sports in the 1950s and 1960s should be discussed more.Houston and most of Texas were practicing racism in that period of time with prep sports. Wells organized some of the greatest high school all-star games in the history of Texas.
With whites refusing to allow black athletes in their games, Wells showcased many top players.He invited many of the top names in sports including college coaches from the North, East, and West who recruited blacks. These games sparked the legacy of Wells and he was one of the most respected black men in sports because of it.
One of the stars of the Wells promoted prep all-star games was David “Big Daddy” Lattin, another Houston Worthing High graduate. Lattin, who looked at Wells as a father figure, would go on to become a key player at Texas Western University, now the University of Texas El Paso.
He would be part of a national championship team that was the first to start five black players. Their victim in the 1966 NCAA cage finale was the University of Kentucky coached by the racist Adolph Rupp.
“He was a close friend, like a father, a mentor,” Lattin remarked of Wells after learning of his death. “I could talk to him about anything in regard to wisdom. I learned how to dress, how to deal with people from him. I learned everything from him.”
Gene Kilroy first met Wells in their travelings in the NFL. Kilroy worked in the front office of the Philadelphia Eagles. Later in the 1970s Kilroy reccomended that Ali hire Wells and both were off to some of the greatest years of their lives.
“He was like a brother,” Kilroy says now. “He would come to Las Vegas to see me many times and I lived in his home in Houston’s Fifth Ward on Chew Street. Many times I would meet people and tell them I lived in that part of Houston and they thought I was lying because white people didn’t live there. But with him and I ,it wasn’t about color or race. It was about two men who loved each other. I loved the man.”
With Ali and Hearns, Wells would shoot video of their workouts and offer advice on just about all matters. During the latter 1970s with Ali and the early 1980s with Hearns, the “Judge” got a chance to see the world. When he returned from his trips to some of the most beautiful places in the world he would share photographs with many of his friends.
One could write for weeks about Wells and his exploits over the years. He had a reputation of loving beautiful women. In his travels he loved photography and pursuing beautiful women. “Hey some people drink, others gamble, I love women,” he would say many times.
In his final years he lived at a retirement home. Wells had a chance to do a lot of remembering. A nurse there shared seeing him lying on his bed one day. Tears were rolling down his face. He was talking as if he was making peace with God she recalled. She heard him say, “Thanks for the memories”.
Yes, thanks for the memories “Judge!” Like all of us you weren’t perfect but you did a lot of good during your time.You will be remembered by those you touched over the years. Rest in peace!