A Cautionary Story

By Eric D. Graham
Updated: April 18, 2008

Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise.

– Proverbs 20:11

NORTH CAROLINA — NBA All-Star Carmelo Anthony was arrested Monday April 14 on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol hours after his worst game of the season.

After his arrest, Anthony quickly apologized to his fans, teammates and the Denver Nuggets organization for his immaturity and poor judgment. Carmelo, however is extremely lucky because his decision to drink and drive could have ended tragically like North Carolina news anchor Tolly Carr.

Carr, a graduate of Winston-Salem State University, was a local celebrity of sorts and a rising star in the field of sports broadcasting. His career in broadcasting started at WSNC-FM 90.5, where he became the voice of WSSU Rams football and basketball upon graduating.

Even though Carr was not a Mass Communication major, everybody in the department knew after hearing his voice and viewing his poise in front of the camera that he would evidently end up on CNN or ESPN.

After working as a Sports Reporter for the NBC affiliate WXII for seven years, Carr rose up in the ranks to become the morning news anchor. But despite Carr’s rise to fame on March 11, 2007 after a night drinking with his friends, he was arrested on DWI charges for hitting and killing a pedestrian.

According to Winston-Salem police, Carr drove his Ford pickup through a construction zone, running off the road, hitting and killing 26-year-old Casey Bokhoven.

The police reported that Carr’s blood alcohol content was 0.13 percent four hours after the wreck. In North Carolina, it is illegal to drive with a blood content of 0.8 percent or higher.

Instantly, due to Carr’s poor decision, his promising future and prestigious position as a morning news anchor was over. Why didn’t he just have someone drive him home? I ask myself.

Ironically, the same news station that hired Carr as their morning news anchor now had to report his tragic story on television. Tolly’s story seemed like a weird episode from the Twilight Zone.

This story couldn’t be true. I tried to convince myself. Someone must be spreading lies and vicious rumors, I tried to rationalize. I say this because Tolly Carr was one of my closest college friends.

He always told me that he refused to be a failure in life. I remember, working as a campus tour guide for new freshman recruits for the Admission Office as a sophomore showing Carr and his mother around campus before he decided to attend Winston-Salem State.

Carr and I instantly clicked as he shared where he was from and how he was raised by his grandmother. I always took pride in the fact that I had been somewhat influential in his decision on choosing Winston-Salem State as a school that would later launch his career.

After graduation Carr and I even rode together to Washington, D.C. to attend a job fair at Howard University hoping to impress some news department with our resumes.

He nor I was hired by any company that day, but we convinced ourselves on our way to D.C. that we were going to be successful. That’s why I was so proud when Carr finally got hired at WXII.

I loved watching his sports coverage as well as hearing his voice on the radio station while he worked at WKBC-FM 97.3 in Greensboro.His work ethic was inspiring because even while on-air, he would occasionally give me a wake-up call so I would not over sleep.

He was always a telephone call away anytime I needed help. I only wished that I was still in Winston-Salem on the night of the accident so I could have been a telephone call away for him.

Tolly’s DWI case did not just affect me, it saddened the entire staff and student body of Winston-Salem State as well as the whole community of Winston-Salem. Everybody loved Tolly.

His DWI case was the hot topic on the local news and in the barbershops as former classmates and people in general, debated whether he should go to jail or how much time he should receive.

Race and class became an issue in this DWI case because Carr, who was Black accidentally killed Casey Bokhoven, who was white. Many in the city felt Carr would receive celebrity favoritism due to his prestigious position he held as a news anchor at WXII while others simply stated “if he did the crime; he must do time.”

Carr, however accepted his faith and pleaded guilty to the charges of felony death by motor vehicle, felony serious injury by vehicle and DWI. On August 13, 2007, Carr’s tragic story came to end, when a judge sentenced him to 25 to 39 months in jail for the death of Bokhoven.

He also received a prison sentence for injuring a passenger in his vehicle, but the sentence was suspended for five years, meaning it will not be enforced if he stays out of trouble.

After receiving his sentence, Tolly in a handwritten letter wrote these words:

“I support the decision rendered by Judge Smith and I look forward to serving my debt to society. I hope to emerge from prison a better man whose number one propriety is to contribute to society.”

“Please forgive me. To everyone hearing these words, if you elect to drink, please don’t drive. You have everything to lose and nothing to give.”