Thanks again to Doug Henderson Jr for giving me permission to share a second passage from his book, Endeavor to Persevere, with the readers of this blog. As I noted in Jackie at the Apollo, one of the first entries in this blog, Doug has been a lifelong admirer of Jackie Wilson. In this anecdote, as with the earlier one, Doug’s sister Effie has taken him to the Apollo to see Jackie. At the time, Doug was a few months shy of his tenth birthday.
In November of 1967, I went to see Jackie at the Apollo with Effie. I was in the cadets (a young person’s version of the military) and proudly wore my Marine uniform that day. In the middle of his show, Jackie sat on a stool at the edge of the stage, talking to the audience between songs and signing autographs, while introducing “Danny Boy.” As he dedicated the song to the troops fighting in Vietnam, I asked my sister for a piece of paper so that I could get his autograph. After rummaging through her pocketbook, all she could find was the back of one of her blank checks. She promptly tore it off from her checkbook. I anxiously took it and made a beeline to the stage. As I approached, I caught Jackie’s eye. Staring straight at me, he proclaimed to the Apollo audience, “Here comes the soldier boy.” I handed him the piece of paper and, as he was about to sign it, he hesitated. Turning it over and seeing that it was a check, he laughed, and with his sweat dripping down on the back of the check, autographed it. It is now framed, and proudly hanging on my living room wall—sweat drops and all.
Doug’s thoughtful and thought-provoking book, which explores the question of how excellence is achieved, is available as an e-book from Amazon. The full title is Endeavor to Persevere: A Memoir on Jimmy Connors, Arthur Ashe, Tennis and Life.