In Loving Memory

Brad McMillan

Brad McMillan

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06/05/14 11:46 PM #1    

Brenda Kay Monroe (Moses)

I first remember Brad from Miss Emma Inman Williams last period American History turning around occasionally and rolling his eyes at me.  I'm not sure now, buI think Miss Williams had the class sitting in alphabetical order.  I don't recall him saying a discouraging word to me, but mostly I remember his fuil head of hair.

I probably came to know him better than any member of the class after he moved back to Jackson to his family home not far from mine.  He invited me over.  A few months later I took him up on it and called to see when it might be convenient to come by.  I had purchased a small recorder to tape our conversation as a resource for some writing I was planning to do about my Jackson High days.

We sat in the kitchen and I told him about my project and he gave permission to tape it.  I was surprised that he encouraged me about the significance of what I was undertaking.  I thought it would be a series of tapes, but it would be the first and the only one because he died 5 months later.  A phone call interrupted us which turned out to have been the real reason God put us together for such a time as this - to work together to solve some problems for an 18 year old black male.  Brad had a heart for this special needs individual and I had the skills to get done what he had not been able to accomplish.  It took some time, but we got it done.

After graduation Brad attended college in Memphis where he said "My ideas began to change about race."  His dad was a segregationist, but his mother was more open-minded due in large part to the special relationship she had with Mrs. Sylvesta Bishop who was my family's neighbor around the corner on Hunt St.  Mrs. Bishop was older and had 10 children, the ninth one, Ella Mae, Brad's age and my classmate at Merry High.  Mrs. Bishop worked for and practically raised the 3 McMillan boys.  They loved her dearly and vice versa. 

Om April 3, 1968 Brad and 3 of his senior college classmates travelled across town to Mason Temple Church, entered a back door and climbed up on some equipment to see and hear Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. deliver what was to be his last speech, "I've been to the Mountaintop...".  The next day Dr. King was assasinated and Brad described in great detail how Memphis was transformed into something like a war zone.  I never was in Dr. King's presence, but the news accounts of his leadership often on the TV news inspired me to do another day in isolation at Jackson High.  Brad's account  somehow made us kindred spirits. 

After college he returned to Jackson and became one of the first white teachers at Merry High where he met my mother who taught Social Studies. "I was afraid of her," Brad quipped.  "You and all the students who dared not to cross her." I added. 

Charged with the responsibility of teaching literature to black students from textbooks that held no offerings written by African-Americans, Brad requested and received approval for supplemental resources of this nature from Superintendent Stanley, the former Jackson High principal.  He also took some of his students on a 'field trip' to the Jackson Coliseum to hold court during school hours with entertainer James Brown who was in town for an evening performance. 

 He abandoned his education career after 3 years to pursue his artistic talent path.  It worked out for him and he became a prolific political cartoonist.  In Texas he spent some of his career working for African-American newspapers.  From time to time he would come home for exhibitions of his art.

He was widowed before his 2 younger children were grown and the year before he died his mother's was seriously injuired in an auto accident while he was driving.  Her hip was shattered.  He was broken-hearted again.  He wasn't taking very good care of himself.  I think he died of a broken heart..  I admired him for his talent and the courage to take the road less traveled.

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