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Back from an Hawaiian paradise vacation...

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God bless you and aloha.

On this marvelous Monday, one week before my 65th birthday, five weeks after my

40th wedding anniversary and one day before the 36th anniversary of my employment

with the Chicago Sun-Times, my wife Joyce and I are wrapping up a 16-day Hawaiian


We spent it on the island of O'ahu, the most popular and populous of the Hawaiian

islands that comprise our nation's 50th state, and the location of Honolulu, the state's


This is the way we had planned, as early as last year, to celebrate our 40th

anniversary. And when I was diagnosed to be suffering from brain cancer, prostate

cancer and end-stage congestive heart failure in early April, the way I felt then with a bad

heart that moved doctors to tell me I needed a heart transplant, I had some serious

doubts about whether we could make good on a trip for which we had already paid.

But thanks to my faith in Jesus, prayer and God's grace, I recovered sufficiently

from serious shortness of breath, extreme fatigue, back and groin pains to treat Joyce to

her favorite vacationplace as a bribe to stay with me a little longer.

During our vacation here, I was honored to receive a Sam Lacy Pioneer award

from the National Association of Black Journalist, when it held its annual convention in

Chicago in late July. Gayle Sayers, my Kansas University classmate, and former White

Sox great Minnie Minoso also received a similar award for our achievements as pioneers

in our respective specialties.

When my father, the late Rev. A.D. Banks Sr., moved our family from Mississippi to

Kansas City, Kan., in 1956, it opened up new opportunities for my sisters and brothers

and I as refugees from the the racism and poverty that we suffered living in Mississippi.

And although I did not attend an integrated school in my life until I went to the University

of Kansas, I was blessed to received some of the finest education offered anywhere

when I was a student at all-black Northeast Junior High school and Sumner High School

in KCK.

As a student at KU in the early '60s, I was part of a period of great change and

tremendous racial, social, professional and political progress in America. In those

sensational Sixties, it meant something to be the first black this or that in something of


Before I graduated from KU with a BA in French, I forged, among other things, this

accomplishments that were great honors in the black community:

* I was the first black boy governor of Kansas in the state's annual student

government day when it allowed high school YMCA organizations throughout the state to

take over the state capitol in Topeka

* I was president of KU's largest student organization, the KU-Y

* I sang professionally one summer at Kansas City's Starlight Theater, that city's

summer Ravinia, as part of the chorus in the Jerome Kern broadway musical "Showboat"

* I played the lead role of Walter in the KU production of "Raisin in the Sun"

* I sang in the school's concert choir

* I was one of 12 American Hi-Y members to represent YMCAs across the nation in

the 1964 International Workshop Seminar, where we worked with Japanese students in

Omuta, Japan, and Chinese student in Hong Kong, building recreation camps for

impoverish children in those countries.

Then in the first semester of my senior year, I was invited to meet with the editors of

the Kansas City Star newspaper and asked, "How would you like to be the Jackie

Robinson of the Kansas City Star?"

I accepted the job offer to be the first black reporter at that proud paper, got a

scholarship from the paper to help me finish my education at KU to graduate on time and

worked a year for them before I applied for the U.S. Navy's Officer Candidate School in

Newport, R.I., during the Vietnam War, got accepted, graduated, received a commission

as a Navy officer (ensign) and served a three-assignment as a Navy information officer

and public relations teacher at the Department of Defense Information School at Ft.

Benjamin Harrison, Ind.

While in the Navy, I also became the first black reporter to work for the Indianapolis

Star and the Indianapolis News. Then after working three years as sports editor of Ebony

magazine, I was hired by former Sun-Times editors James Hoge and Ralph Ortwell to

become the paper's first black sportswriter in 1972.

Except for a brief setback, when I was fired for charging racial discrimination in

1975, and spent 13 months in arbitration to get my job back, my career with the

Sun-Times has been the greatest blessing of my professional life. Most people don't

realize that I had to weather some early abuse as the first black reporter in Sun-Times

sports because I was hired to replace a white predecessor, who, along with his friends,

took great offense and a lot of rude things to try to get me to quit. The fact that my

precedessor was also our department's union shop steward made matters worse. On

one occasion, I was called "black bastard" and on another occasion "stupid black son of

a b----" by fellow workers.

But those were the exceptions, not the rule. On the grand whole, I have been

blessed to work for and with some of the finest professionals and some of the best

human beings in the world.

During my career, the stellar likes of Michael Wilbon (Washington Post and ESPN),

Stephen Smith (ESPN), Roscoe Nance (USA Today), J.A. Adande (LA Times and ESPN),

David Aldridge (ESPN) and so many others grew up reading me and honoring me by

calling me one of their mentors.

The NABJ took these and other thins into consideration when they chose to honor

me with the Sam Lacy Award. Getting the award with Sayers is extra special because he

and I arrived on the KU campus the very same day back in the summer of 1961 and I

made it a point to leave Templin Dormitory and go over to the steps of the school library

and introduce myself to him when I heard that this "great new football player" was

holding court. Then when I got out of the Navy, I resumed my professional journalism

career here in Chicago, where he likewise was forging his legend as one of pro football's

greatest running backs ever.

Yes, it thrills me to know that our younger successors remember and honor those of

us who went before them just as we remembered and honored the pioneers who went

before us. Never did I realize that being a relic could become so rewarding. I am also

grateful to Clay Zettler for the fine story he wrote about me for the NABJ's special

convention publication, which you can also read by calling up this link


My youngest daughter, Natasha Sarah-Loraine Banks, received the special plaque

for me a gave a wonderful acceptance speech. I also taped one voicing my gratitude and


Meantime, in Hawaii, Joyce and I enjoyed a sublime time at the J.W. Marriott Hotel in

Kapolei, a west suburb of Honolulu. Thanks especially to the efforts of reservations

manager Michelle Reyes and concierge Pat Radona, and a staff of seeming thousands

under the superb direction of general manager Dan Banchiu, Joyce and I received red

carpet treatment at one of the world best hotels.

Partly because of my time-honored status of Platinum Elite lifetime in Marriott's

Honored Guest Award program, Joyce and I were upgraded to an eleventh-floor,

oceanfront junior suite that afforded us a broad, paradisaical view of the Pacific ocean

and some of the sweetest sunsets you'll find in the world.

This category-seven, Marriott hotel is an engineering and architectural wonder of the

world. There are many other oceanfront properties one can enjoy. But precious few, if

any, like this J.W. Marriott Ihilani. It abuts a beautiful sandy lagoon on one front and a

rocky shore on another in manners that afford oceanfront rooms not only breathtaking

views, but an acoustical oasis, where inhabitants can hear the soothing serenade of the

sea ceaselessly. Almost every night, I'd go out on my lanai to smell the fragrance and

savor the sonorous sounds of the sea and wind rendering a delectable duet that is most

delicious to my ears.

Few pleasures provide such magnificent music as the sound of a sea's waves

splashing, smashing and slashing against rocky shores. They give you that swishing and

swashing sound that relieves tensions, soothes sorrows, calms mental chaos and erases

emotional stress. Often, Joyce and I slept with my sliding doors open to allow us to hear

the ocean all nightlong.

Except for my agonizing incontinence issues, associated with my prostate cancer and

the radioactive seeds treatments, Joyce and I enjoyed perhaps our best vacation to date.

God bless you.

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Good morning. Speaking for the rest of us, we sure did miss you. So glad you guys had such a wonderful trip to such a wonderful place. Another opportunity to marvel at God's handiwork. Stay in prayer as we continue praying for your complete recovery. He is still on the throne!

Banks' response: Thanks Gwen for your kind words. Yes, Hawaii not just pleased my body but blew my mind in terms of increasing my appreciation for the goodness and wonders of our God. I never cease to be impressed with the way God built the awesome oceans, the snow-capped mountains, the verdant valleys, the flaming suns and glowing moons that decorate the universal skies. Yes, I marveled at the silver shimmers of the ocean's surface at twilight. I marveled at the island's beautiful flowers, birds and fish. But especially pleasant for me was the blend of Hawaii's sweet mixture of people. What an ethnic melting pot you'll find in our 50th state. And I thank God for allowing my wife and me to be healthy enough to enjoy these priceless splendors. Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised and let the redeemed of the Lord say so.

Aloha Dad. I'm glad to hear your much needed vacation was very relaxing.

Banks' response: Thanks, Nickie, for your prayers and especially for having each of

your four grandchildren of mine to call and wish me a "happy birthday" individually.

Nina stole the spotlight by singing the greeting to me.

I was just recently diagnosed with non-small cell Lung cancer which has already begun to metastasize to my lymph glands. I haven't been capable of thinking a 'happy' thought since the diagnosis - particularly since I lost a 17 year old daughter to Leukemia several years ago and also lost a 47 year old brother to nasal/pharyngeal carcinoma a couple of years ago as well. Then, I read your column and felt your spirit and actually felt 'happy' that you and your beloved had a good time despite the apparent suffering that you're enduring. Think of yourself as an inspiration to strangers - a great gift.

Banks' response: I pray that God blesses you with the same complete

healing that my prayer partners and I are praying for me and for others, like you,

who are dealing with the same health challenges. I can understand how your

suffering is worsened by the memories of seeing loved one felled by cancer.

I am fortunate that I can identify with your plight. Although I don't know your

religious beliefs, I cordially invite you to join us cancer fighters and survivors who

have chosen to get our healing by first seeking the kingdom of God and His

righteousness by prayerfully and faithfully leaning on the everlasting arm of

Jesus and by trusting in the Lord and with all our hearts rather than solely leaning

unto the skills and knowledge of man.

When I first got the news of my brain cancer, it devastated me for a week

before further tests moved doctors to tell me that the brain tumor is benign for

the present. But the news of the prostate tumors was more discouraging because

the tumors were growing, causing increasing pain and demanding immediate


Because of my weak heart, radioactive seed implantation was prescribed by

my urologist, Dr. Glenn Gerber, of the University of Chicago, and administered by

Dr. Brian Moran, a world-renown radiations oncologists.

Pains in my back and legs now torment me along with incontinence

problems that are side effects of the brachytherapy. I've also had relatives and

friends to die of cancer. But I've also seen relatives and friends get healed.

Howard, I know God is able to heal us completely. Personally, I believe that I am a

healing in progress. That's why I am blogging this providential process as God

works on me directly and through doctors and other instruments.

Thank you for your testimony and kind words. I am encouraged when you

and others are encouraged by me. So we welcome you into our circle of mutual,

yes, encouragers. We have joined together not under the premise that misery is

supposed to love company, but on the premise that there indeed is strength in

unity. United, we stand, in whatever common challenges we face individually. But,

divided, we fall.

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Lacy J. Banks

Lacy J. Banks, 67, has been a Sun-Times sportswriter/columnist for 38 years and a Baptist preacher for 58 years. He has preached at more than 100 different churches in the Chicago area. A native of Lyon, Miss., Banks graduated from the University of Kansas with a B.A. in French and he served three years in the Vietnam War as a U.S. Naval officer. Lacy and wife, Joyce, have been married 42 years and have three daughters and five grandchildren. Among beats Banks has covered for the Sun-Times are the Bulls, Fire, defunct Sting, Blackhawks, Wolves, Cubs, defunct Hussle, Rush, Sky, college football and basketball and pro boxing.



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This page contains a single entry by Lacy Banks published on August 4, 2008 3:55 PM.

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