Chicago Sun-Times
...with Jesus, doctors and common sense

My Best Friend Has Died And I Feel Guilty

| 7 Comments | No TrackBacks

God bless you.

Henry Frank Briscoe died of a massive heart attack at age 66 in Kansas City last

Saturday (Oct. 25).

I have been asked to fulfill his wish of preaching his funeral and will do so on

Saturday (Nov. 1). I expect to see many of our Sumner high school classmates there at

the Metropolitan Baptist Church with president Lemuel Norman because Henry was

endeared to us as one of the friendliness, kindest guys you could ever meet.

The news shocked and hurt me something awful because Henry was my best friend

outside my family. It also left me feeling guilty because I thought I would die first and

maybe should have died first because I thought I was far sicker.

Henry told me over the last two years that he had been battling diabetes and high

blood pressure. Since March, I have been battling brain cancer, prostate cancer and

end-stage congestive heart failure. So you go figure. Why him ahead of me? I simply

have to thank God for sparing me to live on a little longer.

Henry called me every week or so to check on me, wish me well, bring me up to

date on our Sumner High School (KCK) classmates and assure me that he and the rest

of my friends were praying for me.

But Saturday morning, my brother, Rev. Ephthallia (yes, Ephthallia, and please

stop laughing because that's his name and you'd best not mess with him because he

weighs maybe 300 pounds and stands six feet) called me and stunned me with the sad


"Oh no, not Henry," I thought. "But I was supposed to be the one with the real

life-threatening sicknesses. Was he sicker than he knew? Or was he hiding something

from me?"

Henry and I came from the South to Kansas City, Kan., in the 1950s with our

families. We were part of the Great Migration of blacks from Southern field labor to the

North for better jobs, better education, better housing and other opportunities overall. He

came from Monroe, La., and I came from Lyon, Miss.

We met as eight-graders at Northeast Jr. High School in KCK. It was a friendship

forged by mutual poor Southern backgrounds, strong Christian faith, good character and

the desire to be the best students we could be and the best gentlemen we could be. Yes,

we were super nerds. We inspired each other to make the honor roll each semester. We

supported each other in our respective endeavors. While the other cats were slouching

in class, smoking Chesterfield or Lucky Strike, drinking Mogan David and Boone's Farm

wine, and concentrating more on trying to make out with Lulubell in the back seat of

some ol' Chevy Impala, Henry and I were booking trying to make and stay on the honor


I was 13 years old and I had been preaching four years when I first came to KCK.

Henry was 12 were he had come a couple of years earlier and he would eventually

become a preacher at the age of 17. We both had picked our share of cotton before

moving north.

When I came straight from Mississippi to the North, I had a tremendous

inferiority complex because of my poor Southern diction and common mode of dress.

My classmates often made fun of me and would mimic the way I talked or pronounced

certain words. But Henry befriended, respected and encouraged me because he

aspired toward holiness and academics just as I did.

Two things perhaps endeared me to Henry is a special way. One was his respect

for my academic success and what he thought were natural leadership abilities. So

whenever there was an election for home room, class or student body leadership, Henry

would always nominate me for president. I eventually became student council president

at Sumner as a senior. But before that, my classmates refused to elect me as any

president. They chose instead to elect me as chaplain because I was a preacher. I

eventually would take that as an affront and decline because I wanted my classmates to

realize that I was capable of doing more than praying, reading the bible and preaching.

The other reason I appreciated my friendship with Henry was because he was a

handsome dude. He mesmerized the ladies with eyes the color of Budweiser and with

straight, curly hair that made black girls want to have his babies because he would

enhance the chance that the baby's hair would not be nappy,

After graduation from high school, I went to the University of Kansas on

scholarships and loans, graduated on time and had a job as the first black reporter for

the Kansas City Star waiting for me after I graduated. I also went to U.S. Naval Officer

Candidate School in Newport, R.I., became a commissioned officer during the

Vietnam War and afterward began a successful professional journalism career working

for Ebony magazine and then for the Sun-Times.

Fate was not so kind to Henry. And it wasn't his fault. He never knew his father and

he ended up being the surrogate father for his two sisters and three brothers. His brother,

Rev. Cleveland McBeth, tells me that when Henry was in junior high school, he worked

after school to help his single mother, Elvira Estella Briscoe, support the family. He

continued to work extra jobs to help his mother until his sibblings were grown.

"Henry never knew a normal childhood," Cleveland said, "because he sacrificed

that to be the man of the house. We all looked up to him. He was not only our big

brother. He was like our father."

Henry told me he eventually got a degree from Western University in Kansas City.

But Henry never was able to get the kind of good-paying job that netted him a meaningful

career with fringe benefits to include a pension. He married and had two daughters. But

when he died, he, like growing millions of Americans, had no health insurance because

of what insurance called "pre-existing conditions." And his failing health and age made it

even more difficult for him to get the kind of job he wanted and needed.

As such, I assume that Henry did not have access to competent and consistent

medical care when he died. Otherwise, perhaps the severity of his condition could have

been determined and treated early enough to have saved his life. I feel the same about

my father, who died of a stroke at age 64. The same about my mother, who died of blood

poisoning at age 42 after carrying a dead fetus. The same about my baby brother, who

died of a heart attack at age 52.

My oldest sister, Mrs. Maude Lee Burrell, got decent medical attention because she

was able to work a full career at General Motors in Grand Rapids, Mich., and thus

receive care from an affordable group medical insurance policy that she carried on

herself, her chronically ill husband and her five sons. She even spent five months in

the Cleveland Clinic awaiting a new heart before an infection disqualified her from

heart transplant candidacy.

Sure, I'm thankful that I'm still alive. God has blessed me with a good job, a super

care-giving wife in Joyce and access to affordable health care through our union's group

health insurance policy. God is also healing me partly through this instrument.

But if I did not have a decent job and affordable medical insurance, perhaps I

would have died as early as 2001 when I underwent triple-bypass, open heart surgery

at the University of Chicago. There have been other heath issue since then that could

have killed me if I had had no access to proper medical attention.

Personally, I believe that in this great America, the land of the free and the home of

the brave, competent health should be a right of every American citizen.

God bless you.

No TrackBacks

TrackBack URL:


Good Morning Rev,

Sorry to hear about the loss of your good friend. When I hear news of sudden death which I have heard much of lately, first I thank God for his grace and mercy then I ask "Who's next Lord?" That's the one thing I don't like about getting older.....loosing friends and loved ones. I am glad to see that you are still blogging and working. Hope that you are feeling well these days. I certainly hope that whoever wins this election will be a champion for the healthcare cause. Everyone needs access to affordable healthcare. I have already let my voice be heard when I voted last Sunday. Have a safe trip to Kansas. I will be praying for you and the Briscoe family. On a side note, Auntie Crystal's maiden name was Briscoe. She and Henry may have been related way down the road.

Be Blessed,


BANKS' RESPONSE: Thank you so much, Donna, for your usual willingness

to care and share for the welfare of others who are hurting. I shudder at my

frightful plight if I didn't have a decent job and affordable health insurance. It is

very likely that I would have been dead a long time ago. More than 40 million

Americans have no medical insurance. All the more reason why this nation needs

Barack Obama as President because his health plan for all Americans is far

superior to that of John McCain.

Lacy, I have followed your story from the beginning and wanted to tell you that you are a inspiration and a living miracle, bless God!

I agree with Donna, with so much going on in the world and the loss of many love ones, you cant help but to be thankful to God for giving you the oppotunity to live another day and also allowing you spend time with loves ones which are gifts. I dont question God anymore about prayer is alway God let your will be done because ulimately his way is perfect..becasue he is the author and the finisher of our faith and life.

Be blessed and Safe travels!

BANKS' RESPONSE: God bless you Christal for your fitting comment. Yes, I

am most thankful for each day, each breath and each step He bestows upon me.

Not only did He bless me to enjoy my 40th wedding anniversary with my wife,

Joyce, but to vote for the first black candidate for the Presidency of the United

States and to prayerfully see him get elected. God is good all the time and all the

time God is good. So let's bless His holy, holy Name.

may God bless you in all your endevors.Every-body has a date to be born and a date to die.Have you thought about may-be god has something special for you to do before He calls your name???Think about this and find hope in this fact.Never feel guilty about some-one dying before you.Young-man you have the rest of your life to serve the lord sooooooo Live and let live!!!God loves us all unconditionally. Have a blessed life!!!3

BANKS' RESPONSE: Yes, Barbara, you and I and the rest of mankind still

alive are alive by divine design because we don't serve an accidental God. We

serve a perfect and all-powerful God who rules over all and is all in all and by

whom all things consist. So no way can I knock such omnipotence because in

Him we indeed do live, move and have our being. I just wish that my best friend

Henry and Barack Obama's grandmother, among others, could have lived to see

Obama break the color bar of the U.S. White House. This is the real coming and

the ripe creaming of America as the land of the free and the home of the brave.

It took freedom for Obama to be allowed to run for President and it took courage,

as well as concrete common sense, for Americans to brave the ravages of racism

and fear stirred by his Republican opponents and still vote for the best man and

the best ticket.

Rev. Banks, you and family are still in my prayers and I will pray for the Briscoe family this day. I can imagine the message you provide today will be uplifting, encouraging, and from God's heart through your heart to all who will hear. We are blessed when we live long enough to reflect on the persons the Lord has placed in our lives and consider the reasons. We are further blessed when we recognize and have the opportunity to let them know. You have been magnificently blessed. God speed!

BANKS' RESPONSE: Glory and thanks be to God for you, Gwen, a rose in

the garden of women. I pray that God prospers the likes of you profoundly with His

grace and mercy. This is a new day for America. God has worked a new and most

wondrous thing on this day. So let us rejoice and be glad in it. Then let us up and

be about our Father's business unless ever before. America needs women and

men of faith to change this country's way of government, its way of business, its

way of social, spiritual, physical and ecological management of our society and

planet. We must return integrity, competence and compassion to government so

that it will truly be the government of the people, by the people and for the people.

And then from every mountain top, we must not just let freedom ring but give it a

hand and ring freedom ourselves by the way we respect, love and help one

another. The American dreamed and schemed about by the most idealists of our

forefathers now awaits us to bring it into being. Now, America is blessing God by

making the right decisions to right herself and God in turn will bless America better

than ever.

Dear Lacey/Rev. Banks,

Somehow I felt, before looking at the signature, that it was a Banks writing this correspondence. I appreciate your remarks, sense your pain, and though a year behind you in school, I certainly remember and appreciate the manner in which you carried yourself while in high school. I also remember Henry Briscoe.

Many of the desriptions of your childhood run parallel with mine. Though a native of Kansas, I too was born into economic poverty, but somehow was unaware of it until many years later because we were so rich in love; had a strong Christian faith background; a family that "strongly" valued education, and one that encouraged us to give of our best and walk alone if necessary, for ultimately we would be victorious and successful, etc. Fortunately, we chose to embrace these teachings; and thus have been the recipients of God's immense blessings.

I, too, regret that Henry was unable to get the care that he needed which might have extended his life. However, I rejoice with you and his family that he was ready to meet our Maker. As both my parents are now deceased (my dad many years ago and my mom just recently), I am increasingly eternally grateful that they weathered the storm and maintained their convictions regardless of the cost. Though sadness is a part of the grieving process when those we love pass on, I am confident that you can look back and rejoice that you provided for Henry the type of friendship that few experience in the course of a lifetime. You, no doubt, were a major vehicle through whom God worked to enable Henry to keep dreaming and to realize some of his dreams. While he may or may not have realized some of the material things that some are privileged to experience, he has received the most significant and magnificent reward of all, eternal life. For "What shall it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his own soul?"

May God bless you as you experience His healing power and minister to the Briscoe family. Please be reminded that your labor, Henry's, nor the labor of any of God's children is ever in vain. Be encouraged.

Joanne Foggs Wilkerson
Sumner Class of '62

P.S. If there is a fund to which we can contribute, please apprise.

BANKS' RESPONSE: Ahhhhh, Joanne, Joanne, Joanne of Sumner's

second best class ever behind the class of 1961. How sweet it is to get such a

wonderful comment from a member of one of Sumner's most celebrated classes

ever, one plush and lush with gifted students like yourself, Dr. Bertram Caruther, Dr.

Jessie Kirksey, Dr. Herman Watson, Dr. Adolphus Favors, Dr. Clarence Glasse, Dr.

Bettiejoyce Meador, Dr. Delores Strickland, Dr. Frances Bradley, Dr. Carolyn

Buford and Dr. Kay Kimbrough, Dr. Betty Maddox, Dr. Doretha Welch, Dr. Rose

Thierry, Dr. ......wait.....wait.....wait one minute, here! I think I'm getting carried

away with this. I think I may be confering some unofficial doctorates or at least

prophesying. Or is this just part of my way of saying I'm proud of Sumner and how it

prepared us to help elect America's first black President. This Obama precedent is

the stuff of what Sumner was always all about when we attended her. It proved that

we were always an academy in substance and in fact long before we became an

official academy in name.

Hang in there Lacy!

BANKS' RESPONSE: Yes, by the grace of God, I'm hanging in there as long

and as strong as God blesses me to.

Lacy/Rev. Banks:

Please allow me to offer words of comfort and encouragement to you in the loss of your best friend, for I know it isn't easy to lose those who are close to us! It seems we are reminded at every turn (especially for those of us who are 66 and over...) that life is tenuous and time, a precious gift to be used wisely!

You may not remember me as the '1954 Brown Decision' precluded my going to Sumner and I was one of four in the first graduating class of West Junior High and then, it was on to Wyandotte (with my family moving to Los Angeles in the middle of my senior year). I remember you well and thought so highly of you for being called out and set apart at such an early age!

John 4:1 tells us 'not to be troubled...' His Word is sure and having tested it (yes, when I lost both my parents fairly soon after answering His call to ministry; when they told me I needed gall bladder surger 9 years ago, and open heart surgery over 7 years ago) I tested. I haven't had either surgery and literally came to understand and believe the Words; "By His Stripes I am [was] healed"!!!! I also know that healing comes in different forms and I truly believe Henry gave his best and received his healing and is now at rest with His Father! I, too, believe it's time for health care reform and that quality health care should be available to everyone!

Your time is precious and you, wisely, appear to be "redeeming the time." You continue to be 'immediate' in your response - even to eulogizing your best friend and bringing comfort to his family, as you battle your own beast(s) of illness. You shall be constant in my prayers as I pray God grants you many more years as you continue to walk in His wisdom and His love.

Rev. Jeanne Beharry (Irma Jeanne Stewart)
Upland, CA 91784
909 949-9966

BANKS' RESPONSE: God bless you, Rev. Beharry, for your kind words of

comfort and encouragement. God is using you and me to increase the faith of

kingdom sisters and brothers around the world. These times and those far worse

to follow are not for the faint of faith. Only the faithful will excel and prevail. God

will see to that. He will not forsake those who truly believe in Him. And I KNOW the

Lord will make a way some how so that all things will work together for good to

them who love God and are the called according to His purpose. We men and

women of faith will be called upon to step forward and lead as best we can for

those willing to follow and help save our country. I pray your strength in God and

that you grow in grace as He prospers you with His love and mercy.

Leave a comment

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.



About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Lacy Banks published on October 30, 2008 1:11 AM.

JOB! JOBS! JOBS! America's heart is weak for lack of JOBS! was the previous entry in this blog.

Thank You Jesus!!!! And You Know Why. is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.