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Tue Apr 22, 2014, 08:11 PM

Remembering Rubin

"Muhammad Ali means 'One who has walked and talked with Kings, and yet has not
lost the common touch.' ....Muhammad Ali means Constant Struggle. But that's what
America's all about -- is it not?"
-- Rubin "Hurricane" Carter

Shortly before Muhammad Ali was to regain his heavyweight title from Big George
Foreman, the editor of World Boxing magazine asked Rubin to pen an article on what
Ali meant to black Americans. The above quote, from the article, was part of Carter's
expanding on that topic, by addressing what The Champ should mean to everyone
in America. As I was re-reading the article yesterday, I thought it was an equally good
description of Rubin Carter.

In the years after the federal court system vacated his conviction for triple murder,
Carter would walk and talk with some of the most powerful people on earth. These
included Nelson Mandela, and President and Mrs. Clinton. His work in support of
people he believed had been wrongly convicted -- meaning "innocent," rather than
merely "not guilty" -- took him around the globe.

In those years,I only heard him speak ill of one politician: then-governor George W.
Bush. Rubin described the future president as "giddy with delight" when he spoke about
his power to allow people to be executed. Indeed, he told me that the "W" in Bush's
name stood for "Death," the most appropriate middle name for the man.

I've been looking through old letters and scrapbooks, court documents and books, and
a number of boxing magazines, since getting word that Rubin had died on Sunday
morning. We had been friends for over 40 years. Some of my favorites are from
when Ali was becoming active in his support of Rubin and co-defendent John Artis.
This was before their cause became popular.

Rubin had fought twice in Africa, where Muhammad would fight Foreman. During Ali's
visits to Rahway State Prison in New Jersey, he and Rubin would discuss the best
ways to prepare to box half way around the globe. Nights, Rubin would write to me
about his advice to Ali. And while most "experts" knew that Ali stood no chance against
George, Carter believed Ali would upset his powerful opponent.

In the mid-1970s, I thought that there had been a fairly wide-spread effort to falsely convict
Carter for the 1966 triple murder. Plenty of the officials involved in the investigation of
the brutal crime, and the prosecution of Carter and Artis, would get significant career
promotions following their convictions. This included prosecutors in other counties,
who dropped charges against the two career criminals who would testify against Rube.
Later, I came to recognize that it only takes two investigators, to plant some "evidence"
here, and hide real evidence there, to gain a knowingly false conviction. Most of the
other authorities simply believed those investigators, and dismissed anything and
everything Rubin, John, and black witnesses had to say.

I'm proud that I was able to play a role in gaining access to state and federal law
enforcement files on the case. During the 1967 trial, the police believed that a group
of radical black nationalists were planning a violent attack to "free" Rubin from the
courtroom, and to hide him on the underground. Stool pigeons will tell the police any
lie they think the police want to hear. In fact, there was not a shred of real evidence to
support that tall tale. Looking back today, its only value is that it illustrates the huge
amount of fear and anxiety that clouded some folks' minds.

While Rubin "Hurricane" Carter was a unique person, the wrongful convictions were
not uncommon. This is not because of massive, widespread conspiracies; again, it
only requires the misdeeds of one or two individuals to poison the legal process. While
living in Canada, Rubin would work with an organization -- which coordinated efforts
with a university's law program -- to seek justice for wrongly convicted inmates held
in prison cells around the world. Rubin was also opposed to capital punishment in
any case. He was fully aware that the prosecutor in 1967 sought to put him in the
electric chair.

From time to time, I would call Rubin to request that he consider a local case, or one
I had learned about in the media. Each time, he would say that if I thought it was
important enough to call on, he knew it was important enough for him to examine. In one
area case, one of his associates helped to get a teenager's life sentence overturned.
That fellow has not had a single legal problem in the 15 years since leaving prison.

In the past few days, I've heard from old friends from high school and college, where
I had introduced classes to Rubin's case. Even 40 years later, my high school
classmates remember how we communicated with Rubin through letters and
cassette tapes.A couple years back, I was invited to speak to a class at that same
high school about the case. When I told Rubin, he provided me with a personal
message to deliver to the students.

Rubin was an extraordinary man. Like all human beings, he was a combination of
qualities. He was well aware of his faults, and worked very hard -- and he had an
intense sense of self-discipline -- to overcome them. When he spoke at SUNY-
Binghamton in April of 2001, a professor from the school was impressed; she
contacted me afterwards. She was writing a book on forgiveness, and asked me
to see if Rubin would contribute a chapter. Rubin was happy to do so, and in one
short chapter, he documented the Power of Forgiveness.

At the end of the SUNY-B presentation, Rubin played with my little daughters. My
wife asked me if I had noticed Rubin flinch when he first saw them? And how old was
his daughter when Rubin was incarcerated? She was about their age. Twenty years
of incarceration takes a toll on a man. He suffered the effects every day. Yet he rose
above the physical and mental scars.

All four of my children met and knew Rubin Carter. Over the years, he would always
ask me about how each one was doing, and where they were in life? He was also
interested in how members of my extended family were. And he would also ask me
about various members of my high school class, who he said had "sent rays of sun-
shine into (his) darkand dreary cell."

On Sunday, each of my children posted on "Face Book" about the loss of a great
man. My younger son recalled how proud he was when Rubin singled his father out
when he spoke at Colgate University. I'm glad that I have had the opportunity to
introduce my kids to Rubin.

As older men, Rubin and I talked about flower gardening. That hobby had become a
passion for both of us. More, "tending his garden" was Rubin's description of living
his life. He noted that my children were my "most beautiful flowers." I liked that.

Rubin's favorite topic of discussion was the ultimate meaning of life. He would
seek the answer in manners that too few consider. I remember that he went to the
lands of the Lakota, in the Black Hills. There, he took part in the sacred Sun Dance
ceremony. A medicine man named Rubin "Badger Star," and presented him with
a headdress that belonged to the great Chief Red Cloud.

This coming weekend, a number of old friends will be traveling to my home, to
participate in a ceremony to celebrate Rubin's life. I'm honored to have known him
as a Good Friend and Brother for all of these years.

30 replies, 2235 views

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Replies to this discussion thread
Arrow 30 replies Author Time Post
Reply Remembering Rubin (Original post)
H2O Man Apr 2014 OP
malaise Apr 2014 #1
H2O Man Apr 2014 #13
scarletwoman Apr 2014 #2
H2O Man Apr 2014 #14
truedelphi Apr 2014 #3
H2O Man Apr 2014 #15
NYC_SKP Apr 2014 #4
H2O Man Apr 2014 #16
FourScore Apr 2014 #5
H2O Man Apr 2014 #17
mountain grammy Apr 2014 #6
H2O Man Apr 2014 #19
spanone Apr 2014 #7
H2O Man Apr 2014 #20
spanone Apr 2014 #24
Nanjing to Seoul Apr 2014 #8
H2O Man Apr 2014 #21
bananas Apr 2014 #9
H2O Man Apr 2014 #22
Scuba Apr 2014 #10
H2O Man Apr 2014 #23
Octafish Apr 2014 #11
H2O Man Apr 2014 #25
Bluenorthwest Apr 2014 #12
H2O Man Apr 2014 #26
Blue_Tires Apr 2014 #18
H2O Man Apr 2014 #27
panader0 Apr 2014 #28
Tsiyu Apr 2014 #29
G_j Apr 2014 #30

Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Tue Apr 22, 2014, 08:15 PM

1. We had a toast to Rubin at our get together

on the coast.
You are lucky to call him a good friend and brother

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Response to malaise (Reply #1)

Wed Apr 23, 2014, 08:01 AM

13. Very good!

Rubin loved your island.

Yes, I was lucky to have that man play a big role in my life. We had a lot of adventures, he and I.

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Tue Apr 22, 2014, 08:23 PM

2. Thank you for gifting us with your post.

It is a beautiful and powerful tribute.

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Response to scarletwoman (Reply #2)

Wed Apr 23, 2014, 08:05 AM

14. Thank you.

It was difficult for me to write .....which is funny, in a way, because usually I experience more of a problem in not running my big mouth. (smile) So I wasn't sure if this OP made any sense at all, or conveyed what I was hoping to communicate.

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Tue Apr 22, 2014, 08:24 PM

3. Thank you so much for sharing this with us.

It always amazes me at how many people who have been wrongfully convicted and later freed, they go on to assist others. What a strength of character is exhibited in their doing that.

This weekend my household will join you folks in spirit.



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Response to truedelphi (Reply #3)

Wed Apr 23, 2014, 09:18 AM

15. Thank you.

I remember that when Rubin was moved from Trenton to Rahway, some of the guys on his block were surprised by the "tap-tap-tap" of his typewriter throughout the night hours. Most inmates, of course, are active in the day, and sleep at night. There were times Rubin worked for 48 to 72 hours, straight through.

One guy, who would become friends with Carter, said, "Man, you're either possessed, or innocent." He was innocent, of course, but also possessed a focus on justice that continued throughout his life. I used to ask him, "Don't you ever get tired?" His simple answer was, "No."

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Tue Apr 22, 2014, 08:29 PM

4. This entry, more than others, really helps me understand your passion for the sport.

 

Especially in the context of social struggles of people of color, I just was never exposed to it in home or school in a meaningful way.

Thank you, as ever, for bringing context to the significance of the sport of boxing and the intimate histories you're able to share.

Thank you.

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Response to NYC_SKP (Reply #4)

Wed Apr 23, 2014, 09:24 AM

16. It is curious,

even strange, that the majority of boxers that I've known -- and that's quite a few, with over 50 years involvement in the sport -- are gentle, thoughtful people outside of the ring. The majority do not have an extensive formal education, but are intelligent men.

Decades ago, my mother was watching Mike Douglas or Merv, and there was a psychiatrist on. I don't know the larger context, but I remember her telling my brothers and I that the psychiatrist talked about boxers as being a puzzle. Most boxed as a way of telling the world at large, "Do not touch me."

I remember discussing this with Rube. Both he and I recognized that was true.

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Tue Apr 22, 2014, 10:44 PM

5. This is so beautiful.

Thank you so much for sharing it with us, H2O Man.

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Response to FourScore (Reply #5)

Wed Apr 23, 2014, 09:25 AM

17. Thank you.

I'm glad that you enjoyed the OP.

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Tue Apr 22, 2014, 11:37 PM

6. Thank you for sharing your beautiful memories..

May Rubin Carter rest in peace. I've followed his life since I first read about him in the late 60's and became convinced of his innocence.

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Response to mountain grammy (Reply #6)

Wed Apr 23, 2014, 01:53 PM

19. Thank you.

The first boxing match I ever saw was when Rubin TKOed welterweight champion/Fighter of the Year Emile Griffith in one round, in December of '63.

I had the opportunity to become friends with Emile years later. He knew Rubin was innocent, too.

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Tue Apr 22, 2014, 11:43 PM

7. k&r...

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Response to spanone (Reply #7)

Wed Apr 23, 2014, 01:53 PM

20. Thanks!

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Response to H2O Man (Reply #20)

Wed Apr 23, 2014, 02:43 PM

24. great post.

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Tue Apr 22, 2014, 11:47 PM

8. I did a similar thing at the end of this week's Top Ten Conservative Idiots

 

and asked people to give their time, energy and donations to the Innocence Project and Rubin Carter's cause in Toronto.

http://www.democraticunderground.com/10024850937

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Response to Nanjing to Seoul (Reply #8)

Wed Apr 23, 2014, 01:53 PM

21. Very good!

Thank you.

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Wed Apr 23, 2014, 01:56 AM

9. "Rubin's favorite topic of discussion was the ultimate meaning of life."

Those must have been interesting discussions.

Rubin's favorite topic of discussion was the ultimate meaning of life. He would
seek the answer in manners that too few consider. I remember that he went to the
lands of the Lakota, in the Black Hills. There, he took part in the sacred Sun Dance
ceremony. A medicine man named Rubin "Badger Star," and presented him with
a headdress that belonged to the great Chief Red Cloud.


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Response to bananas (Reply #9)

Wed Apr 23, 2014, 01:59 PM

22. They surely were!

There were very few, if any, areas of study that did not fascinate Carter. He loved to read. And, after reading something of value, he loved to discuss it with others.

I think it's fair to say that Rube's interest in Native American culture was sparked -- at least in part -- by our friendship. He opened the doors to many other schools of thought for me.

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Wed Apr 23, 2014, 06:30 AM

10. Thank you H2O Man, for this post, and for all you do.

 

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Response to Scuba (Reply #10)

Wed Apr 23, 2014, 01:59 PM

23. Thank you!

Much appreciated.

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Wed Apr 23, 2014, 06:48 AM

11. You helped us feel liked we were part of his life.

Thank you, H2O Man. Been thinking of you both since hearing word.

We all are part of each other's lives. Ours is a better world, thanks to you and Mr. Carter.

We are so very fortunate and honored to a part of it.

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Response to Octafish (Reply #11)

Wed Apr 23, 2014, 02:58 PM

25. Thank you!

I do regret that we didn't make it out your way, for his book tour. It was odd: he was injured in an auto wreck very similar to the way I was (both of us smashed by someone not paying attention to the road, due to cell phones). With me, it was the lower back; Rubin's neck was injured. I really don't think his health ever came back after that.

For a while, he had to stay laying down in bed. While he found that frustrating -- really frustrating -- it provided many hours to talk on the phone.

Today, I've been looking through documents from Rahway, when Rube was the director of the inmates' council. Some were between Carter and the warden, about conditions there. One poor young man was in solitary, when a hot water pipe burst; he was literally boiled to death, and not found for many hours. That really upset Rubin.

Others include letters to state officials, and a long one to a senator's aide. Rubin had the support of a lot of the guards; he had saved the lives of the warden and two guards during the Thanksgiving 1971 riot there. As you remember, there was the potential for very real prison reform in that era ..... including preparing men with the skills needed to make an honest living on the outside, and thus prevent them from returning. But the prison industry today requires a large number of inmates, to make a huge profit.

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Wed Apr 23, 2014, 08:01 AM

12. A lovely tribute to your friend, who was a great man.

 

It has been kind of you to share your personal experiences with Rubin today and in the past. He was an amazing person.

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Response to Bluenorthwest (Reply #12)

Wed Apr 23, 2014, 03:00 PM

26. Thank you!

Rubin recognized that every day is a miracle. That life is a miracle. And he made the most of his turn here on Earth.

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Wed Apr 23, 2014, 10:39 AM

18. epic kick

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Response to Blue_Tires (Reply #18)

Wed Apr 23, 2014, 03:00 PM

27. Thanks!

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Wed Apr 23, 2014, 03:01 PM

28. Thanks H2O Man

A fine tribute. Recommended

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Thu Apr 24, 2014, 08:12 AM

29. A most Thoughtful Tribute to "Badger Star"


Thank you for sharing a bit about the person behind the name.

My condolences to all of you who knew and loved him.

This weekend should be an awesome 'ceremony' for his passing. It's sad we sometimes only see each other in grieving times, but I hope there is a lot of joy at your home this weekend as well, celebrating the life of this extraordinary friend.



Thank you for sharing your personal insights.




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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Thu Apr 24, 2014, 08:16 AM

30. RIP Ruben

thank you H2O Man.

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