Rudolph “Rockhead” Johnson is living proof
By Kenneth Miller, Publisher
Kareem Abdul Jabbar remains from that revolutionary meeting on June 4 1967 in Cleveland, Ohio when Jim Brown organized The Cleveland Summit in support of Muhammad Ali’s refusal to accept being drafted for the Vietnam War.
We lost Bill Russell, the Celtic great in 2022 and Ali died in 2016.
It was moment indelibly chronicled in the history of America, where a group of Black star athletes used their platform to challenge a system of white superiority and injustice towards Blacks.
When James Nathaniel Brown decided to lead that meeting in a town where he became the greatest football player in the history of the game, at the height of his post career popularity and just when launching his next chapter as an actor, it was most indicative of how this man would live the rest of his life.
Never again would he be just one singular thing, confined to one ideal box. No longer would he be just the All American football and Lacrosse phenom at Syracuse University, or the just most enduring running back in the NFL where after just 9 seasons, 3 MVPs, 9 Pro Bowls, 12,312 yards and 106 touchdowns later they still debate how much greater he could have been had he played longer.
No…No…No… Jim Brown would not be confined to Hollywood where he was among the first real Black leading men in the industry, considered as the Black Superman, Black folks John Wayne.
This native of St. Simons Island, Georgia, which became the center of cotton production during that era, would go on to become the most respected athlete, noble activist and advocate for the culture of Blackness we would ever know.
He would go from cotton picking Georgia to the city that never sleeps, New York where he starred at Manhasset High School before Syracuse (1954-1956) and then being drafted by the Cleveland Browns at No. 6 in the first round of the 1957 draft, a class that is steep with Hall of Fame inductees.
Brown even co promoted a boxing event with legendary promoter and fellow Clevelander Don King during his life.
“Jim Brown was a dear friend not only was he great, par excellent in the game of football but also in the game of life. He was one of my co-promoters on one of my events, and I love the man. My sympathy and deepest condolences to all the family,” King said.
When Brown died of natural causes at the age of 87 on May 18, 2023, at his home in Los Angeles, the pulsating world of sports held their collective breaths.
Tributes poured in, with former NFL running back Barry Sanders posting on Twitter that “You can’t underestimate the impact Jim Brown had on the NFL.” Emmitt Smith, the NFL’s all-time leader in rushing yards, wrote “He is and was a true legend in sports and in the community using his platform to help others.” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said “Jim Brown was a gifted athlete — one of the most dominant players to ever step on any athletic field — but also a cultural figure who helped promote change.” LeBron James, an NBA star, wrote in tribute that “We lost a hero today. Rest in Paradise to the legend Jim Brown. I hope every Black athlete takes the time to educate themselves about this incredible man and what he did to change all of our lives. We all stand on your shoulders Jim Brown.” Barack Obama, the 44th president and the first Black president of the United States, wrote, “I was too young to remember Jim Brown’s playing days, but I knew his legacy. One of the greatest football players ever, he was also an actor and activist – speaking out on civil rights, and pushing other black athletes to do the same.
Here in Southern California, there was no one who knew Jim Brown as well and was impacted by him so immensely as Rockhead.
That is Rudolph (Rockhead) Johnson, a former gang member who became like a son to Brown and serves as the founder of I-Can All Stars, a non-profit organization.
The organization was born out of Brown’s own Ameri-I-Can Foundation, the gang-intervention program that has rescued thousands of young men and women from the streets.
“Jim Brown saved my life,” said Johnson.
After Brown’s death, Johnson posted a solemn message on his Facebook page.
“The man who gave me the strength to become the man I am today. My pops My mentor my friend. I’m going to miss you big fella !! And I’m gonna do everything I possibly can to keep your vision going.!! There is so much more I can say but I’m going to keep it short. I miss you already and there is no love grater then the Love I have for you Thank you for saving and giving me life your son.”
That was Jim Brown.
No without his flaws. Raw and unapologetically Black.
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