TAKING TIMEOUT WITH MR. “RED” NICKS By Andre Austin Chronicling the life and times of Russell “Red” Jones Nicks is a series of milestones and markers throughout the timetables of American history. With all of the good and bad times the human spirit moves on. Russell is currently 93 years old and has seen just about all of it. He earned his nickname from his interaction with the white folks down south. In Jackson the locals named him the Black “Godfather”. My conversation began with Red after I filled out an Absentee ballot with City Hall so he could take part in the historic moment of seeing the possibility of the first Black President in the United States. He never thought a Blackman would occupy the White House because of the historic inequality he witnessed. I never thought there would be a black President either because the Democrats never seriously considered a black even for the Vice Presidency. But the world is very different now. Russell was born one year after World War I in 1915 in Perry County, Tennessee in a house on Roame street. Both his grandparents were born under the terms of slavery. His birth state was center stage of the KKK incorporation of their terrorist organization and where Martin Luther, the King was crucified by a sniper’s bullet at the Loraine motel. Also in 1915 came Birth of a Nation, a silent film that helped the KKK recruit zealous members. After slavery ended some of Red’s family tree members switched from Nix to Nicks to shed their former slave owners name. His favorite president was Franklin Roosevelt because he was about the business of giving a helping hand to all of jobless men facing the after effects of the 1929 stock market crash with people jumping out of windows. As a teenager Red listened to Roosevelt talk on the radio near their fireplace about Social Security, Medicare and public works programs. Red didn’t suffer during the depression because his father owned a farm, store and a schoolhouse all on his land. He drove a horse driven wagon and a Model T produced by the manufacturing genius of Henry Ford. When Hitler invaded Poland in 1939, starting WWII, Russell was 25 and got married to Mary Taylor in Tennessee. Later on they adopted a son, Offie, from Milwaukee. Red hated Hitler because he believed Jews and Blacks were half Apes. However, he didn’t like the white GI’s telling the French girls that Blacks had tails in their backsides either and neither did it deter their curiosity. Germany has changed now, in 08 a quarter of a million Germans welcome the name of Obama to their city. But no matter the name calling This couple endured. They were from the old school where family was the foundation and that marriage didn’t end until Mary passed on in 2004. Red moved his family to Jackson, Michigan after hearing the humming sounds of factories producing cars and war products. Life didn’t mean a thang if it didn’t have that swing as Duke Ellington sung it. The 1940’s was Red’s primetime. His hair was conked, he wore Zoot suits and danced to Jazz doing the Lindy hop and the Jitterbug. His grey eyes, light skin, wits of charm and his freckles made it an easy to transition and work and retire from Clark equipment. He retired from his job right about the time Nixon left office in disgrace after a black security guard caught his “plumbers” crew breaking into Watergate hotel. Red felt that Malcolm X was a sparkplug but Martin L. King was a light of inspiration. Many Black families in the 1970’s had a picture of MLK framed on their walls along with President Kennedy. Many church members had MLK picture on a stick and used it as a fan while listening to his pastor A.P. Williams at Second Baptist Church. Red is a lifetime member of that church and from time to time Minister Williams pays him a house call visit. Before Red moved up North from the South he joined a secret club of Mason’s from the Scottish rites. He kept up his ties with this secret organization until late in his life. I was forever trying to pry information out of him. For a long time he kept his mouth shut until he told me a couple of secret passwords like “Tubal-Cain”. Through my own research I learned to trace the Freemasons origins to ancient Egyptian priest called Ptah who introduced crafts. Ptah was always pictured tied up in a mummy suit. Red also retired from the loan sharking business he used as a side moonlighting job to supplement his income. He lent money to everyone: Black doctors, lawyers, business men who ever was in need when you couldn’t go to a bank for fifty dollars to get you through the week. We now have legal loan sharking chain stores of advance check cashing corporations at high usury rates. Those who were loan risk had to put up collateral like watches and rings and even car titles. Red always felt like he was providing a service to the community. Red’s father lived until he was 96 and he expects to at least match that number. And I’m counting on the big one hundred so I can have his name and picture mentioned on the Today show, maybe even on the local JTV show. Red stopped chewing Redman’s tobacco, smoking and drinking a long time ago. He credits this to his longevity and a wise selection of the food pyramid. I admire my great uncle because he saved his money, knew the value of a stable continuous family structure and was never too proud to learn new things. Knowledge is power and a virtue with nothing new under the sun. On 9-11 I was at the bookstore when the manager told me she learned from the Internet a plane crashed into the twin towers. I went over Reds house and was traumatized to see people jumping out of windows. This was the equivalent of his watching the Japs attack Pearl harbor in 1941. Red thought Bush returning to ground zero to announce the enemies of America would hear from our military was a “class act” ; but invading Iraq is continuous act of “squandering precious resources”. Red didn’t believing in wasting money. He invested his money wisely in his family. He purchased homes and cars for many of his family members. Red has just about outlived all his immediate family members and everyone is gone from his primetime. Sometimes he feels alone. He’s fiercely independent He’s stubborn in refusing to wear a hearing aid. He hates idleness and keeps himself busy. To my surprise Red, just last week, fixed a sink faucet that wasn’t running water. He took out the spring, cleaned it, and got the water running again. I told him that ‘you still got it’ and he put a big grin on his face. And I don’t think he will ever loose it. As long as his heart keeps on beating with the times until God appoints his own time to press down on the stopwatch of life into a new time zone up in the firmament.