June 16, 2016
1970 was the third year of the Andy Williams San Diego Open. This was a golf tournament that I had started along with Dennis Waitley in 1968. My purpose was to give Andy who was not on TV at the time, International exposure. For Dennis, he was attempting to help the Salk Institute in San Diego raise funds for much needed Medical Research.
For the first 5 years, we were Co-Executive Directors. Both of us achieved our desired goals. We brought in a great deal of money for Salk Institute and Andy was, deservedly so, hailed as it’s benefactor.
Dennis who was studying for his Doctorate in Psychology at the time, has gone on to become one of the world’s foremost Psychologists in the field of learning how to succeed and win. His client list has included the International Olympic committee, The United States Olympic Team, countless athletes, major corporations and even governments.
One of the things he shared with me is his Psychology of winning which he was to develop as the years went by. Simply stated “ happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, won, or consumed. It is the spiritual expression of living every minute with love, grace and gratitude”. This attitude permeated how we ran the golf tournament.
In our third year, 1970, Pete Brown became the first African- American to win an Official PGA Tournament. Pete won by one stroke with a score of 13 under par. This was a momentous occasion. Over the four days, Pete bested many of the foremost players of the day.
The Andy Williams Open had hosted the likes of Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Gene Littler, Gary Player, Tom Weiskopf and Lee Trevino. His victory was in a sudden death playoff over Tony Jacklin, the British Golfer who that year was the reigning U.S. Open Champion.
To the Black community, this was an exciting accomplishment. At the time, The Los Angeles Sentinal, an African –American owned newspaper, had a terrific golf column called “Tee Time” and written by a lady named Maggie Hathaway. Ms Hathaway contacted me about doing a column on Pete Brown’s victory and what I thought it meant to the world of golf.
I was delighted! She showed up at my office with a young photographer named Howard Bingham. They were both terrific and easy to deal with. Maggie went on to expand her vision for Blacks in golf and Civil Rights. She accomplished much in the years to come . She was a co-founder and President of the Beverly Hills/Hollywood Chapter on the NAACP. Along with Sammy Davis Jr she created the Image Awards.
Finally, I am getting to why I wrote today’s Blog. I want to tell you about the photographer I met that day. He was 31 at the time. Howard Bingham was his name.
In 1962, Maggie had assigned Howard to cover photographically a young, up and coming Black boxer named Cassius Clay. Clay was in town to fight George Logan.
Satisfied that he had some good Sparring Session pictures, Howard was in his car hustling to take his pictures back to the Sentinel to develop them. As he was driving, he spotted the young Boxer and his Brother Rudy just hanging out.
He offered the two Boxers a ride to their hotel and then decided that he would show them Los Angeles. This chance meeting has become a fortuitous one for all of us. Howard’s pictures will help generations to come understand and share in the glory and mystique of Ali.
For Howard and Clay, it was an instant rapport. Their friendship developed like Damian and Pythius. For 54 years they were inseparable. Along the way, Cassius Clay became Muhammad Ali… and a legend began.
Howard, developed into a photojournalist par excellence. He established new norms for photographic coverage. In 1969, he became the first Black male photographer allowed on a TV Set working as a member of the Hollywood International Cinematographers Guild . Until the Bill Cosby Show, it was whites only.
Born with a speech impediment, his pictures talk for him. They say a picture is worth a 1000 words. In that case, through the photos, he has told the story of Ali in over six hundred million words. At one point, he even ran for congress. Many of us worked on his campaign to no avail.
His is largely known as Muhammad Ali’s photographer/biographer. For over half a century, wherever Ali went, Howard was at his side. All the while, Howard’s camera was at his side. In such a way, Bingham believes he has shot almost 600,000 photographs of Ali. Therein lies the story.
The legend of Ali will live on perpetuated by the lens of Howard Bingham. As Ali’s fame grew, in lock step, but separate from Ali, Howard’s reputation also expanded.
He has taken some of the most iconic photographs of the last 40 years, from the Civil Rights era to today. His work spanned the globe from the Black Panthers, to little Richard, to Nelson Mandella. His photographs have graced the pages of all the great magazines.: Life, Look, Time, Newsweek, Sports Illustrated, Ebony and others.
When a person dies, without fail, someone will say, “He’s gone, but not forgotten”. In the case of Muhammad Ali, the photos of Bingham make this a fact. “Ali will never be forgotten”.
You can see his photographs in many different venues. However, the most complete collection is at the Muhammad Ali Museum in Louisville.