By Trinity Graves
Fred Mitchell, prolific journalist and author, said he sees sports as “one of the great unifiers” of people” across age, gender and race, explaining his love and respect for the pastime.
Mitchell shared his thoughts about race in the workplace, provided insight into his work ethic, described challenges of young black males in the ’60s and talked about his desired legacy.
When asked about the challenges of being a black sportswriter, the legendary reporter responded by saying he tried not obsess race because he did not want that to affect his performance.
“If someone has a problem with the color of my skin then I’m going to make it their problem, not my problem,” Mitchell said, citing his father’s advice: “keep your head down, do your job, be responsible, good things eventually happen.”
Mitchell, who covered the Cubs, Bears and Bulls, attributed his success in the face of obstacles to his work ethic, emphasizing the importance of hard work along with the help of others.
“Pay your dues, work long hours, and get to know the business,” said the former sportswriter, who authored 12 books and wrote well over 10,000 stories during the course of his 41 ½-year career.
Mitchell described the ’60s as a turbulent time particularly for African-American young men.
“When getting out of high school, the Vietnam War going on, so not going to college… subjected many to the military draft…[and being] sent over to Vietnam,” he said, adding the many of today’s opportunities didn’t exist then. “A lot of my classmates didn’t come back.”
In respect to his legacy, Mitchell described how he would like to be remembered.
“All of us have a limited time. … You know the accolades are nice, awards, the hall of fames, but at the end of the day, people are going to say or remember how I made them feel,” he said. “Did I make them feel comfortable, respected, liked or appreciated. That’s how I’d like to be remembered.