The Black Boxer from a Shrimpful Georgia Town

Damon Runyon

Wilkes-Barre Evening News/March 16, 1926

Some of my big city contemporaries have fallen into a custom of referring to Brunswick, Georgia, the home of the redoubtable Deacon Tiger Flowers, middleweight champion of the world, as “a small village.”

I resent this reference, and I call upon all loyal inmates of Dover Hall to do some good, strong resenting with me. Dover Hall is an estate in the piney woods, fourteen or fifteen miles from Brunswick, the winter seat of such baseball notables as Your Uncle Wilbert Robinson, Colonel Tillinghast, L’Hommedieu Huston, Ban B. Johnson, Babe Ruth and many others.

When the frost is on the pumpkin up north, you can find a baseball magnate, or player, or writer, behind almost every other tree on Dover Hall estate, lying in wait to ambush the nimble squirrel, or the festive deer, or the other ferocious wild fauna that abounds there.

And Brunswick, Georgia, is no “small village.” It is a thriving, up-and-going little city, with a population well into five figures. It is thoroughly modernized, with paved streets, parks, public buildings, good hotels and all that sort of thing, and it has behind it a romantic history. Its people are friendly, progressive and spirited. It is a good town.

I resume my contemporaries are unaware that Brunswick is the seat of the shrimp industry of this great nation, a shrimp being an edible extracted from the mighty deep, and not to be despised as anyone will tell you who has partaken of a Brunswick shrimp cocktail.

There are myriads of shrimp in the waters off Brunswick. Mr. George Stallings, former manager of the Boston Braves, and now of Rochester, N. Y., once gave a vivid description of the shrimpiness of the region when he was telling a northern man of the glories of Dover Hall, of which Mr. Stallings is a member.

“It’s near Brunswick,” said Mr. Stallings, to more definitely locate Dover Hall in the man’s mind.

“Brunswick?” repeated the man.

“Isn’t that where the shrimp come from?”

“It is,” said Mr. Stallings.

“Are there any shrimp around Dover Hall?” asked the man.

“Shrimp?”’ said Mr. Stalling. “Why the water is blood red with ’em!”

I have not been to Brunswick, Georgia, since Deacon Tiger Flowers attained the middleweight championship, so I cannot say how the community views the achievement. I doubt that it takes it very seriously, however, for Brunswick, Georgia, has many matters to think about of more importance than pugilism.

Among the people of his own race, the victory of the Deacon has caused no little gratification, for the reason that he is perhaps their most popular gladiator. I mean to say, he is the most popular with the colored people of all the colored fighters.

In fact, I believe that Flowers is the most popular fighter with his own race that it has produced since the days of George Dixon and Joe Gans. They were both immensely popular with their own people, and Gans was perhaps more popular with the whites than any colored fighter in the history of the game.

He had a mild, diffident manner, and a great good common sense. He was a fine sportsman in the ring, besides being a wonderful fighter. He had many friends among the white followers of The Manly Art of Scrambling Ears.

The fact a fighter is colored doesn’t necessarily make him popular with his own people. Though he became heavyweight champion of the world, John Arthur Johnson was extremely unpopular with his own race—perhaps more so than with the whites. He had a stand-offish attitude toward the colored people. He tried to associate with whites, he married a white woman. His people felt that his conduct was a reflection upon the race in general.

Sam Langford, the Boston Bear Cat, was always fairly popular with his people. They admired his tremendous fighting ability, and the colored race took great pride in him. Harry Wills, the Brown Panther of New Orleans, is personally popular, and well respected by his people, but oddly enough they are the severest critics of his ability. A lot of them don’t think he can fight up to his reputation.

I think Flowers’ popularity with his people is based more on his career than on his fighting ability. More than any other fighter, the dark deacon of Georgia typifies the struggle of the race against adversity. He has come onward and upward in the boxing game in spite of many obstacles.

His devoutness and simplicity excite the admiration of the colored people. They know that it is on the level with him. A lot of our white fighters might take example from the dark deacon. It wouldn’t hurt them to adopt his manner of living, even to the religious phase of it.

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