As the late Bill Davidson discovered to his benefit, Joe Dumars is far more than a jock.  We interviewed the deep-thinking Piston’s president at length for Our African American Story, and in the course of that conversation discovered that he had some thoughts on patriotism that segued beautifully with Detroit: Our Greatest Generation.

Dumars, the youngest of six children from rural Louisiana, is the son of a World War II vet.  The elder Dumars passed away in 1990, near the pinnacle of Joe’s playing career.
“Both my dad and mom had seen the worst that America could offer,” he says, referring to the situation that African Americans found themselves in throughout the early part of the twentieth century—particularly in the South. “Yet when the war was declared, he enlisted as quickly and as eagerly as anyone.  Despite the hardships they may have encountered, both my parents gave me a lesson that stays with me today:  Stand on right.”

“To his dying day, my dad was a patriot,” Dumars says.  “He always reminded us that we were living in the greatest country on earth.”

The elder Dumars served in the infantry under George S. Patton.  He saw action in Europe, returning not to a nation brimming with gratitude, but to the same old Jim Crow Louisiana he’d left behind. 

Joe relates a story that was told often around the Sunday dinner table in which, on the ship returning to the States after the War’s end, his father was told, “You’re back home now—so remember your place.”

To those of us who have grown up not with the War, not with Jim Crow, but with the legacy of Joe Dumars’ contribution to Detroit, both as a sports hero and an executive, it’s clear that Joe heeded the same advise.

Fortunately for us Detroiters, since the mid-Eighties, his ‘place’ has been at the top.



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