Alpha Rho Chapter Alumni Association's Summer/Fall 2021 Digest
"A Fighter And A Gentleman -- Gordon Greenwood (Spring 1984) Is Known For His Civility, But He'll Go To The Mat In The Hunt For Justice"
By RJ Smith www.superlawyers.com
Growing up in small-town Mississippi, Gordon Greenwood was immersed in a culture of Southern hospitality. A job offer lured him westward 33 years ago, and though he encountered many differences in his new locale, he says his Oakland neighbors have at least one thing in common with those in his hometown. “They are driven to make life better for others. There’s a lot of that here,” he says. “People care a little more about who you are substantively. … There’s a big premium on being genuine.”
Making life better for others is what he tries to do every day at Kazan, McClain, Satterley & Greenwood in Oakland, where he has worked for 23 of the firm’s 46 years. Its focus is on representing working people suffering from mesothelioma and other effects of longtime exposure to asbestos. “I’m fighting for somebody’s life,” Greenwood says. “They’re six months from leaving all of the troubles of the world, and I’ve got a company saying, ‘We don’t want to pay that much money because that’s gonna hurt our bottom line.’ Those two sides of the table are not even close to being equal. That keeps you going.”
Greenwood wasn’t originally drawn to personal injury law. In 1988, when he graduated from George Washington University Law School, the savings and loan crisis was in full force. Banking law—on paper—looked appealing. Greenwood moved to the Bay Area to work in a bank’s legal department. But after about a year, the weekly three-hour case review meetings had him reevaluating his course. He was bored.
A friend, Douglas Rappaport, had just taken a job at the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office, and Greenwood decided to watch him in court one day. Not only did it resonate, it activated a passion.
“I was really moved by the idea of making a difference in people’s lives,” he says. “It helped me figure out why I went to law school.”
Pictured above: Then-presidential candidate Barack Obama straightens Brother Greenwood's tie at a 2008 fundraiser at the home of Ann and Gordon Getty in San Francisco, California.
Rappaport has fond memories of working with his friend, who he says is never not in a suit and tie. The entire time they worked at the public defender’s office, “Gordon never raised his voice,” Rappaport says. “He just has common courtesy and is a very good listener. “When you come from Los Angeles like I do, you tend to be frenetic. But he is from the South,” Rappaport says. “Gordon takes it all in before acting on it. He’s the true definition of a gentleman. And those are the qualities that make him such a fabulous attorney.”
When Frank Fernandez, a mentor at the public defender’s office, moved to Kazan McClain, he recruited Greenwood. To his surprise, the public defense skills were transferable, Greenwood says, noting that the concept is really the same: “Somebody says, ‘Hey, I have this problem,’ and you have a chance to help them and chip away at some of the structures that allow large institutions to win.”
For his first six months at the firm, Greenwood says he had trouble finding his footing. Then he got a chance to start on a case right from the introductory call, and it was transformative. Direct contact with clients brought him to life. The woman who called was the widow of a man who had worked at a Chevron refinery in working-class Richmond. For years, he was unknowingly bringing asbestos particles home from his job, and after he died, his wife developed mesothelioma. It all clicked for Greenwood: “You represent people who need help.”
In the last few years, his firm has won major verdicts against Johnson & Johnson for selling baby powder containing talc contaminated with asbestos. These lawsuits have put the firm in the news, but it’s the smaller cases that really stick with Greenwood. “It’s the individual,” he says. “To do something that has real impact on a person’s or family’s life—to me that’s bigger than anything else.”
📸 Pictured above: The Kazan, McClain, Satterley & Greenwood team in Oakland, California.
One day in 2017 he drove out to meet a new client—a retiree who worked for a decade in the engine rooms of Navy ships. The Oakland apartment building he lived in was dilapidated, the doors didn’t close properly, and he was sleeping on a mattress on the floor. “He had done the dirtiest, nastiest work in the world. And, from the look of things, he had never gotten compensated much.” The man was sick, and Greenwood suspected it had to do with asbestos from the ships.
“Unfortunately, he didn’t live to bring it to the jury,” says Greenwood. But after a high seven-figure settlement was reached, “we were able to change the trajectory of [his] family’s life,” says Greenwood. “That was powerful.”
On a recent Friday, Greenwood is working his pandemic hybrid schedule, having put in some office time and some Zoom time with clients. He has just returned to the East Bay from a quick visit to his hometown of Meridian, Mississippi, to visit his 86-year-old mom. “I just check in to make sure she’s OK,” he says. Mississippi’s Southern hospitality is for real, he says; you can feel it, even in casual conversation. But lean too far into those conversations and they can become very polarized.
“Mississippi has this history on race, and it strikes me every time I go back,” he says. Meridian, he points out, was where civil rights activists Andrew Goodman, James Chaney and Michael Schwerner were visiting when they were murdered just outside of town in 1964—an event that galvanized the movement and the country. It was a “comfortably segregated small town” Greenwood says, when he was growing up. His dad was a civilian employee at the local Naval base and his mom taught school. The family lived in a neighborhood stocked with the teachers who taught him at school—a major reason “there was a high degree of accountability all over the neighborhood,” he says. There was a “built-in ethos that the community put a lot into you and you had a responsibility to achieve.”
A high school athlete, Greenwood was offered a football scholarship as a wide receiver to Mississippi Valley State, where fellow Mississippian Jerry Rice would go a year or two later. Greenwood jokes that Rice might not have become a superstar if Greenwood had taken that scholarship. But the truth is Greenwood was interested in academics, and put sports largely aside when he arrived at Morehouse College.
📸 Pictured above: Brother Greenwood's line Brother Dr. Rahn K. Bailey, far left, is pictured at a Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity (Boulé) event in April, 2020.
Rahn Kennedy Bailey, assistant dean of clinical education at UCLA’s Charles R. Drew University of Medicine in Los Angeles, became good friends with Greenwood at college. “Once a week we went to a Wendy’s, [could] barely afford to order French fries, and we’d sit there talking for two or three hours,” Bailey recalls. “He was a very mature guy who was older than his chronological age.” They were in Alpha Phi Alpha together. “He was the most humble, modest and clear-thinking,” Bailey says. “It was Greenwood who kept the rest of us in good stead.”
Greenwood and Bailey still get together when they can, and they encourage each other to work out. Greenwood, who is very health-conscious, runs the steps of Joaquin Miller Park and bikes to stay in shape. He lives in Hayward, and enjoys visiting the vineyards of Napa and Sonoma on weekends with his wife, Tamika, with whom he has a blended family of four children, ages 19 to 28, as well as his 9-year-old nephew.
When he gets going, Greenwood likes to tell stories—in even tones. His favorites include stories about the flurry of pro bono work he’s picked up recently, much of it from the local Black community. “I’ve developed a soft spot for elder financial abuse work especially,” he says. He relates how the niece of “a smart 93-year-old woman” approached Greenwood to help fend off lawsuits after credit card purchases piled up; but after some investigation, Greenwood realized most of the debt was accrued after the niece showed up. Greenwood wound up representing the aunt to help her protect the rest of her savings.
Greenwood is also busy helping his firm bring in a new generation of lawyers. He interviews students fresh out of law school, some of whom want to know, “Do you work evenings and weekends? Is there overtime?" He tells them, “When you work with somebody who is depressed and just been told they’re gonna leave this earth in six months—if that doesn’t motivate you to get up and fight the company who knew their products were dangerous, then nothing will. “It’s that fight that motivates you—and if it doesn’t, this isn’t the right job for you.”
📸 Pictured above: Brother Greenwood is pictured alongside then-Presidential candidate Senator Elizabeth Ann Warren, the senior United States Senator from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
While working at the San Francisco public defender’s office, Gordon Greenwood had a brush with future fame—a prosecutor named Kamala Harris. (He also later met candidate Barack Obama while fundraising for his presidential campaign.) “Yeah, I know Kamala well,” Greenwood says. In his last few years as a public defender, Harris, who grew up in Oakland, moved from the Alameda County DA office to the San Francisco DA’s office. Greenwood met her there, then kept running into her at political and social events.
He kidded her with a prediction: One day she would run for the DA’s office. When she did, victoriously, he kidded that she was destined to run for state attorney general. “She didn’t say anything,” he recalls. “Just smiled.” After she became a U.S. senator and was running for president, they met at an event and he laughed. No more predictions. “None of this surprises me,” he says. “She’s a smart, driven woman trying to do the right thing.”
Inspired Philanthropy: David (Fall 1974) And Linda Ballard, Profiled
Dr. E. David Ballard and his wife Linda both grew up in homes where giving back came naturally. People helped out when they could, it was a sense of responsibility. As they raised their family and achieved career success, the Ballards began to notice a trend of promising, accomplished students having to leave school over financial constraints. As their families had always done, they wanted to help out.
In 2018 they established the E. David and Linda C. Ballard Family Foundation Scholarship, focused on helping minority juniors and seniors at Atlanta-area colleges overcome financial barriers in order to graduate. In the first year, a total of $40,000 in scholarships were awarded to 14 students, helping to ease some financial stress so that students can focus on their course work. The Ballards’ adult children and their spouses are part of the application review process, which includes an in-person interview where at least one Ballard family member is present.
“We want the students to see us and meet us,” Dr. Ballard said. “We aren’t just some anonymous funding source, we are here to let them know we care, and that we want them to succeed. We hope our efforts inspire them to pay it forward in the future.” Linda Ballard shared that “We had no idea so many students were leaving school because they had exhausted all other financial avenues. The people who can be so instrumental in framing our futures were falling out of the system."
📸 Prior to the establishment of his own namesake scholarship foundation, Brother Ballard made history as the lead donor in the establishment of the Alpha Rho Chapter Endowed Scholarship Fund at Morehouse College.
"After A Pandemic Pause, Pickup Basketball Players (Jordan D. Lindsay -- Fall 2013) Share Communion On The Court"
Pictured above: Brother Jordan Drew Lindsay, at right, laces up for the return of every Saturday morning basketball at Joslyn Park in Santa Monica, California.
By Donovan X. Ramsey Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
As 10 a.m. approaches, the men saunter out onto the basketball court at Joslyn Park in Santa Monica, ready for a pickup game. Or three or four. They stretch and don protective gear. Kirkland Lynch has a guard on his left knee and a brace on his right ankle. There are no illusions here. Not only are their high school and college teams a memory, but COVID-19 has kept them off the court for the better part of a year.
They are sluggish, taking careful jump shots as they start to warm up. But on this sunny Saturday in June, it just doesn’t matter. Basketballs thump against backboards. The rhythm grows louder and faster as the minutes pass. At long last, they’re back at Joslyn Park. Together. And that’s as important as the game itself.
“Everybody’s always looking for a good run, especially as young Black professionals,” said Jermaine McMihelk, an asset manager from Compton and one of the OGs, who started playing at Joslyn Park about five years ago.
“You want to play with folks that you feel like they have something to lose,” he said, “who aren’t trying to fight over the foul, who just came to have a good time.” For this group of men, the basketball court at Joslyn Park is a sanctuary — a space that provides undisturbed fellowship, sometimes networking opportunities, and a healthy outlet for the week’s frustration. They’ve gathered at the quiet court — their best kept secret — for years now and built a community along the way. Although their pickup games were put on hold by pandemic and lockdown, they’ve finally returned to their Saturday routine. And they have their sanctuary back.
The main attractions at Joslyn Park are the playground, a small field where groups of women exercise, and the dog park where people congregate near benches and talk while their dogs mill around. It’s a sleepy neighborhood attraction — except for Saturdays, when this small group of guys from all over Los Angeles converge on the sole court. Gameplay is quick, intense and physical. A sort of muscle memory kicks in with tipoff, and the teams are suddenly darting up and down the court. They jostle one another, shove and reach and grab to get to the basket.
There’s shouting as plays are called out. There’s swearing from the more passionate players. But they try to keep things gentlemanly. After all, there’s a playground just a few feet away. The court at Joslyn Park is a great run, McMihelk said. It’s quiet. It’s equally accessible to guys coming from South L.A. but also other areas such as Hollywood, Los Feliz, and Silver Lake, where a few of them live. But more than anything, he says it’s the camaraderie that makes the run special. They catch up between games, share news and discuss business. Right now, the hot topic on the sidelines is cryptocurrency.
“I’m so busy during the week that I don’t have time to do a lot of stuff. I want to do that every Saturday, though. That might be the highlight of my week,” McMihelk said. “It’s our golf course,” said Lynch, an attorney who’s also played at the court for years. “We get out there and talk shop — everything from investments to politics to sports, or just joking around. Those are our Saturday sessions where we debate and talk and, you know, congregate.” It was all good until COVID hit.
The L.A. County Department of Parks and Recreation maintains 92 public basketball courts. The indoor facilities closed in mid-March of 2020. All other sports recreation areas, including basketball courts, were closed weeks later. Santa Monica had a coordinated response, closing its nine courts, including the one at Joslyn Park, March 12. Still, not even the threat of COVID could keep some people off the court. Parks workers had enough instances of chasing people off closed courts and playgrounds that the department eventually decided to take the rims down.
Micah Akerson is the principal community services supervisor for Santa Monica. He oversees sports operations in facilities across the city and says shutting down took a lot of work and was surprisingly emotional. “It felt so weird," Akerson said. "It’s not something we like to do. We like to fill the facilities but, in this case, we had to do the opposite to keep everybody safe.”
Among the guys who played in Joslyn Park, the response to COVID was mixed. McMihelk and Lynch just stopped playing, deciding it was best to wait until the pandemic was over. Others held on. A few courts were open during the shutdown, but their vibes weren’t the same as the Joslyn Park run — their locations didn’t work for everybody, or the people who played on them already had their own games and systems in place.
Jonathan Wall moved to Los Angeles during the pandemic and struggled to find a safe, open court. Then, one day in December, while getting his car detailed in East L.A., he happened to spot a court. For a few weeks, Wall just went out there by himself and put up shots. Eventually, he wanted to invite friends, including McMihelk, who he knew from his undergrad years, and Lynch, who he met in law school. Wall is tall-ish and wiry, with a full beard and a ready smile. He’s a North Carolina transplant and a basketball fanatic.
One friend he brought to the game was Jordan Lindsay, another newcomer, who moved to Los Angeles in May 2019. Over the years, Lindsay’s job had him ping-ponging among Los Angeles, Atlanta, and New York City. Along the way, he could never find a consistent basketball court, one of the few places he feels at home. “The only times, since I’ve been out here that I’ve felt super comfortable is while playing basketball,” Lindsay said. “I’ve always been somebody who has anxiety in larger social settings, but basketball is different; I don’t really have to say a lot or get too deep. “The court just brings a sense of peace, and you can find your place on it without any problems. When Jon hit me up, I was like ‘Alright, perfect.'”
Wall kept everyone connected and motivated to play during the long months of the shutdown. He brought guys over to East L.A. from Santa Monica, then to another court in Highland Park. He tried to keep the spirit of the sidelines alive via group chats.
Pictured above: Some of the African American professionals who fellowship together on the basketball court every Saturday morning at Joslyn Park.
The friends mostly stuck to one-on-one games, small games, or they shot baskets alone as they figured out the safest way forward. All the while, vaccines were rolling out in California. They had to discuss who among them was getting vaccinated, who was socially distanced out in the world, who would play in a mask. Asking for vaccine cards was bad court etiquette, it seemed, so they ultimately decided to go by an honor system. That meant everyone would act responsibly in their everyday lives and not come to the court if they had symptoms. Today, most have been vaccinated.
Outdoor courts finally reopened April 16, and the guys — the original crew from Santa Monica, Wall and his group — have been playing back at Joslyn Park since the first Saturday after. That they’re already a few Saturdays into their schedule shows their commitment to the ritual, their eagerness to get back to it, and just how much they get out of playing the game. “Not too long ago, I was at Ocean View Park and saw a guy on the court shooting. I said something to him about how nice it was to have the courts back, and I think he yelled something like ‘freedom.’ We both were really happy,” said Akerson from the city of Santa Monica.
It took a lot of patience and careful coordination on all parts to get back to the game. The result of that hard work is the perfect Saturday morning, win or lose. The guys are rusty after a year without consistent play. They have less energy, for now, and it takes a little longer to find their individual and collective grooves. Still, they play with intensity and rip through four games before noon. By then, they’re sweaty and breathing heavily. “It all came back together so quickly,” McMihelk said. “It went from this huge void to, once the vaccine rolled out and everybody was comfortable, we picked up like we never left.”
📸 Brother Jordan Lindsay describes himself as: "... an entertainment professional telling compelling stories through the lens of film and television. Creative Coordinator at Gidden MediaLLC in Los Angeles, California which is currently in a Joint Venture with MRC Films to produce feel-good feature content for audiences 50+ (A la 'Something's Gotta Give', 'Book Club', 'Terms of Endearment', & 'Red'). I support Gidden Media's Head of Development in pursuit of sourcing compelling stories for our core audience."
Citizens Trust Bank Welcomes C. Howie Hodges II (Spring 1980) As A Citizens Bancshares Corporation Board Director
Citizens Bancshares Corporation, CBC, parent company of Citizens Trust Bank officially announced the appointment C. Howie Hodges, II to its board of directors. Appointed as the eighth Board member, Mr. Hodges brings decades of experience in the discovery and development of high-performing public and private companies. His counsel and expertise bring added value to the board and the board's commitment to enhancing the community, its customers and stakeholders. His input will be significant as the Bank plans for the next phase of growth.
Hodges currently serves as CEO of CH Hodges, Inc., which provides political and reputational risk analysis and community impact strategy for Fortune 500 companies and community equity funders. Hodges also served as president and board member of Zions Community Investment Company, a CDFI and has held senior executive level management roles at Bank of America, Time Warner Cable, Charter Communications and also served as Group Director for the American Bankers Association, the nation's oldest and largest banking lobbying association, providing policy recommendations on a range of Congressional and regulatory rulemaking legislation impacting financial institutions.
📸 Pictured above: (L-R) C. Howie Hodges, Elizabeth Jackson Hodges, Mali Music and David Waite are seen at the premier of Harry Lennix's Film Revival!, a gospel musical based on the Book of John, at the Museum of The Bible on December 04, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Getty Images)
"We believe Mr. Hodges' varied business experience and diverse skill set in strategic public/private partnerships, external affairs, and political and reputational risk expertise, are valuable to the Board and qualifies him to serve as a director," said Ray Robinson, Chairman of the CBC Board. Cynthia N. Day, Citizens Trust Bank president and CEO, "Mr. Hodges joins us at an exciting time as we continue to drive growth, cultivate deeper relationships with our customers and pursue innovation that will enhance our digital footprint and transform our Company for generations to come.
His addition complements our board of directors' skills and experience and he has already made a difference in facilitating valuable relationships," concluded Day. "I am excited to join the Citizens Bancshares Corporation Board," stated Hodges. "I look forward to working alongside fellow Board members and the management team to continue a vision started 100 years ago to provide access to financial services that meet the needs of all communities, particularly communities of color."
Celebrating 100 years in the community, Citizens Trust Bank remains committed to providing personalized service and financial solutions to meet the growing needs of the community. Through a legacy built on economic equality and well-being, we go beyond meeting the needs of offering banking solutions; our mission is to empower our customers and future generations for financial success. The bank takes pride in offering its financial solutions throughout metropolitan-Atlanta and Birmingham and Eutaw, Alabama.
📸 Within the broader Morehouse College alumni ranks, Brother Hodges took his commitment to “The House” seriously when he created a trademarked design for a signature watch to be exclusively worn by the formidable Morehouse Man. These Hodges Watch Company (HWCo) watches are an élite and limited Morehouse College collection where only 350 were offered for sale. Morehouse College receives a percentage of all sales through an approved licensing arrangement. Hodges shared, “I have a passion for watches, and I wanted to design and manufacture a “collectable timepiece” that could be passed down from generation-to-generation of Morehouse men and to help my Alma Mater and have fun doing so. And, to remind me of the momentous years I spent on campus.”
Brother Ralph B. Everett (Fall 1970) Receives Charles S. Rhyne Award For Professional Achievement From Duke Law
The Charles S. Rhyne award was established in 1994 to recognize graduates whose careers exemplify the highest standards of professionalism, personal integrity, and commitment to education or community service.
Ralph B. Everett has four decades of leadership experience in politics and public policy in the nation’s capital having served in key leadership positions in the public, private and non-profit sectors. Named by Ebony magazine as one of the country’s “150 Most Influential African Americans,” Mr. Everett has worked on a daily basis with America’s leading policymakers, business enterprises, advocacy organizations and the civil rights community on a broad range of economic, regulatory and corporate social responsibility issues. He began his Washington career in 1977 by serving as Legislative Assistant to United States Senator Ernest Hollings of South Carolina.
In 1982, he became the first African American to head a U.S. Senate committee staff when he was appointed to serve as Democratic Staff Director and Minority Chief Counsel for the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. When Senate Democrats won majority control four years later, he became Staff Director and Chief Counsel of the full committee, where he played a pivotal role in cable, broadcast and common carrier legislative reforms, as well as regulatory reform of the airline, truck, railway and bus industries.
📸 Pictured above: William Kennard, Chairman AT&T, Debra L. Lee, CEO BET Networks, and Brother Everett.
In 1989, Mr. Everett became the first African American partner at Paul Hastings LLP, a leading international law firm with offices worldwide, where for 17 years he specialized in telecommunications and transportation policy. He served as the Managing Partner of the Washington office, as co-chair of the firm’s Federal Legislative Practice Group and as a member of its Policy Committee.
Mr. Everett served for seven years as the President and CEO of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, widely acknowledged as the nation’s leading think tank for policy analysis and research on issues of concern to African Americans and other people of color. While there he expanded the organization’s research and influence into key policy areas – including telecommunications, broadband and energy and environmental – while strengthening the organization’s leadership on health policy issues. He has also served as Senior Industry and Innovation Fellow at Georgetown University’s Center for Business and Public Policy.
📸 Pictured above: Brother Everett, far right, engages with President Barack Obama during a 2013 meeting of prominent African American leaders at the White House. The discussion centered on the President's plans to strengthen the middle class and provide opportunities for those living in poverty, particularly African Americans and people of color.
Mr. Everett has received several key presidential appointments. In 2008, he served the incoming Obama Administration as co-chair of the Commerce Department Transition Team. He was appointed by President Clinton to his Board of Advisors for the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities. President Clinton also appointed him as U.S. Ambassador to the International Telecommunication Union’s Plenipotentiary Conference, following which he was chosen by the President to lead the U.S. Delegation to the Second World Telecommunication Development Conference in Malta, where representatives from 190 nations elected him vice chairman of the proceedings.
In 2020, he served as co-chair of the Biden/Harris Policy Subcommittee on Broadband, Telecom and Digital Equity. He has also been appointed by Virginia’s governor to serve as vice chair of the Commonwealth’s Waste Management Board and to its Science Museum Board.
📸 Mr. Everett is a member of the Economic Club of Washington, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity and Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity. He also served on the Duke University Law School’s Board of Visitors, and as vice chair of the board for Independent Sector, and as a board member of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, Shenandoah Life Insurance Company, Star Scientific, the National Urban League, the Center for National Policy and Cumulus Media, Inc. He also chaired the Board of Trustees of the historic Alfred Street Church, one of the nation’s oldest African American Baptist Churches.
A native of Orangeburg, South Carolina, Mr. Everett is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Morehouse College and earned a J.D. from Duke University Law School. He was also the recipient of an Honorary Doctor of Laws from Virginia State University.