A few minutes past 8 o'clock on July 3, 1999, in the Chicago suburb of Skokie, not far from Northwestern University where he had once coached some of the greatest college basketball, Ricky Byrdsong was shot and killed. His wife was not with him. Two of his three children were.
A few miles away, Benjamin Nathaniel Smith, 21, a white supremacist, got behind the wheel of a Ford Taurus. He opened fire on a group of Orthodox Jews walking to a synagogue. Six were hit.
Smith drove off to Skokie. There, he saw an African American man strolling with two young boys. He shot Ricky Byrdsong in the back. Only three blocks from his home, Byrdsong fell to the ground in front of his kids. He died four hours later, on a table in the operating room.
I did not know Ricky Byrdsong other than to know he coached Northwestern Men's Basketball. I couldn't imagine getting over the hatred I would have felt if my own Dad had been shot in a hate crime. I just can not fathom it.
Today I participated in 14th annual Race Against Hate. A race that was started by Ricky's wife Sherialyn, that honors the legacy of Ricky Byrdsong. It is the Byrdsong family's way to bring attention to the need to combat hatred in all forms. I've participated for the past 13 years and every year I am in awe. The family's ability to take a horrible hate crime and turn it into an event that brings people of all backgrounds together with a common goal is nothing short of amazing.
Time marches on, but we don't forget. Every year on Father's Day we honor Ricky's memory and do something good.