BLACK HISTORY MONTH: “You Got to be a Dreamer”


Arts and Sciences Dean Jim Stick with Adolph Pulliam

By Martina Gutierrez

~ The Struggle that makes you strong ~

Adolphus “Dolph” Pulliam, born March 14, 1946 in Mississippi, overcame segregation and family tragedy on his way to becoming a standout athlete. He spoke at DMACC for Black History Month on February 27.

Pulliam is a former basketball player who played at Drake University and was named to the school’s All-Century basketball team.

In 1969, Pulliam was drafted by the Boston Celtics and the Dallas Cowboys among many other teams, but he chose to say in Iowa to became the first African-American broadcaster.

Last year, he retired as the director of community outreach and development to be with his family in Indiana, after living in Iowa for 44 years.

Pulliam’s story explains that a person can achieve anything if you “dream big,” and a person can accomplish this dream by believing it can happen.

His life began with a whole lot of stories like:

Growing up for him and his family began as they were picking cotton in the fields for rent, in a one room shack on a cotton farm, and not for money.

“Living under the laws of Jim Crow directed specifically at ‘Negros,’ we couldn’t look at any white person in the eye, but had to look down and away. If you did, you would get beaten, hung, or even killed,” Pulliam said.

There were days that his mother would tell all the kids “Hide your face! Hide your face!” So they would put their heads down and close their eyes while driving to go shopping. Till one day, he was curious and looked up to see what he describes as “horrible,” people just lying on the side of the roads.

“The worst part about driving to shop in town was seeing all the bodies,” Pulliam said.

He goes on to explain, one day his mother didn’t come home. She had gone to church “Early Sunday Morning Service,” but never returned.

After night time came, all the kids went to bed worrying about their mother. In the morning the police came knocking on the door and told them that their mother got into a car accident and died.

Never before did they ever think they would lose their mother because they thought their mother was always going to be with them.

This was the beginning of change for Pulliam and for his brothers and sisters.

At the funeral, their aunt came and took them to Gary, Indiana where they would be able to go to school; a blessing in disguise.

At first, going to school was a struggle: from not going to school to going to school having to walk through streets of gangs. Not knowing if they would get killed by a stray bullet. Pulliam was scared and decided to stay home because no one even noticed, until the report card came.

The aunt called everyone into the room and said, “I will work until the very last one of you graduate, but you got to go to school. Don’t let our living arrangements define who you are. You got to live beyond that! You got to become a dreamer! Not just little dreams, you got to dream big dreams!”

And that is how Pulliam became who he was and who he is, because it was who he wanted to be. He became the “Dreamer.”

Pulliam is now a basketball icon for Iowans.

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