Letter from George Tooks

Dearest Sister Laurie,

Author and historian William Loren Katz was, is and always will be my brother, my best friend, my inspiration.

He introduced me to people unknown to me. He guided me into a life I’d only dreamed of, beginning with sharing the stage with him at the American Museum of Natural History. He inspired me to DO BETTER and to BE BETTER every day. He created new ways for me to find work. He honored my brother and partner, Eddie, and me by including our “LENGA Tooks Musical Workshop” productions in his revised edition of The Black West. He taught me how to edit anything. Brother Bill hired me to go to the Schomburg Library to do some research for him.

In 1959, my grandmother, who I thought of as my mother, and I were sitting in the living room watching The Ed Sullivan Show. I told her: “We love you. One day I’m gonna’ tell the whole world about you, put you in the history books and build statues to honor you.” My grandmother smiled that beautiful smile of hers, stood up, kissed me on the forehead and went to bed. I went to work the next morning, when I received a call: ‘Come home now, your grandmother has died!” When I told Brother Bill this story, he asked me for a picture and I answered a few questions about her. Then, Brother Bill put Mom in The Black West!

Since 1933, Black churches in my home town of Altoona, Pennsylvania, have rented the local park for the 4th Friday in July for a picnic and it still serves as a huge family reunion for everyone who grew up there.

Eddie and I knew that our families would be coming to the picnic from all over. Brother Bill gave autographed copies of The Black West to me. Eddie and I drove there and handed The Black West to Aunt Rosalyn, Uncles Bill, Charles, and Fred and cousins. Softly, I said: “Turn to page 286.” At first there was complete silence, then tears, hugs and many: “Oh, my Go!,” followed by “thank you, Mister Katz!!” Uncle Charles said: “Whatever bad things you boys did while growing up in this house, we forgive you!” A few years later, my uncle Charles W. Arnold was in the VA Hospital. On his side table was The Black West opened to page 286. “This is my Mom,” he said proudly. “She’s in the history books!”

“Be straight with me!” my Brother Bill advised several times. Thanks to Brother Bill, I learned to trust my words, thoughts and feelings. Thanks to both of you, I have now been able to open up to the world! Sister Laurie, I love you and am here for you 24/7.


George Arnold “Circling Eagle” Tooks