Bob Bytes Back Archive: 11/27/1996 Our Buddy

Our Buddy
by Bob Fitrakis

While most people in Ohio were suffering from scarlet and gray fever last Saturday, 1,000 mourners from all over the state marched in Cincinnati to honor the memory of homeless activist Buddy Gray.

Buddy was the co-founder of the Drop-In Center homeless shelter in Cincinnati. But he was more than that. Buddy was no mere advocate, who sold his people out for 30 pieces of silver from the town’s elite.

Back in 1991, when Governor George “I am your shepherd” Voinovich got a politically motivated inspiration to abolish General Assistance (G.A.) and wage war on the poor in the name of Christian virtue, Buddy brought a dozen people from the Drop-In Center to a Statehouse protest. Buddy and his mostly homeless co-conspirators posted an eviction notice at the governor’s office, moved his furniture into the hall, and sat down.

The state police were not amused. They took the brunt of their frustration out on Buddy, I suspect because he looked like an aging hippie. They stuck fingers up his nose, they choked him, they beat him, kicked him and twisted his neck by pulling on his ponytail.

When I photographed the assault on Buddy and told the police to quit brutalizing him, they obliged by choking me. In the last speech I heard Buddy give, he predicted that the governor’s vicious cuts and documented lies that “able-bodied men” were the ones being cut off of G.A. would come back to haunt our society. Buddy foresaw that it wasn’t simply the money, but the medical benefits that went to the homeless-many of them under visible stress and some de-institutionalized mental patients-that would lead to social disruption.

On November 15, 1996, Buddy was shot to death in his office at the Drop-In Center by a homeless man with a history of behavioral problems. Just the sort that was kicked to the curb by our pious governor.

Buddy looked and acted like an Old Testament prophet. He knew that you could not serve two masters: either you stood with the poor and oppressed, or you bowed to the wishes of the rich and powerful. Buddy died unbowed, unbent, and an unrepentant advocate for “the least of his brethren.”

Family affair
Well, well. The Sunday Dispatch almost broke a story on the mayoral investigation of the Columbus Police Department. Their coverage had been so careful it bordered on conspiracy. There’s plenty more for the Daily Monopoly to dig up if they suddenly decide to give a damn. The Big D seems to have figured out the Chief Jackson/Commander Burns prostitution connection, now let’s try once again to teach the old dog a new trick.

Sit. Roll over. Speak. Say the name “Commander Curtis Marcum.” Good dog! More than a few officers have seen the thousand-or-so-page report on the murder of retired police Sergeant Mt. Vernon Johnson. James Moss, also a retired police sergeant and the director of Police Officers for Equal Rights, commented on my radio show Sunday that he has been to Washington D.C. three times in the last year to inform the Justice Department of patterns of discrimination in Columbus and the peculiar circumstances surrounding Johnson’s death. Moss, who claims to have read the investigative report, says former Supervisor in the Police Intelligence Bureau Commander Marcum and several members of his family were involved in the sordid tragedy of Mt. Vernon’s murder.

A law-enforcement source confirms Moss’s allegation. Reportedly, the story goes like this: Commander Marcum’s mother kept the kitchen at Mt. Vernon’s high-stakes west side gambling house. She also was in Mt. Vernon’s gambling book well over 200 times in less than two years. Curt’s sister gambled there as well.

But, still more curious, are questions surrounding Curt’s younger brother, a regular player and loser in Mt. Vernon’s game that should have made him a prime suspect, yet he was never questioned. Law-enforcement sources allege that he was a cocaine user and small-time drug dealer who used to sell drugs from a house in the 2400 block of Indianola. The investigation team knows that there’s no way in hell that Curt was unaware of Mt. Vernon’s gambling operation and suspect that Commander Marcum was using his position in the Police Intelligence Bureau to protect his family.