12 February 2009

One Of The Good Guys, Cornell McCleary, Is Gone

UPDATED: Sunday, February 15, 2009, 6:34 pm -- Dirk Thompson, radio personality at WTVN-AM, posted a tribute to Cornell that is worth listening to. He also reminded everyone of one of Cornell's most powerful posts on his American-Experience.us blog . . . a look at what is ahead and a suggestion for a national conversation in the wake of the November 2008 presidential election. Cornell truly captured the essence of the discussion that needs to take place. Please read it to understand the kind of thinker this man was.
Cornell McCleary, a gentleman who enjoyed getting under the skin of the political elite in Central Ohio, died yesterday at his home in Columbus. He was 55.

Nothing else need be said but the following words: He was one of the good guys.

But I will say a bit more. I first met him more than 10 years ago at some function. I don't even remember exactly when or where. More than once I wound up on his radio show with a colleague, talking about personal safety, concealed carry and the Refuse To Be A Victim crime avoidance program.

One night, my closest friend and I were in the studio with Cornell talking about RTBAV, along with Tom Rice who had just been named head of TSA for the Columbus airports, and another guy whose name I can't recall. It was a rousing, fascinating, interesting couple of hours with a lot of callers asking great questions and sharing their opinions on safety, personal safety, self defense, and what government was going to do to protect the citizenry in the months after the brutal 9-11 attacks.

Over the years we would bump into each other at different functions and talk about the Second Amendment, and outreach to various constituencies throughout the Central Ohio community. We always had a great time and enjoyed bantering around ideas.

Cornell had been in declining health for some time. A diabetes problem and heart issues had slowed him significantly in recent months. Even so, he still loved posting controversial stuff, information that made people think, to his blog, AmericanExperience.us. He had a very successful weekend radio show on WTVN-AM for nearly a decade, and his mantra in everything he did was "power to the people." His pride and joy was the successful private police training academy he founded about five years ago.

One of the most memorable times with Cornell was in Columbus City Council chambers, when the powers that be were discussing competition rifles. The discussion was on a ban of these so-called "assault weapons." Cornell and I were sitting together watching the proceedings when one of the council members made a particular statement. I don't even remember the detail of what was said, but I do remember this; it was so startling that he and I looked at each other out of the corners of our eyes, asked each other, "Did she say what I think she just said?" . . . and agreed that we needed to get a videotape copy of that night's hearing to ensure that what had been said would forever be on the record.

Cornell was involved in everything. A high-profile republican, he spent a year or so as outreach coordinator to the african-american community. He ran unsuccessfully for Columbus City Council, and was one of the movers and shakers behind the Community Relations Council in Columbus. He never liked the way the Council ultimately was used, but he was proud that he was on the ground floor of its founding. During the time he was a vice president at the NAACP, he even helped author local anti-intimidation language that was some of the strongest in the nation when passed in the late 1980s.

Just a few weeks ago, he and I were bantering back and forth on email regarding a new post he had put together for his blog, and he was looking for feedback. Ever the champion of freedom, he was getting tired of people saying the fix is in regarding the Obama administration and looming firearms restrictions. We agreed that pro-gun advoctes need to stay on the offensive and not merely dig in for a defensive battle.

I share this text of our final conversation, in the order in which it unfolded. I want you to read this for it shows who this man was, and in my book, will always continue to be. A thinker, a philosopher. A couple of times he joked that he liked to bounce these things of people who were smarter than he. I had used the same words to describe Cornell once or twice, myself. He thought a lot of me, and the feeling was mutual. For your consideration, here is the text of the the online conversation:

Please review link


Oh...my friend.

Very, VERY well written. I do not argue with a single point.......except......

I cannot advocate for a Constitutional Convention. For EVERYTHING will be on the table. And I am concerned that there might be enough folks on the other side of the firearms debate that we might wind up watering down what already is a tenuous agreement that the 2A guarantees an individual right. Even today there is the caveat from so many that "well it is an individual right, subject to restrictions..."

Contradictory statements. And undefined.

I understand there are issues that should be addressed. But there are so many sheep in this nation.....so very many......

Can we fill the room with enough free people to talk common sense to federal lawmakers nowadays? Will they listen? So many people who have been "taught" to fear guns could rule the day..... and that is not what the fathers of the nation could ever have envisioned....

Your thoughts?


Thanks for the great comments my friend. This nation was not built on fear but on opportunity and true grit. The wolves are many but so are the bears. Bear on baby Bear on.



It is not out of fear that I question a CC, but out of an understanding of the reality. The bears and wolves out there on the other side of the 2A argument don't like the toys you and I keep for our protection and safety.

The idea that we don't depend on government...that we are individuals who believe we are responsible for our own safety and well being, that we do NOT want to burden an already over-burdened system -- particularly during a time of crisis.

But in the name of "public safety" the very real possibility exists that it could be taken away.

Why do you want to open up the entire bag of goodies for discussion and change, rather than focusing -- like good marksmen -- on particular changes that need to be made? Can you expand some on your thinking for me? Would love to continue this conversation....maybe we should do it over lunch or coffee sometime soon!

A Bear

That's not a bad idea. Where you and I mostly disagree on is the degree that the public has come to distrust the government. The election of Obama was a "throw the bumbs out" action on the part of the public. There is going to be a Convention its just a question of who is going to be at the table. If all the good people hang back for whatever reason they are going to cause the very thing that they fear to happen. My thinking, load the room with advocates of the people.


. . . And that final note from my friend, on Jan. 28, was the last time we chatted.
Cornell was absolutely right on this account -- whenever these gatherings occur, whether they be hearings at a Statehouse, City Hall or in the halls of Congress, we need to continue to fill these rooms with "the people."

Cornell McCleary wasn't everyone's cup of tea, but he had his finger on the pulse of this city like few people. Hardly an elitist, he cut through a lot of crap with his own version of "straight talk" and reveled in his reputation as a "former radio bad boy." Even his appearances on WOSU television's weekly "Columbus On The Record" was criticized by some because they didn't like his blunt criticism of city government. Here was this black man, who successfully walked both in the suit-and-tie world and the world of the streets, taking on the administration that so many in Ohio's capital city felt was doing them good.

He hated suck-up politicians and their "weenie factor" (I love that phrase he made up to describe the phenomenon of politicos being so afraid of offending someone that they do nothing). That is what made him a refreshing presence on the airwaves, and a shit-stirrer extraordinaire.

Rest In Peace, my friend. You are already missed.


Jean said...

So sorry on the loss of your friend.
Never to be replaced, but hoping someone will continue in his unique way.

Anonymous said...

I was fortunate to be on the air the night of Cornell's passing and opened my show with a 12 minute tribute to him. You can listen to it on my personality page on 610wtvn.com

Dirk Thompson