General News

Gary 'U.S.' Bonds still smarting from racist past in native Norfolk

May 21, 2013 | 12:20pm EDT

R&B and rock legend Gary U.s. Bonds still can't believe he was among the first to receive one of Norfolk, Virginia's top honours a decade ago - because locals once chased him out of a posh suburb because he was black. The Florida-born star, real name Gary Levone Anderson, grew up in Norfolk and recently returned to be inducted into the city's Legends of Music Walk of Fame - but the singer admits it was a bittersweet honour because he still remembers the hostility directed at him when he attempted to move up the social scale there by buying a home in the suburbs. He recalls, "It was 1963 and they locked me up for hitting an imaginary dog. I had just bought a house in Green Hill Farms, which was a white neighbourhood. My real estate agent, who actually looked white, bought the house for me because they weren't supposed to sell to blacks. I moved in with my family and the neighbourhood didn't like that. So they created this story. "I'm on my way to the studio one day and, as I turned the corner, a lady kept screaming out in the street, 'Oh, you hit my dog, you hit my dog!' I didn't see a dog and I got out to see and her husband got me at the gate with a shotgun and forced me into the house. "I was standing in the house with my hands above my head. She called the police and I went to the officer, 'Let me tell you the story,' and he said, 'You should shut up now n**ga! You got nothing to say'. Then he handcuffed me. "The next day I went to jail. They gave me six months but I think I only did, like, six days because the lawyer was very good friends with the judge and he talked him into it saying, 'This was wrong'. That's when I realised, 'I don't want to live here any longer!'" And he tells that his 2002 Norfolk Legends of Music Walk of Fame brought back some bad memories: "I got a little flak there. (When I was inducted I said), 'You guys are giving me a trophy. The last time I was here the only thing you wanted to give me was time!'" The honours keep coming for Norfolk's favourite son: "It's amazing how things go around. They want to name a street after me."

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