By Barbara Fluhrer
From humble beginnings in Memphis, Tennessee, Henry Calvin Winston fought his way to the top of the world of sports and entertainment promotion.
During his storied career, he championed many causes, but he also worked with and promoted boxing and entertainment icons, including: James Brown, Jackson Five, Larry Holmes, Muhammad Ali, Sonny Liston, Archie Moore, George Forman, Smokin’ Joe Frazier, Mike Tyson, The Ed- win Hawkins Singers and Don King.
He was born in Memphis on Dec. 11, 1931 to John and Rose Ella Winston, who had five other children including: John Jr., Charles, Herbert, Peggy and Joyce.
In 1944, his family moved to California to join his uncle, Mr. Louis C. King, who owned the Kings Hotel at 1208 7th St. in West Oakland.
“When we moved to California, it was paradise for me, after my experiences in Memphis with racism and prejudice. I wasn’t a top student, but I knew what to do with money. My sisters and brothers got good educations and somehow or other I got left at the train station. My uncle wanted me to go to school and said he would set me up in business,” said Winston in a 2008 Post interview.
Winston was an avid churchgoer his entire life.
“In Memphis we went to Gospel Temple Baptist Church and my mom sang in the choir. My mother was a graduate of Jackson State University in Education and a psychology. She always knew when I was lying and she punished me for it as well.”
“My mother’s brothers owned King’s Hotel and a night club in Berkeley on Adeline, past Alcatraz, around the corner from DG Gibson’s home and Bryon Rumford’s Pharmacy on Sacramento, next to Tom Berkley’s newspaper building. As a kid I used to talk to them.”
“I attended Beth Eden while Rev. Dones was pastor, and Johnny Cochran was a church member there. I left Beth Eden to go to Evergreen and left there after Rev. J. L. Richard died and started going to Pastor Loggi’s Interdenominational Gospel Chapel before I joined the Market Street Seventh-day Adventist Church.”
He attended McClymonds High School, but “I refused to graduate with the class, because I thought I was too big-time. I opened the pool hall on 7th Street in the building my uncle owned, and we had a soda fountain.”
“Roosevelt Cobb, a regular customer, was a pretty good pool player for an old man; he never beat me, though; I was very good at pool. Cobb always wore a longshoreman’s coat with big pockets and a stevedore hook. The hustlers would try to hustle him, and he would always end up with their money. Ron Dellums’ uncle used to come to my pool hall for a shoe shine from Post publisher Paul Cobb,” said Winston.
Paul Cobb said Winston protected him and helped him establish a movable shoeshine stand, while selling out-of- town newspapers and Black magazines on Seventh Street in front of the historic nightclubs that Cobb was too young to enter.
“My love for newspapers grew from national papers given to me by the Pullman Porters that Henry introduced to our family,” said Cobb.
In the early 50s, Winston joined the Navy and was stationed in Hawaii.
He married Georgia “Tiger” Burkhardt and had four children; Lenet, Lamonte, Pamela and Kevin.
He made sure his children valued their education. His children are Lenet, who lives in Baltimore with two boys; Pamela, a lawyer who lives in Fairfield, specializing in Intellectual Properties Law, with two children; Lamonte is Director of Player Personnel for the Kansas City Chiefs, with two children.
Winston’s accomplishments as a businessman started with his restaurant named The Rosa Lenet. He also expanded the Winston East Bay Ambulance Company to five locations.
Henry “The Champ” championed many causes, but his love and passion for boxing took him to unbelievable heights, travelling around the world and working with boxing icons like Sonny Liston, Archie Moore, Muhammed Ali, George Foreman, Smokin’ Joe Frazier, Mike Tyson and Don King – just to name a few. He traveled Europe with The Edwin Hawkins Singers to launch their “O Happy Day” debut album.
Winston fought diabetes for more than 10 years. The City of Oakland will proclaim Dec. 5 as Henry Winston Day.
His funeral will be held at 11 a.m. on Friday, Dec. 4, at the Market Street SDA Church, 900 34th St., Oakland. His internment will be at 9:30 a.m., Monday, Dec. 7 at the Sacramento Valley National Cemetery, Dixon, California.