I’m mystified by the passing reference to Newton T. Bass as a racist (“Hilltop House Offer Accepted,” Daily Press, April 17, 2016), especially in the context of the article, which says that “Town officials [are] ‘estatic’ over purchase,” and that his former home would be returned to its “former glory” to become “a magnificent part of our town.” Given this, it would seem that Apple Valley has deep-seated white racism, which it now intends to memorialize and celebrate.
Aside from the fact that Bass died in 1983 (five years before the incorporation of the Town of Apple Valley), and is not in a position to defend himself, there is substantial evidence that our region was ahead of its time in terms of modern race relations.
According to Michelle Lovato’s book Apple Valley, African-Americans received land grants in Apple Valley as far back as 1914 (when Bass would have been 11 years old). Boxing champion Joe Lewis was a frequent visitor to Apple Valley from the thirties through the sixties. Apple Valley was home to the first African-American dude ranch. Photographs of Apple Valley appeared in Ebony magazine as examples of racial harmony. During WWII, after the announcement of a white-only USO to be built in Victorville, Lela Murray’s Overall Wearing Dude Ranch opened its doors to everyone. Actress Pearl Bailey bought this dude ranch after Murray’s death.
If alleged racism from 30 years ago really is an important component of this story, the very least you could do is tie it to present-day racism, as exhibited by members of the Apple Valley Town Council.
Greg Raven, Apple Valley, CA