Vol. 6    No. 23
November 17, 2011

The Capital City Hues
(608) 241-2000

Subscription Information:
The Capital City Hues
PO Box 259712
Madison, WI 53725
($45 a year)
Contact Number:
(608) 241-2000
Advertising: Claire G. Mendoza


Jonathan Gramling
Publisher & Editor

Clarita G. Mendoza
Sales Manager

Contributing Writers
Rita Adair, Ike Anyanike, Paul
Barrows, Alfonso Zepeda
Capistran, Theola Carter, Fabu,
Andrew Gramling, Lang Kenneth
Haynes, Eileen Cecille Hocker,
Heidi Pascual,  & Martinez White
Reflections/Jonathan Gramling
                              Good Man Lamarr
There is a saying that as one gets older, things are taken away from you. Last Friday, a good friendship
was taken away from me when LaMarr Billups died in Falls Church, Virginia. I still can’t comprehend
the fact that LaMarr is dead.

Perhaps it is due to the distance. LaMarr has been out East for several years now serving as an
associate vice-president for Georgetown University. Yet LaMarr had an uncanny knack for knowing
what was going down in Madison and having an informed opinion about it. So for a while now, LaMarr
has been this voice from the East, not physically present, but intellectually and spiritually definitely here.
I’ve never been one to hold long conversations on the telephone. I think I spent a total of 40 seconds
on the phone asking my first date for Homecoming to go with me. I’ve always preferred face-to-face
encounters. So I didn’t talk much with LaMarr on the telephone, but we would get together about every
three months at The Curve, LaMarr’s favorite breakfast place on S. Park Street, to catch up on politics
and other mutually enjoyable topics. Except for the past eight months, LaMarr wouldn’t ever talk about
his own health. He was stoic in that way, even if it was killing him. LaMarr had this outward focus on
life that kept him observing and interacting with the world out there and not the world reacting to what
was going on inside of him.

As I would enter The Curve with its bright lights and mirrors, there would be LaMarr with a cup of
coffee, reading the morning paper and catching up with what was going on in Madison. He would get up
with a wide smile and we would shake hands and hug.

Even though we were the same age, most of the time it was like LaMarr holding court, expounding on
what was happening in Madison or speculating what was going to happen. LaMarr would hold court
and I would sit there and listen intently because LaMarr was very informed and I can’t remember a time
when what he said didn’t end up being true. LaMarr was extremely perceptive and knowledgeable.
Every once in a while, I would know something that LaMarr didn’t. He would stare at me at first with a
questioning look on his face like he was trying to figure out if it was true or not and then figure out why
he didn’t know about it. And then the conversation would move on into its usual pattern.

A different person might have charged me for such information. But LaMarr always gave it for free.
Outside of our friendship, I think it was LaMarr’s commitment to community, especially the African
American community. That led him to drop so much knowledge on me for during the greater part of our
friendship, I was the editor of one and then The Capital City Hues and I think this was LaMarr’s way of
letting people know what was going on in the community. He wanted people to be informed and he
wanted it to be accurate. Information is power and he was trying to empower the community.

And it was always delightful to interview LaMarr on the record. He was my favorite political
prognosticator. I remember back in Fall 2002, I interviewed LaMarr about the upcoming elections
including the April 2003 mayoral election. I remember LaMarr clearly saying something to the effect of
“People better look out for Dave Cieslewicz because he could very well be Madison’s next mayor.” I
had never heard of Cieslewicz at that time and Cieslewicz hadn’t yet publicly declared. LaMarr called it
right and his electoral insight was always excellent and right on target.

When I went to cover the inauguration of President Barack Obama in January 2009, I had the good
fortune of staying with LaMarr and Sheryl, his wife. I had the foresight to e-mail LaMarr the Saturday
before the election to ask if I could stay with him. I got in ahead of the crowd who asked after Obama
was elected. LaMarr and Sheryl were always so generous with letting people stay with them. I guess
one could call their home Madison Inn East.

During that wonderful inaugural time, we went to see Aretha Franklin at the Kennedy Center and
travelled on that delightfully overcrowded subway car to the National Mall and Capitol grounds on that
cold January 20th day. LaMarr had used his Capitol connections to get several people inauguration
tickets. I know it was a proud day for LaMarr as it was for all of us.

LaMarr and I didn’t hang out a lot together. I went golfing with him a couple of times with the Madison
Golf Alliance. I couldn’t afford to join and it was just as well for I would have certainly taken LaMarr’s
gold score down a couple of notches if he had played with me regularly.

But LaMarr and I shared a spiritual connection of sorts where you didn’t need to hang out much together
to be good friends. Perhaps it was the influence of the Jesuits, but we shared an undying commitment
to community and humanity. LaMarr was a shrewd player and mover and shaker on the Madison scene,
always working for what he felt was right. He always kept the bigger picture in mind when acting or
making decisions.

LaMarr always worked to make Madison a better place for everyone and was in a position to influence
major decisions that affected Madison’s future. But he never forgot his roots and always worked hard
to bring resources to the African American community and help young people of color rise within
Madison’s decision-making circles. Above all else, LaMarr never forgot that he was a Brother having
breakfast at The Curve, recognizing and speaking to many of the workers who came through for
breakfast. He was just one of the guys. LaMarr was my friend and I will miss him dearly!
A group of us is planning a celebration of LaMarr Billup’s life on Sunday December 11th during the late
afternoon. During the next few days, we will finalize the time and place of the celebration and we will
get the word out far and wide. One way we plan to celebrate LaMarr is to present photos of LaMarr and
people’s remembrances of LaMarr in a Power Point presentation during parts of the celebration. If you
would like to remember LaMarr through a quote or have a photo of him during all the many stages of his
life, please e-mail them to Annette Miller at
millerannt@tds.net. There were many sides to LaMarr and
we hope to reflect them all. Thank you!