Brother Nuri Muhammad just faxed me a copy of a LOS ANGELES SENTINEL article announcing the death of a close friend and loyal Brother of ours, Celes King III– a skilled and dependable bail bondsman, and a glowing example of the meaning of the word “friend.” A former Tuskegee Airman, Celes became known as the most efficient, and the most caring bail bondsman I have seen or heard of anywhere. The article quoted family members as stating that he “expired peacefully, despite suffering from ailments including gangrene and kidney failure.”
The relationship that grew between Celes and The Nation was not devised or orchestrated. It simply grew, being sincerely nurtured by all concerned. We were not the only ones who recognized the brilliance and value of Brother Celes, which is why he was able to successfully establish his own bail bond agency, as well as the California Bail Agents Association. He retired from the California National Guard as a Brigadier General. He was a past president of the NAACP, as well as state chairman of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), a position from which he resigned six months before his death. His son, Celes King IV, is quoted as saying, “He was a man who carried multiple banners. This country is going to miss his influence.”
We had established such a relationship with him that he responded to any of us, not just the Leadership. One occasion sticks out in my mind constantly. A few brothers (three carloads) had driven up into the San Joaquin Valley and were selling MUHAMMAD SPEAKS newspapers. They were stopped by the local police and arrested. Unable to reach me immediately, they called Celes. He hopped a plane to Fresno, freed the Brothers and returned home. As he expected, he was fully reimbursed–that was the kind of relationship we had established.
Celes was born in Chicago, but was moved to California by his parents, who were best known for their ownership of the legendary Dunbar Hotel, where all the famous Black people stayed when they came west.
His son, Celes IV, has been quoted as stating, “My father was just a man to me as a son, but he had a mission to constantly change life. He would always wonder, What can I do to make things better?’”
I bear witness that Celes possessed the type of character that would encourage you to take such a question to him. He always seemed to be the kind of person that other people could depend upon, whether he had known them all his life or just met them. May others accept him as a role model!