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Words open old wounds for Larry Young

The Baltimore Sun

It looks like Larry Young may have been right, and the rest of us were probably wrong.

Today, Young is a successful talk-show host on WOLB radio. Nine years ago, he was state Sen. Larry Young of Baltimore, expelled from the General Assembly after his colleagues voted him out for alleged ethics violations. Young cried foul. Actually, he did more than that.

Young contended that he was targeted because he was black. Some scoffed at the notion and accused him of playing the race card. Full disclosure requires me to say that I was one of them.

But in an FBI transcript released this week, former Baltimore County state Sen. Thomas L. Bromwell Sr., who voted to expel Young, said, "I found myself voting against this guy because he was black."

Bromwell now faces corruption charges in federal court. Is this what folks mean by "chickens coming home to roost" or "what goes around, comes around"?

As part of the federal investigation of Bromwell, FBI agents wired two snitches - er, informants - and had them tape a conversation with the former state senator, who has been indicted on 33 corruption charges. The resulting transcript has Bromwell's comments about his vote against Young, as well as other tidbits that might prove the adage black folks have: that what white folks say about us in private is vastly different from what white folks say about us in public.

Bromwell had comments about black activists Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson. Bromwell accused Jackson of being a sexist, and Sharpton of being a, well a ... let me just quote from the transcript.

"You know what?" Bromwell says on the tape. "I don't use the N word, but [Sharpton] was an N. He walks in [to a fundraising event], he don't even say hi, how you doing, or anything. He was with this black guy that I - we threw out of the Senate."

That "black guy" was Young. In another part of the transcript, Bromwell says that Young "still likes me and he's still my friend. Very strong - he's still strong in the black - he's like, you know, an Adam Clayton [unintelligible]."

It might have been unintelligible on the tape, but black folks know the only "Adam Clayton" that Bromwell could have been referring to was Adam Clayton Powell, the black congressman from New York who probably got more substantive legislation passed than today's entire Congressional Black Caucus.

Young confirmed Bromwell's assertion that the two were friends and allies when they were in the Senate. They even sat on the same committee, which Bromwell chaired.

"Our community did very well under Tommy's chairmanship," Young said yesterday. "He got the votes we needed for those issues important to our community." As for when Bromwell met Sharpton at the fundraising event, Young remembers the encounter differently.

"From the time we walked in the door," Young said, "Tommy was introduced to [Sharpton] and Tommy took him around. For him to call Sharpton an N, I didn't see that in Tommy. I didn't see it in him."

Young added that he figured Bromwell was a liberal on racial issues even though he represented an area that was, well, let's just say not quite as liberal on race. While Bromwell's remarks about Sharpton might have come as a shock to Young, the remarks about that vote expelling Young from the Senate didn't. When the two talked this week, Young said, Bromwell told him that his vote to expel him from the Senate was racially motivated and wrong.

The most obvious questions many are going to ask is whether Bromwell had white colleagues who cast their votes to expel Young for the same reason Bromwell did and whether the vote was justified. Young is as adamant now as he was then. He insists the vote wasn't justified.

"Due process was not granted to me when I went through that infamous event," Young said. (It was in Circuit Court. Young was tried for bribery and acquitted by a jury in Anne Arundel County, not exactly one of Maryland's more liberal subdivisions.) The ordeal nearly ruined him financially.

"My mom and I were faced with eviction, bankruptcy and total collapse," Young recalled. It was Radio One owner Cathy Hughes who helped Young and his mother shore up the foundations as their world came tumbling down around them.

"Cathy Hughes called and told me, 'Come to my office. I want to talk to you,'" Young said of the day that Hughes offered him a job as a talk-show host on WOLB. The show has been so successful, Young said, that Talkers magazine ranked it among the top 100 radio talk shows in the country.

"It's like winning the Grammy or Emmy," said Young, who bears no ill will toward Bromwell or any of the others who cast him out of the Senate. If anything, Young might feel some empathy for Bromwell. Young knows what it's like to face corruption charges in court.

"It was the most difficult time of my life," Young said. "I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy."

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