The sheriff was back in town, and his posse turned out to meet him.
C. Miles sat at a table in the rear of the dining room at Duffy's Restaurant last Friday night, under a huge, rectangular banner that had his picture on it. "Welcome Back, We Miss You" the sign read. Just above the word "welcome' were words in smaller letters that were part of Miles' trademark slogans when he hosted a popular and controversial talk show on WOLB radio.
"Black By Popular Demand" read one sentence, followed by "Banned By An All White Jury." Under the word "welcome" were two other famous C. Miles slogans: "He Be's Yo Brother" and "High Sheriff of the Talk How You Like Underground Posse."
Former members of that posse lined up to greet Miles last Friday night. There were men in smart business suits, sporting turbans, kufis and bow ties. Women with hair braided, straightened and Afro-style made their way up to see the man known as The High Sheriff.
Men and women alike donned what may have been the most popular item of the night: black T-shirts with red and white lettering that read "Talk How You Like Underground Posse."
They took turns shaking his hand. Some had him autograph black-and-white photos Miles had with him. Others squeezed into the booth beside him so photographers could snap pictures of the occasion.
Yes, the High Sheriff of the Talk-How-You-Like Underground Posse made his triumphant return to Baltimore nearly nine years after he was fired from his job at WOLB.
It was late September of 1998 when station honchos gave Miles the boot for comments they claimed "crossed the line." Miles had criticized then-Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke and then-police Commissioner Thomas Frazier for overstating the drop in the number of city shootings.
Did Miles' comments cross the line? Oh, you betcha. And rightly so. Crossing the line and crossing it on a regular basis is what made Miles, in my opinion, the best radio talk-show host in America. He hasn't been on the air in years, and for my money he's still better than some of the characters still around.
Miles is no daffy Don Imus, who got canned for calling a bunch of black women "nappy-headed hos." That statement was stupid; Imus admitted as much. Whenever Miles made an outrageous comment, there was always an underlying truth he was trying to convey behind it, whether you agreed what he said or not.
I was the target of some of those outrageous comments. On one show, Miles got hold of my pager number - which was in WOLB files for the station's other talk-show hosts to contact me - and gave it out on the air.
"Blow this pager up," he ordered members of his Underground Posse.
They did just that, sending in page after page and leaving message after nasty message. When the incident was over, some folks asked me if I was going to sue Miles and WOLB.
"Sue him?" I answered, "Not only am I NOT going to sue C. Miles, I might give the guy an award. What he did was the act of a superb talk-show host."
So it was a no-brainer for me that I would attend when I got invited to Miles' welcome-back-to-Baltimore party. It happened quite by accident. I had just left The Sun building and was about to turn left onto Centre Street from Guilford Avenue when Daren Muhammad pulled up beside me, had me roll my window down and told me about the party.
Another few seconds and I would have missed Muhammad, or he would have missed me. Muhammad hosts a WOLB talk show on Fridays and is the man who invited Miles back for a guest spot. Muhammad also organized the welcome-back party.
Muhammad is something of a junior C. Miles, spending much of his show roasting city officials with the same fervor his predecessor did. Muhammad already has a pet name for Mayor Sheila Dixon: "She-Lie Dixon."
"She lies every time she opens her mouth," Muhammad opined.
It looks like Muhammad's going to give Dixon some of what Miles gave Schmoke. The dear woman has my deepest sympathy.
Muhammad made his comment about Dixon as he introduced a parade of speakers who wanted to wish Miles well. Del. Nathaniel Oaks was on hand, as was City Councilwoman Belinda Conaway. Mayoral hopeful Andrey Bundley said a few words, as did former mayoral hopeful Lawrence Bell, who was one of the best City Council presidents this city ever had before Baltimore's voters kicked him in the teeth.
When Miles finally took the mike to speak, his Underground Posse members were on their feet, applauding, cheering, shouting their approval.
"It's a blessing that I'm here," Miles said, referring to the illness that struck him after he left Baltimore and returned to his home town of Atlanta. "Baltimore's always had a special place in my heart."
Miles said that when he was a student at Morehouse College, he visited Baltimore with some friends. The people he met here left an impression.
"I knew if I could make one or two or three good friends in Baltimore, I'd have it made," Miles aid. "Little did I know that I'd have all of you."