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IOWA  —  His name and number are synonymous with baseball, but as Major League Baseball celebrates the 71st anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier, Iowans should also stand proudly for one of their own.

“James Leslie Wilkinson. One of the greatest baseball people the sport has ever seen. This little white man from Algona, Iowa.”

Wilkinson’s love of baseball helped fuel his passion to start his own team in the early 1900s.

“He was so innovative.”

Bob Kendrick, president of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, Missouri, says that innovation began with the creation of the Algona Brownies in Wilkinson’s hometown–a team mainly made up of black athletes who traveled the Midwest playing in front of small crowds. But Wilkinson wanted more.

“J.L. Wilkinson didn’t see color, no, he didn’t see color. And so he brought this kind of collaborative group of athletes together to form his all-nations team,” said Kendrick. “You had black, you had Latino, you had white, you had Asian, you had Native Americans all playing together.”

At the time, the MLB was limited to only white athletes.

“These great black and Hispanic baseball players were shunned from the major leagues, so they found a way of their own. They created a league of their own,” said Kendrick.

With no professional league for minorities, a group of black entrepreneurs–led by Rube Foster–met in Kansas City, where they launched a baseball league of their own called the Negro Leagues in 1920.

“His original model, he wanted complete black ownership. J.L. Wilkinson was white,” said Kendrick.

Armed with his own diverse team–the All-Nations, based out of Des Moines, Iowa–Wilkinson quickly won over Foster, despite being white.

“Out of the original eight Negro League franchises, J.L. Wilkinson was the only white owner,” said Kendrick. “He owned the great Kansas City Monarchs.”

For many of the Monarchs players, the treatment they received from Wilkinson was the first time a white man displayed no prejudice.

“When there weren’t enough hotel rooms to go around, they slept in the same bed together,” said Kendrick. “If they played or were going to play in a town and his Monarchs could not get a meal to eat, they wouldn’t play there.”

Looking for a way for the Monarchs to gain more notoriety and money, Wilkinson hit the road, putting his teams in front of as many cities as they could handle.

“They were almost like America’s team because they were on the road in so many places, and towns got to see the legendary Kansas City Monarchs because J.L. Wilkinson had them consistently on the road.”

Because of the MLB’s stranglehold on scheduling, the negro leagues mainly played on Sundays. In 1929, Wilkinson mortgaged everything for a gamble that changed the sport forever.

“J.L. Wilkinson somehow convinced a banker to give him $50,000 in 1929 to build this portable generator light tower system,” said Kendrick.

The idea of night baseball was a hit, and crowds flocked to the Monarchs’ games. Wilkinson made his investment back in year one.

“The history book says that the first professional night baseball game took place 1935, Crosley Field, Cincinnati, Ohio, Cincinnati Reds versus the Philadelphia Phillies,” said Kendrick. “Well, we are here to tell you that the history book is wrong; the first professional night baseball game, 1930, and it featured J.L. Wilkinson’s Kansas City Monarchs.”

With stars like Satchel Page, Jackie Robinson, and Ernie Banks–all now in the Baseball Hall of Fame–the Monarchs became a must-see attraction, winning the most league titles in Negro League history.

“There are those that say the Monarchs were the New York Yankees of the negro leagues, there are others that will say that the New York Yankees were the Kansas City Monarchs of the major leagues.”

Fitting for America’s team, in 1945 Wilkinson was the first owner to sign a four-sport athlete and all-American from UCLA to a Negro League Baseball contract. His name: Jackie Robinson.

“J.L. Wilkinson signed him, really sight unseen, based on Hilton Smith’s recommendation,” said Kendrick. “Little did Wilky know, he was signing the man that was going to put him out of business.”

Wilky’s decision to allow Jackie Robinson to sign with the Brooklyn Dodgers is celebrated as the beginning of integrated baseball, but it also meant the beginning of the end for the negro leagues.

“When Branch Rickey came and got Jackie, he never paid Wilkinson a dime for a player who was under contract,” said Kendrick. “But Wilkinson couldn’t fight back, he couldn’t fight back. Even if he wanted to fight back, he can’t fight back because he’s white. And he’s white and he had made his entire living in black baseball. So if you stand up and protest what every black person in America had been waiting on, for a black man to finally have a chance to play in the Major Leagues, if he protests this, his fan base was going to turn their back instantly.”

With the color barrier broken, other teams began slowly picking from the Negro League talent pool, sending the league into extinction.

“The eastern teams took a major hit the minute that Robinson steps onto the field with the Brooklyn Dodgers.”

The league dismantled by 1960s, but Wilkinson’s Monarchs teams remain among the best.

“They sent more players to the major leagues than any other Negro League franchise, one losing season in their almost 40-year existence in the Negro Leagues.”

Wilkinson was an Iowa man ahead of his time.

“He made his living in black baseball, so you can rest assured there were some white folks who were not happy that Wilkinson was spending so much time with black folks,” said Kendrick. “Wilkinson was a 2000 man in the 1900s. He didn’t see color, he just saw people.”

James Leslie Wilkinson.

“It does shock people to see, again, this very diminutive, white man from Algona, Iowa, who was as big as any when it came to black baseball,” said Kendrick.

J.L. Wilkinson died in 1964 and was inducted posthumously into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2006.

PELLA, Iowa  —  Former Iowa State Cyclone basketball star Marcus Fizer was back in Iowa on Sunday.

He spoke at a youth event in Pella, focusing on topics like depression, mental health, and suicide.

“I was able to get through the things I was faced with growing up as a kid in Detroit, and I’m here,” Fizer said. “I’ll be 40 this year. I have a 14-year-old son, nine-year-old daughter, and a two-year-old daughter that I’ll ultimately have to continue to give those things that I’ve went through and try to let them know, ‘you’re not the only on facing these kinds of different things.'”

Fizer said even though these issues are difficult to talk about, it’s important to let the impressionable younger generation know they’re not alone.

“A couple months ago a close friend of mine chose to take her life, and it’s something that I’ve continuously been struggling with to this day, right now. And so whatever it is that they’re going through, if you just speak with someone and just let them know what you’re going through. There’s gotta be something that’s better than that alternative,” Fizer said.

He said young kids are very impressionable and peer pressure is tough.

“We want kids to know that we, as adults, are here for them. That they’re not alone.”

A youth leader at Grace Fellowship Church said he hopes this event is a gateway for his peers to open up.

“I know that people in friend groups find it difficult to bring things up like this, but with an event like this I think it will trigger something for a lot of people and allow people to be open about it and know that it’s okay, a lot of people go through this,” Youth Leader Colby De Vries said.

The name of the event was Never Alone.

“It’s not just you in this world. It’s not something you should just bottle up. It’s something that needs to be talked about, and it’s a lot easier to deal with when you let other people know about it, and it’s good to know that you are truly never alone,” De Vries said.

If you are feeling depressed or having suicidal thoughts, call the Suicide Prevention Hotline at 855-581-8111 or visit the Your Life Iowa website.

KNOXVILLE, Iowa — A Knoxville family, in love with racing, entrusted the gender reveal of the baby they’re expecting later this year to Race Car Driver McKenna Haase because they have a special bond with her.

“Well I met Kelli a few years ago when her mother had cancer and wanted to see one last race at Knoxville before she passed away. So I reached out to the Hall of Fame and they provided suite tickets and for the family to come down. So that’s how I met them,” Haase said.

She knew the gender of the baby before any of the family did.

“I opened the envelope so I’ve known the gender and nobody else knew until today so it was pretty nerve wracking and a big responsibility but it was also really special to be a part of it,” Haase said.

She said she got creative by putting the baby’s name Clauson Jace in blue on the wing.

“My mom was a huge racing fan. She raced and we grew up racing and so we wanted to include a racing name. And Bryan Clauson was one of her, she was one of Brian’s biggest fans and we wanted to do something different so we decided on Clauson for a boy,” Mother Kelli Sutton said.

Bryan Clauson died after a racing accident in 2016 and is beloved by the racing community.

Haase said this was a really special moment for her as well.

“Just to see how emotional they were knowing that this honors both their mom as well as BC was pretty special,” Haase said.

Now this family will see the Clauson name on the track this season.

“I think it’s just nice to see it. I don’t know, just special on the track for us, the baby. My mom can’t be here so it’s just nice to have something that I know she would be really passionate about and would love,” Sutton said.

The father-to-be said he is so excited to have another boy in the house.

“I can’t even put words to express how excited I am for all of this. All I know is for Nationals season, I’m not missing a day so I’m okay with that,” Father-to-be Cory Danielson said.

Sutton said the baby is due Aug. 24, but will be having it three weeks early just in time for the Nationals at the Knoxville Raceway.

JOHNSTON, Iowa  —  National Guard soldiers are learning some unique and coveted skills this week at Camp Dodge.

“We have a mission training team that has come here to provide some air assault training. We started with about 224 soldiers that started through the training. So it’s a great opportunity for us to train a large number of soldiers here at Camp Dodge, here in Iowa, in a relatively short period of time,” Lieutenant Colonel Mike Wunn said.

The last time they had this kind of training was in 2013, and it’s essential to better prepare both new and seasoned soldiers for important missions. According to Air Assault Sergeant Cody Leonard, they use a 34-foot tower for the training because that’s the height at which soldiers start to get apprehensive.

“It’s important because overseas we deal with mountainous terrains. You have a lot of different rugged terrain, so if you need to get down from a ledge quickly, we teach them how to rappel, how to repel safely,” Leonard said.

After they complete that part of the training, they finish off by rappelling from a helicopter 60-90 feet in the air.

“I think everybody should be, if you’re going to be in the military, you need to be ready to do this kind of stuff at all times and to be ready to deploy for whatever need,” Iowa National Guard Soldier Chris Downing said.

Leonard said not only do they need to know how to rappel, soldiers also need to know how to get important supplies to rough areas overseas.

“This training is good because we also teach them how to sling load, we teach them about different aircrafts, rotary wing aircrafts. It’s good for them to know because overseas it’s hard to get equipment, ammunition, and personnel into certain areas because of terrain. So we teach them how to sling load ammunition, equipment, whatever they need and get it to them quickly,” Leonard said.

Wunn said over the years Camp Dodge has become a destination location for training within the National Guard, bringing in over half a million soldiers and airmen for sessions like this one.

MADRID, Iowa  —  “I have filed two federal civil rights lawsuits against the city of Madrid, in particular against the chief of police Rick Tasler and Officer Nick Millsap,” said Glen Downey of Downey & Mundy Law Firm. “Officer Millsap is no longer with the department.”

Both of these lawsuits allege that the Madrid Police Department used excessive force against citizens. The city settled the first lawsuit for $50,000, and a second lawsuit is currently pending and in the discovery process.

“There was a conversation between Tasler and the mayor in which they tried to encourage my client not to file a lawsuit, that he misunderstood what happened between him and the officers, and that he shouldn’t be filing a lawsuit,” said Downey. “And this was prior to him actually filing the lawsuit but after he engaged in conversation with me, so the claim against the mayor is that he engaged in what’s called first amendment retaliation.”

Dirk Ringgenberg abruptly resigned as mayor this week, and a city councilman says this most recent lawsuit is the reason why. With Ringgenberg’s resignation, Mayor Pro-Tem Kurt Kruse is serving as acting mayor. Kruse is denying social media rumors that Ringgenberg resigned due to a plan to shut down the police department. Kruse says he was not aware of any such discussions ever taking place, and says at this point there are no plans to fire the police chief or dissolve the police department.

However, Boone County Sheriff Gregg Elsberry says he suggested the idea of his office and deputies taking over the police department after Ringgenberg asked for help.

“He (Ringgenberg) said down the road if something happens administratively, would you help us out? I said yes, but then I gave him a proposal for more,” said Elsberry.

Sheriff Elsberry says the takeover proposal stems from concerns he has about the police department.

“There’s an email account that’s through Boone County, for that purpose, we need the security, we need the firewall,” said Elsberry. “If we have a BOLO come across, for example of a robbery or whatever it be, we need that to go to their email. You know, found out that, there’s been 128 emails that haven’t been read. They haven’t been paying attention to the email.”

Elsberry says Chief Tasler has claimed he doesn’t get email.

Elsberry expressed other questions he has, saying: “Is there a reason why our sheriff’s office deputies respond to Madrid on a call and beat the Madrid officer there? Why is that? When Madrid is on call, sometimes they don’t go out on calls and we take it.”

These are just a few of many concerns Elsberry has about the police department. He’s also concerned about the tactics and techniques being used by officers as well as body cameras not being used properly, and he questions whether citizens are being treated equally after receiving many complaints that they are not.

Chief Tasler declined to do an interview for this report.

ADEL, Iowa  —  While storms can often wreak havoc, Dallas County Emergency Management coordinator Barry Halling has seen them bring out the best in Iowans in his four decades of service.

“It is a little more prevalent in the heartland, but you see it all over. People helping people and neighbor helping neighbor.”

A retirement ceremony in Adel on Friday allowed community members to show their appreciation for a man who was dedicated to keeping Dallas County as safe as possible.

“I’ve got a scanner that has been running for 42 years,” said Halling.

Fellow emergency management and first responders from counties like Marion, Adair, Guthrie, Boone, Story, Polk, and Warren all honored Halling.  He said, “It was a little bit overwhelming, but I couldn’t have done any of this the last 42 years without these folks.”

For a man who is always prepared for the worst of what weather can bring, it was not a storm rolling in that caught him by surprise–it was his son.

“He does logistics for the carrier. I had in the back of my head, you know, he is a logistics guy, but no, that wouldn’t happen. He wouldn’t show up,” he said.

Barry’s son, Lieutenant William Halling, serves in the Navy on the USS Carl Vinson. He grabbed one of the final seats on the plane from California to Iowa.

“I happened to go to the American Airlines website and there were five seats left on this flight this morning. I booked it and here I am,” said Lieutenant Halling.

He knew it was a moment his father deserved.

“He’s had a job for 42 years where when people run out, he runs in, and he’s been a stakeholder in this community.”

As the clouds and wind roll in on Friday, it seems like Iowa is trading in spring weather for winter temperatures; it’s fitting that Mother Nature will give Barry one last storm to watch over.

“I’m just hoping Mother Nature lays it really quiet until the 17th,” he said.

Now it is Barry’s turn to lay low into retirement. He said, “Even though I’m saying I won’t miss it, I’ll miss it.”

Barry Halling was also given the United States flag that was flown on top of the Dallas County Courthouse. His last day is Monday, April 16th.

DES MOINES, Iowa — “I think the first reaction that I had and we had here at United Way is that there really wasn’t a problem that we needed to solve,” said Elisabeth Buck, President of United Way of Central Iowa.

Buck says President Trump’s Executive Order requiring recipients of federal aid programs to work or face the loss of benefits, is a solution in search of a problem.

“When we did the research here on Iowa SNAP recipients, 97 percent of them are either working, elderly, or disabled,” said Buck. “So, most recipients of these benefits are currently working.”

Buck says adding requirements could make life more difficult than it already is for Iowans receiving public assistance.

“To require them to prove what they`re already doing would be one more step for struggling families, to have to go to a government office or produce paper to show that they`re working,” said Buck “May have to take off work to meet those needs and those requirements, so it would really burden families who are already struggling and working.”

In Central Iowa alone, nearly 35 out of every 100 residents live in poverty and rely on public assistance to survive. Many participate in the federal supplemental nutrition assistance program (SNAP). The program is also sometimes referred to as Food Stamps.

“We already have work requirements to receive SNAP,” said Luke Elzinga, Communications Manager for the Des Moines Area Religious Council. “For able bodied adults without dependents, ages 18-49, they`re already required to work at least 20 hours a week or participate in a job training program.”

Elzinga says he believes the notion that there are a lot of people out there mooching off of the system is a false narrative.

“We do know that only 14 percent of people who receive SNAP benefits are unemployed, or have had no family member working in the last 12 months,” said Elzinga.

And Elzinga says adding more hurdles for people who are in need of help could add insult to injury.

“Just imagine you`ve been looking for a job and trying, and the SNAP program has been there to help you while you`re looking for that, and just to be told that you`re not essentially trying hard enough or not doing the right things that you should be doing,” said Elzinga. “I think we just should really be providing more support for people so that they can lift themselves out of poverty, rather than trying to basically preach at people about that the things they’re doing wrong.”

JEFFERSON, Iowa — City officials in Jefferson have agreed to halt a controversial animal control practice effective immediately and implement what some say is a more humane one.

Jefferson has a feral cat problem.  Residents and officials say there are a handful of large cat colonies roaming the town. Until Thursday, residents could request a live trap monitored by police.  If police caught a cat that was deemed “unadoptable” they would euthanize the cat with a gunshot.  Residents like Sue Taylor say they didn’t know that was the case.

“Kinda cruel, I think…I just thought they always took them to the animal rescue, but no, I don’t think they should shoot them” she said.

If the cat appeared healthy and taken care of, police would take them to a local shelter, but city officials say unadoptable feral cats pose a risk to the community.

“We see disease spread, it can be a problem for citizen’s pets for similar reasons and it can be a problem for native wildlife” said City Councilman Matt Wetrich.

Under city code officers are granted the ability to “humanely destroy feral cats”, but whether a gunshot is considered humane is somewhat up for debate.  According to Iowa code, gunshots are permitted in certain circumstances, but the code also says they should not be a routine practice. The Iowa ARL says Jefferson police used this method about once a month.

“If it’s their policy that you judge a cat you pick up to be unadoptable, that becomes routine” said Scott Wilson, the ARL’s Animal Welfare Coordinator.

The ARL, along with the Animal Protection and Education Charity asked the city to instead implement a spay, neuter, and release program.

“If you take the cats out of the community, more cats are going to fill the void; it’s just a natural function. If there’s a good environment for cats, cats are going to come in. Where if you have an existing colony that is not breeding, it’ll keep new cats from entering the colony, but the colony will slowly, over time, die out” said Wilson.

The city agreed, and effective immediately, will no longer be offering traps to residents.

“It’s certainly not ideal, and I think if you would ask any of our great officers that’s not their favorite thing to do or what they’d prefer to do, I know there are other options and we’ll be exploring that moving forward” said Wetrich.

City officials say it costs about 35 dollars per cat to euthanize them with either drugs or gas; they say between that and holding costs, a gunshot was more cost effective.  The ARL says Animal Protection and Education, along with Alley Cat Allies out of Maryland, have agreed to help fund the new spay, neuter, release program.  Officials say it could take up to 18 months to get the program off the ground and revise city code.

DES MOINES, Iowa — Protesters gathered for a rally at the Capitol Wednesday Night, opposing the new law, saying it will break a trust that’s been created between the immigrant community and local law enforcement.

“Our local law enforcement, throughout the years, have created a relationship with the community in and of itself, especially even the hispanic community, a relationship of security and safety,” said Jessica Hernandez, with Dream Iowa Coalition. “And, now with them, local law enforcement working with higher federal officials, that relationship in itself is getting tainted with that collaboration and that working together.”

Hernandez was one of many protesters who rallied to show solidarity with the immigrant community, especially youth and young adults who are DACA recipients, but also on behalf of all immigrants who are afraid and have anxiety about the Governor signing SF 481 into law.

“It makes Iowa a really dangerous place for everyone, not just immigrants,” said Madeline Cano, a Community Organizer with Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement. “It forces our police to have to pick a side and to choose who they actually serve and we think immigration is the job of the federal government. It’s not the job of local government to decide that.”

Also on hand for the rally was State Senator Rob Hogg, a Democrat from Cedar Rapids

“The legislation that the Republican Legislature passed and Governor Reynolds signed does not reflect Iowa,” said Senator Hogg. “Iowa`s a very welcoming state and unfortunately that legislation was motivated by prejudice.”

But the Republicans who passed the legislation say Senate File 481 simply enforces the rule of law by ensuring cooperation between local, state, and federal authorities.

“The majority of immigrants that are here illegally just came here for a better life, and those are not who we`re talking about here,” said State Representative Steven Holt, a Republican from Denison. Holt made his comments last week, when the bill was debated and voted upon. “We`re talking about individuals who have committed additional crimes and traditional cooperation with law enforcement, because there are individuals here illegally, with violent criminal pasts that are disobeying other laws and placing citizens and their fellow immigrants at risk through dangerous disregard for the law.”

When asked for comment, the Governor’s Office provided the following statement:

“Governor Reynolds is strongly opposed to any city or community in Iowa becoming a sanctuary city for illegal immigrants who have chosen to commit a crime. This law will simply require our local jurisdictions to work with immigration officials when dealing with illegal immigrants who have knowingly broken the law.”

 

JOHNSTON, Iowa — It is a problem finance professionals, like Serve Credit Union Marketing Manager Mike Farley, are running into a lot with members. “Paying yourself first, how to save, what does it mean when you take out a loan and things like that,” he said.

Iowa is one thirty-three states that still does not require high school students to take a financial literacy class to graduate. It is leaving many without a clue about handling their money until it may be too late.  Farley said, “We are not just talking to people in their twenties or thirties, we are talking to people in their forties and fifties still learning some of those tools.”

The Johnston Community School District recognized the problem a decade ago by offering financial literacy classes but made the class a requirement for all Juniors starting with the 17/18 school year and beyond.  Johnston High School business teacher Kayla Bousum said, “Financial literacy is probably the most important thing we can teach kids. It doesn’t matter if you become a doctor or you work minimum wage, you need to know how to manage your money and this class can teach them that.”

Next Gen Finance Group says 1 in 6 american students graduate with a financial literacy course.  Here in Johnston all students will be required to take the class.  It is a trend they hope the rest of the state follows suit with.  Bousum said, “I think states should be embarrassed if they are not making it a requirement because they are doing a disservice to their graduates.”

For senior Jennah Johnson, who will be heading off to Winona State University in Minnesota, she believes the class is vital.  “A lot people don’t feel prepared going into college and they run into all these things as life goes on like I don’t know how to open a credit card account. What are the rates and my options? So this class really helps,” she said.

Teaching the class, Bousum sees the benefits.  “A kid comes in and says can we meet after school? I have $700 that I got for my birthday and I want to invest it and I want your help in starting a Roth IRA.”

Real life answers for real life problems.  Johnson said, “Think of your future and look at your parents and what they have to do and all the bills they have to pay because that is going to be you someday, so paying attention now will benefit you later.”

Iowa could soon become the thirty-fourth state to make financial literacy a requirement for graduation.  A bill has recently passed through legislation and will soon be sent to Governor Kim Reynolds.