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A test of memory, and a test that could save your loved one's life

Did I ever tell y’all about the time I saw Dexter King, Martin Luther King Jr.’s youngest son, wearing a policeman’s uniform with a big gun strapped on his hip?

 

Nope, because - I swear - for 41 years I didn’t believe I’d seen it myself.


I’d done and said many weird things during my younger days, so I knew that people might've merely thought I'd flipped if I exclaimed "I saw Dr. King's son with a gun!"

So I kept the sighting to myself, filing the alleged incident away under “Things Never To Be Spoken Of.”

I’d even convinced myself that what I’d most likely seen was some brother who looked like Dexter.

 

I was prepared to carry that unmentioned memory to wherever newspaper columnists go when they meet their final deadline – until I saw that Dexter had died Monday.

The cause of death was listed as prostate cancer. He was 62.

I immediately called a few former Morehouse College classmates and asked if I were bugging out - or could my memory possibly be true.

To a man, they all said there was no way that the son of Dr. King – our assassinated Prince of Peace - had ever carried a gun as a cop.



 

In the first line of the prologue to his memoir, Growing Up King, Dexter King wrote "Memory is not always to be trusted."

So, not willing to trust my memory, I read excerpts of his memoir and found confirmation of what I'd been doubting for four decades: he had, indeed, at one time been a cop.

Whew!

He stayed on the force for about a year in 1982, but it was during that year when I, by then a writer for the Atlanta Constitution, visited our alma mater to speak to a writing class and saw Officer Dexter striding down the hallway.

I’d frequently seen him around campus as a student, but never approached him or his brother Marty: I knew I’d have become a gushing fanboy, telling them how much their father’s life and death had meant to me – things they’d no doubt heard ad nauseum.

 

As guardian of the King estate, Dexter made what many considered unseemly missteps, like reportedly trying to monetize seemingly every aspect of his father’s legacy. Ever wondered why you seldom see Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech on TV anymore?

Because Dexter started charging even news networks to show it.

Over the years, I’ve written critically of that, but I also realized that Dexter and the other King kids were deserving of grace and understanding.

There is, after all, no place to go to study how to be the child of one of the most important Americans to ever live, no blueprint to tell you what to do and what not to do.


I do wish, though, that someone had told him to get his prostate examined regularly.

Editor's note: We don't know that he didn't: Prostate cancer, according to the Mayo Clinic's website, affects Black men more frequently and more aggressively than anyone else, so it's conceivable that Dexter did everything he was supposed to do.

Dr. Miguel Stubbs, a doctor in Austell, Ga. and graduate of the Morehouse School of Medicine, told The Saunders Report “There is no reason for any male to die from prostate cancer before you are 80. Get your PSA checked yearly, and if it’s elevated, then get it taken out.”

 

 Dr. Allen Mask of Raleigh said men should get their PSA screening and digital exam yearly after turning 40.

 

We're not speculating on how soon or how often Dexter got treated, but there are at least two reasons many men are reluctant to get prostate exams: first, they don’t want to know if they have prostate cancer, even though it is easily detectable and treatable if caught in time.

Second, the best exam to detect it is a procedure of which Torquemada might have approved during the Spanish Inquisition.

It is, to put it mildly, extremely invasive. And uncomfortable.

When I went in for my physical this month and saw Dr. Sawbones reach for his rubber gloves, I involuntarily groaned.

 

Me: C’mon, man. Is this something we’ve got to do?

Dr.: Look, I don’t want to do this any more than you want me to do it. I’m going to lunch after this.

 

Sure, you're going to hate having it done as much as your doctor hates doing it, but you'll feel better after it’s been done.

Anyone who has a man they love and care for should insist - insist - that he get the exam.

They may be upset at you for about 30 seconds – which is how long the procedure lasts.

Then, they'll thank you for caring.


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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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Meet Barry Saunders

For over 20 years, Barry was a columnist for The News & Observer in Raleigh, NC. He also wrote for other publications, such as the Atlanta Constitution and the Richmond County Daily Journal. Often described as powerfully honest and illustratively funny, Barry's writing is both loved and hated by readers- sometimes simultaneously.  

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Want more? Get your own copy of one of Barry's published books featuring reader favorites (and not so favorites) from his years writing columns for The News & Observer. Titled "Do Unto Others...And then Run" and "...And The Horse You Rode In On Saunders!", they're full of guaranteed entertainment. 

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