Steve Helvin headshot

Steve Helvin

Lane High School

I went down on the fifth of July years ago — Frances went with me — to try a judge’s son in Portsmouth. And I got — I forgot what he had — some drug case or something. And all the judges, of course, went — and I got in the courtroom and they said, “Do you mind doing a bond here?” You know, I’m supposed to try this. I said, “Not at all.” And they bring in this Black guy and it’s like Monday morning and the fourth of July was like on Saturday, I think, or something — on Friday, you know — oh, no, Saturday. And this guy had been picked up Friday. He worked construction. He was my age. Seventy-one or something back then. And his wife was a nurse and she would pick him up. Well it was like 100 and whatever — Frances and I — it was horribly hot. And he went up and got in the shade of a tree waiting for his wife to pick him up next to a fancy restaurant in Portsmouth. And an officer came and said, “You got to move.” And the guy, he said, “I don’t feel I have to move, I’m just hot and I’m waiting for my wife.” They ran him in. He, because it was the Fourth of July — his wife couldn’t find out where he was. She called the magistrate’s office later — that’s why he told her — and they didn’t have anybody there because it was Fourth of July — everybody was — Frances and I were — we were there getting ready for this case on Monday, you know? Riding the love boat watching fireworks. This guy’s in jail. And he comes out and I couldn’t believe it. His wife was there in court. And I said, “Well, what’s the charge here.” And the guy said, “Well, why don’t we just try.” And the officer’s here and the Commonwealth Attorney’s there and he said, “You know, we just tried — it’s not going to be a jailable offense.” I’m going, “Not now, he’s already served.” You know, but I tried it, I dismissed it, it was no — you know, I mean, I did the right thing. But here’s the problem, George. I’m riding back from Portsmouth and — I mean, I told the officer I want him released now, I don’t want him to, you know — and if he’s not released before I leave this morning from jail, you’re going to be trading uniforms with him. And I meant it. And so I felt really good and then I get about up to Williamsburg and I realize how am I ever going to give that guy back his Fourth of July? He’s my age. And Fourth of July is a big deal for me, I have striped clothes for liberty and just have a good time. How am I going to give you back that? There’s no justice there. How does he get back — how many more Fourth of July’s does he got? I mean, you know — you think you do justice and on racial matters you don’t always — you can’t always do it.