Local View Column: Duluth's newest role models leading by example

Tom Wheeler col mug.jpg
Tom Wheeler

The News Tribune’s Dec. 29 story on Dudley Edmondson (“Duluth photographer captures nature”) was powerful, a fine piece of journalism on a most intriguing man. His role as a person of color, modeling positive behaviors to inspire others, is indeed noteworthy.

With all our contemporary racial discord, is it not wise to acknowledge those who demonstrate talents and interests from which we all can learn? And from which we all can benefit? Somehow, years, generations, eons ago, society went askew, assigning value judgments to people who look “different.” As if we might not look different to them?

Duluth has been no exception with its sad racial history; how fortunate we are, however, to have increasing numbers of role models of color, exhibiting various skills and leading by example.

Edmondson is a photographer, birder extraordinaire, author, pharmacy technician, and public speaker who is actively engaged with the Duluth community.

Then there’s C.J. Ham, the Minnesota Vikings’ outstanding football player, on the Pro Bowl team this year, and a Denfeld graduate. What a class act. Only in his 20s and already he has been giving back to his hometown.


Joe Gomer, a Tuskegee Airmen, contributed both to his country and his community.

The recently deceased Xavier Bell was another instrumental figure actively engaged in the betterment not only of his race but all of us. He embodied the worthy statement as a challenge to racial disharmony: “I’m only interested in one race: the human race.”

Duluth has had the benefit of elected officials such as Mary Cameron on the Duluth School Board and now Janet Kennedy on the Duluth City Council.

Phil Allen, a personal trainer, has been organizing flag football for underprivileged children and is now working on a similar model for disadvantaged youth to engage with hockey.

There are others within our community and surrounding area who are likewise leading by example. Kudos to these role models.

Is it not better to lead from within, avoiding the top-down imposition of rules, regulations, and mandates? Poverty and dysfunction affect all of society; they know no racial barriers.

We are all in this race, the human race, together. Let’s be role models for each other. It’s not what we know or think we know; rather, it’s how we apply the universal values of kindness, respect, and responsibility.

Duluth is indeed fortunate to have, and attract, worthy citizens like Dudley Edmondson and others like those mentioned here.


As a privileged white man, I am honored to live in a city with such folks.

Tom Wheeler was a longtime Duluth-area businessman, civic leader, and philanthropist. Retired, he splits his time between Duluth and Tucson, Ariz., and is a regular contributor to the News Tribune Opinion page.

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