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Thad Spencer, former No. 1 heavyweight boxer, dies at 70

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A former No. 1 contender for the heavyweight championship, Thad Spencer’s boxing career became a cautionary tale that he frequently opened up about to keep others from following a similar path.

 

Spencer died in his sleep on Dec. 13 in Vallejo, Calif., where he lived with his son for more than six years since beginning to suffer from dementia. He was 70.

Thad Spencer Jr. was born on March 28, 1943, in Tuscaloosa, Ala., the third of 12 children born to Thad Sr. and Marie Spencer. He was 3 months old when his father’s job brought the family to Portland.

Growing up with meager means in the Woodlawn neighborhood of Northeast Portland, Spencer began boxing at the Knott Street Gym, now known as the Matt Dishman Community Center and Pool.

He spent one year at Roosevelt High School and one year at Jefferson High School before dropping out and focusing on his fighting career. At 16, Spencer captured the Pacific Northwest Golden Gloves championship in Seattle and seemed to be on a straight path to compete for the United States at the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome.

But at only 17, Spencer had two children on the way with two women. His amateur career and Olympic aspirations took a backseat to monetary needs and he made the decision to turn pro.

“In the Olympics, you have the head-gear. You have better trainers and better coaches,” said Kenny Spencer, his younger brother. “He took a lot of hard knocks that he probably would not have taken (otherwise).”

Although Spencer’s professional career began sooner than intended, his talent soon took him to the top of the sport. He amassed a record of 30-5 by the time Muhammad Ali was stripped of his heavyweight championship for his refusal to join the U.S. military after being drafted to serve in Vietnam.

Spencer, ranked as a top contender by the World Boxing Association, was then entered into an elimination tournament to determine the WBA heavyweight champion. In the tournament’s first bout, Spencer defeated former champion Ernie Terrell by unanimous decision at the Houston Astrodome.

Three months later, in November 1967, Spencer graced the cover of Ring Magazine, with the headline above asking, “Can Spencer match Frazier’s KO punch?” in reference to then-top contender and eventual heavyweight champion “Smokin'” Joe Frazier.

But the Terrell victory was to be Spencer’s last. In the lead up to the fight against his next tournament opponent, Jerry Quarry, Spencer was charged with a DUI in Oakland. It was a dire sign that he was not taking his training seriously.

“Thad used to joke about how he’d leave (training) and say he was going for a run,” said Kevin Spencer, his other living brother. “He’d go party, then throw water on himself (before coming back).

“He just thought that his talents would overcome not training, drinking and doing drugs.”

Spencer lost to Quarry via 12th round TKO in Oakland on March 2, 1968, and never won another professional fight. Spencer lost eight of his final nine bouts, with the other result draw.

By 1971, at 28, his career was over. The life of the man who once seemed destined for a title shot with the legendary Ali, took a dark turn. Alcohol and drugs, specifically cocaine, soon consumed him.

“I became a coke head because I thought that was what rich people did,” Spencer said in a 1994 profile in The Oregonian.

In 1975, Spencer was shot five times by an associate and the associate’s girlfriend while at a bar in Portland. He was then passed a gun, which he used to shoot and kill his attacker in self-defense. A month later in Oakland, Spencer was shot in the leg during a shooting in a bar. And later that year, back in Portland with a cast on his leg, he was run over by a car after another altercation. thadspencer-ali.jpgView full sizeThad Spencer, left, never got to fight Muhammad Ali, right, since Ali was stripped of his heavyweight title for his refusal to serve in the U.S. military. Ali attended an event in 1993 for Spencer’s 50th birthday.Photo courtesy of Global Sports Entertainment & Development

But despite Spencer’s miraculous survival through three near-death experiences, it was not until he saw Todd, his oldest son, on television playing fullback at USC in 1982 that he made the decision to get clean.

When a bartender asked if Todd Spencer was his son, Thad denied it. Not long after, commentator O.J. Simpson said of Todd, “You might remember his father, Thad Spencer, who back in the ’60s was a top heavyweight contender,” according to the 1994 piece in The Oregonian.

The embarrassment of that moment persuaded Spencer to quit cocaine and rekindle his relationship with his children. Lance Spencer, Todd’s younger brother, soon came to live his father in Northeast Portland, often going on one- to three-hour walks with him to help him kick his addiction.

“That was how we formed our relationship,” Lance Spencer said. “(My mother) always planted a good seed (about him).

“It was an open flower. It just needed to be watered.”

Although his boxing career ended in addiction, Spencer stayed close to the sport late in life. He started multiple promotion companies, splitting his time between Portland northern California and following big fights wherever they took place. He was an annual guest of honor at Golden Gloves events hosted by the Grand Avenue Boxing Club in Portland.

Thad Spencer, left, never got to fight Muhammad Ali, right, since Ali was stripped of his heavyweight title for his refusal to serve in the U.S. military. Ali attended an event in 1993 for Spencer's 50th birthday.Photo courtesy of Global Sports Entertainment & Development.

Thad Spencer, left, never got to fight Muhammad Ali, right, since Ali was stripped of his heavyweight title for his refusal to serve in the U.S. military. Ali attended an event in 1993 for Spencer’s 50th birthday.Photo courtesy of Global Sports Entertainment & Development.

“He enjoyed sharing his knowledge of boxing with young people and trying to help them … not take the same path that he did,” Kevin Spencer said. “Spiritually, he was always in a great place because he always had this dream that something great was going to materialize.”

By the mid-2000s, dementia began to set in and Spencer moved to Vallejo with his son Lance.

“He enjoyed his life and his experiences that he had,” Kenny Spencer said. “I think the only regrets that he probably had were that he got mixed up in some things that were detrimental to him and the people that he loved.”

Thad Spencer is survived by his mother, Marie Spencer; brothers, Kenny and Kevin; sisters Loretta Ganter, Cynthia Lovell, Maudine Smith and Gerry Orr; children Tamara, Todd, Lance, Mister, Taron, Joseph, Carmen Andria Jones; step-children Duran Beasley and Lisa Beasley; 16 grandchildren and one great-grandson.

Funeral services will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at Word Assembly Church, 9507 MacArthur Blvd., Oakland, Calif. Remembrances and well wishes can be sent to McNary-Morgan-Greene & Jackson Mortuary, 3630 Telegraph Ave., Oakland, Calif.

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Biden-Harris Administration Announces Two New Actions to Address Youth Mental Health Crisis

Through the American Rescue Plan (ARP), the Biden-Harris Administration has invested over $5 billion in funding through HHS to expand access to mental health and substance use services, and school districts are estimated to use an additional $2 billion in Department of Education ARP Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds to hire more school psychologists, counselors, and other mental health professionals in K-12 schools.

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The President’s FY23 budget proposes over $27 billion in discretionary funding and another $100 billion in mandatory funding over 10 years to implement his national mental health strategy.
The President’s FY23 budget proposes over $27 billion in discretionary funding and another $100 billion in mandatory funding over 10 years to implement his national mental health strategy.

Courtesy of the U.S. Dept. of Education

Our nation’s young people are facing an unprecedented mental health crisis.

Even before the pandemic, rates of depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts among youth were on the rise. The pandemic exacerbated those issues, disrupting learning, relationships, and routines and increasing isolation—especially among our nation’s young people.

More than 40% of teenagers state that they struggle with persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness, and more than half of parents and caregivers express concern over their children’s mental well-being.

To address this crisis, President Joe Biden put forward in his first State of the Union address a comprehensive national strategy to tackle our mental health crisis, and called for a major transformation in how mental health is understood, accessed, treated, and integrated—in and out of health care settings.

On July 29, the Biden-Harris Administration announced two new actions to strengthen school-based mental health services and address the youth mental health crisis.

Awarding the first of nearly $300 million the President secured through the FY2022 bipartisan omnibus agreement to expand access to mental health services in schools.

Next week, the Department of Education will begin the process to disburse almost $300 million Congress appropriated in FY22 through both the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act and the FY22 Omnibus to help schools hire more mental health professionals and build a strong pipeline into the profession for the upcoming school year.

In total, the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act will invest $1 billion over the next five years in mental health supports in our schools, making progress towards the President’s goal to double the number of school counselors, social workers, and other mental health professionals. This funding is allocated to two critical programs:

  • The Mental Health Service Professional (MHSP) Demonstration Grant Program. In FY22, this program will provide over $140 million in competitive grants to support a strong pipeline into the mental health profession, including innovative partnerships to prepare qualified school-based mental health services providers for employment in schools.
  • School-Based Mental Health (SBMH) Services Grant Program. In FY22, this program will provide over $140 million in competitive grants to states and school districts to increase the number of qualified mental health services providers delivering school-based mental health services to students in local educational agencies with demonstrated need. This will increase the number of school psychologists, counselors, and other mental health professionals serving our students. Some schools will gain mental health staff for the first time. Others will see this critical workforce expand. By increasing the number of qualified mental health professionals in our schools, and thereby reducing the number of students each provider serves, this program will meaningfully improve access to mental health services for vulnerable students.

In the following months, the Biden Administration will deliver the following additional FY22 funding that can be used to expand access to mental health services and supports in schools:

  • Fostering Trauma-Informed Services in Schools. Young people have been especially impacted by the trauma of COVID. Over the next several weeks, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will begin evaluating applications to award nearly $7 million to education activities designed to help students access evidence-based and culturally relevant trauma support services and mental health care. Applications were submitted on July 25, 2022, and award announcements will be made this fall. The grant funds will help create partnerships that link school systems with local trauma-informed support and mental health systems to provide services to students in need.
  • Expanding Mental Health Services Through Full-Service Community Schools. The Biden-Harris Administration has proposed expanding funding for community schools, which play a critical role in providing comprehensive services to students and families to improve academic outcomes and student well-being.

Earlier this month, the Department announced plans to award $68 million in funds for 40 new grantees. All grantees are required to provide integrated student services, which can include mental health services and supports.

  • Responding to Childhood Trauma Associated with Community Violence. The FY22 omnibus included $5 million for the Department of Education’s Project Prevent, a program that provides grants to help school districts increase their capacity to implement community- and school-based strategies to mitigate community violence and the impacts on students.

Experiencing or witnessing violence in the community is an adverse childhood experience linked to chronic health issues, including mental health. Project Prevent seeks to build a bridge between schools and community-based organizations to provide students with the tools to break cycles of generational violence and trauma, including through the use of mental health services and supports.

Encouraging Governors to Invest More in School-Based Mental Health Services.
In a letter sent on July 29, 2022, to governors across the country, the Departments of Education and Health and Human Services highlight federal resources available to states and schools to invest in mental health services for students.

The joint letter from Secretaries Becerra and Cardona highlights actions by the Biden-Harris Administration to improve the delivery of health care in schools and make sure children enrolled in Medicaid have access to comprehensive health care services, as required by law.

The letter also previews forthcoming Medicaid guidance on how states can leverage Medicaid funding to deliver critical mental health care services to more students, including ways to make it easier to bill Medicaid for these services.

Building on Progress

These actions build upon earlier investments and announcements designed to expand access to mental health services for youth and further President Biden’s Unity Agenda. In just 18 months, President Biden has invested unprecedented resources in addressing the mental health crisis and providing young people the supports, resources, and care they need.

Through the American Rescue Plan (ARP), the Biden-Harris Administration has invested over $5 billion in funding through HHS to expand access to mental health and substance use services, and school districts are estimated to use an additional $2 billion in Department of Education ARP Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds to hire more school psychologists, counselors, and other mental health professionals in K-12 schools.

And the President’s FY23 budget proposes over $27 billion in discretionary funding and another $100 billion in mandatory funding over 10 years to implement his national mental health strategy.

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Advice

The Perfect Time to Lock in Your Mortgage Rate, Keep Rising Housing Costs Under Control Is Now

Despite a challenging homebuying environment with high demand and historically low inventory, purchasing a home is still attainable – and you don’t have to go through the process alone. Getting connected early with a home lending advisor will better prepare you for the homebuying process, help you understand how much home you can afford and get you prequalified so you can shop with confidence.

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There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to locking in a mortgage rate and there are many factors to consider.
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to locking in a mortgage rate and there are many factors to consider.

By Christina Dello Buono

Surging mortgage rates combined with double-digit price gains are putting homeowners and potential buyers in a tough spot. First-time homebuyers, in particular, are being squeezed out of the market – due to the fact they don’t have equity or an additional boost from the sale of an existing property.

Despite those challenges, buying a home may not be as out of reach as you think.

We sat down with Denise Richardson, Community Home Lending Advisor at Chase, to discuss how to navigate the mortgage process, what resources are available, and how increasing mortgage rates can impact your family’s homebuying dreams.

Q: How do increasing mortgage rates impact prospective homebuyers?

Richardson: Mortgage rates have nearly doubled in the last six months – from 3% in 2021 to more than 6% in 2022 – making it increasingly difficult for many Americans to purchase a home, especially those on a limited income. That difference is significant by any measure, but it could result in hundreds of dollars added to your monthly payment and thousands of dollars over the life of your loan.

Despite a challenging homebuying environment with high demand and historically low inventory, purchasing a home is still attainable – and you don’t have to go through the process alone. Getting connected early with a home lending advisor will better prepare you for the homebuying process, help you understand how much home you can afford and get you prequalified so you can shop with confidence.

Q: Is it a good idea for homebuyers to lock in a mortgage rate as soon as possible?

Richardson: There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to locking in a mortgage rate and there are many factors to consider. This is where your home lending advisor can provide more individualized counsel specific to your situation and your market.

Given the volatility of interest rates right now, we recommend locking in rates as soon as possible so you can be certain what your payments will look like on your loan. Many lenders require you to have a purchase contract in-hand before locking in your rates, but that isn’t always the case. Chase offers a Homebuyer Advantage Program, which allows you to get conditionally approved while you shop for a home.

Q: What happens if mortgage rates drop after a homebuyer locks in their rate?

Richardson: There isn’t an exact science to timing the market, and while interest rates have risen in recent months, it’s always possible that interest rates could fall. Some lenders offer a mortgage rate lock float down, which allows you to lock in an interest rate with the option to reduce if market rates fall during the lock period. This option provides you with a little more security in a volatile market and allows you to take advantage of falling interest rates.

You may be able to move to a lower rate even without the float down option, but it may require additional fees. Additionally, your lender may have particular requirements, such as being at a certain stage of the loan process, for the customer to be eligible to lower their rate.

Q: Can a homebuyer potentially let the rate lock expire by pushing back their closing date? 

Richardson: It’s certainly possible, but it isn’t likely to be beneficial for the customer. Oftentimes, lenders will only allow you to move forward with the rate you originally lock in – or the rate on the day you relock, whichever is higher.

The other thing to keep in mind is that the ability to move quickly in this environment is critical. It’s important to do your research on lender-backed resources available to you, such as Chase’s Closing Guarantee. This guarantee commits to closing customers in as little as three weeks, or they receive $5,000. The program offers buyers peace of mind knowing that they can close on their new home without delay or receive compensation that can be put toward additional costs.

There are plenty of other resources available to help boost your homebuying knowledge – especially if you are a first-time homebuyer. The Beginner to Buyer podcast is a great resource for prospective homebuyers to get answers to all their homebuying questions. Every episode offers conversations with real buyers and expert guests about each step of the process, from mortgage rates and application to closing.

Christina Dello Buono is a vice president in the Dept. of Communications, JPMorgan Chase/Northern California. 

Content sponsored by JPMorgan Chase & Co.

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Activism

Respect for Marriage Act Passes in U.S. House with Help from Bay Area Representatives

California District 13 Rep. Barbara Lee, who voted for the bill, also stated it was “a key step forward in House Democrats’ fight against the right-wing assault on freedom.”  Representative Eric Swalwell of District 15, which includes cities of Dublin, San Ramon, Livermore and Hayward simply tweeted, “Kevin McCarthy and the majority of @HouseGop just voted against same-sex marriage. As backwards as they are, we are not going backwards with them.”

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Tweet from U.S. Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington. Twitter photo.
Tweet from U.S. Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington. Twitter photo.

By Sarah Clemens, Oakland Post Intern

The House passed the Respect for Marriage Act on July 19, 2022. The bill, which was originally introduced in 2009, would repeal the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act and recognize same-sex marriage on a federal level.

The reintroduction of this bill comes not long after Justice Clarence Thomas’ called for Obergefell v. Hodges, the 2015 landmark Supreme Court ruling that declared the right for same-sex marriage in every state, to be overturned. Thomas declared Obergefell v. Hodges, along with other landmark rulings, to be “demonstrably erroneous decisions.”

While all of the House Democrats voted for the bill, it also garnered some bipartisan support, with 47 Republicans voting in the affirmative as well. Notably, Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, whose anti-gay marriage statements were immortalized in 2018 Best Picture nominee “Vice,” voted in favor of the bill.

Cheney also denounced her previous statements in an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper, stating, “freedom means freedom for everybody.” However, the Republican Party’s top two representatives, Kevin McCarthy of California and Steve Scalise of Louisiana, voted against it.

While the House vote is a big victory for supporters of the Respect for Marriage Act, it is still not a law. Whether it will be approved by the Senate is unclear. Chuck Schumer of New York, Democrat and Senate majority leader, stated he wanted “to bring this bill to the floor, and we’re working to get the necessary Senate Republican support to ensure it would pass.” That mentioned Republican support would be a minimum of 10 affirmative Republican votes.

Democrat support remains strong, with many citing potential codifying of the bill as a counterattack in the wake of the overturning of Roe vs. Wade. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, whose congressional district lies within San Francisco, spoke about the recent ruling on the House floor and stood behind the bill, saying, “as radical Justices and right-wing politicians continue their assault on our basic rights, Democrats believe that the government has no place between you and the person you love.”

California District 13 Rep. Barbara Lee, who voted for the bill, also stated it was “a key step forward in House Democrats’ fight against the right-wing assault on freedom.”  Representative Eric Swalwell of District 15, which includes cities of Dublin, San Ramon, Livermore and Hayward simply tweeted, “Kevin McCarthy and the majority of @HouseGop just voted against same-sex marriage. As backwards as they are, we are not going backwards with them.”

While according to White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, President Joe Biden has been urging the Senate to send the bill to him soon, the process has instead been delayed.

Senator Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, who became the first openly gay person to be elected to the Senate in 2012, told NPR that “we don’t want to bring it to the floor until we know that we can pass the legislation.”

Senate Minority leader Mitch McConnell, of Kentucky, has stated that he’d “delay announcing anything on that issue until we see what the majority leader wants to put on the floor.”

As Democrats attempt to gain support from across the aisle, and Republicans make few statements on the bill publicly, the future remains unclear.

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