A Book Review
Walt Jourdan and Lee Jourdan’
From Shoeshine to Star Wars: The Chronicles of Walt Jourdan (2016)
By Lance Zedric
One can never fully understand the social climate of a time and place unless they lived it. This is especially true for minorities who endured the subtle slights and overt abuses of racism. Jourdan spent a life struggling to shatter the sometimes glass, and often concrete, ceiling of race, and to be judged solely on his merits. His story is a well-told and fascinating account of his climb from a nine-year-old “Colored” shoeshine boy in Oakland in the 1930s, to collegiate gridiron star, to Korean War veteran, to noted electrical engineer who was honored at the White House for his work on President Ronald Reagan’s “Star Wars” program.
Co-authored by Jourdan’s son, Lee, with forewords by Susan Toler Carr and ex-NFL quarterback, Randall Cunningham, Shoeshine to Star Wars is part family history—part U.S. history—and part memoir—each element inexorably linked and woven into a uniquely American story. Jourdan sucks the reader in with an open, straightforward, and unapologetic narrative. His honesty and refreshing lack of political correctness reflect the simpler time in which he grew up, but also shines a necessary light on his and others’ lifelong struggle toward social equality and acceptance. Regardless of demographics, every reader can find their own nugget in the book.
Shoeshine to Star Wars is simply the story of Walt Jourdan’s evolution as a man. A story of how he faced obstacles and overcame tragedy. How he battled on the playing fields and survived a war. How he got knocked down time and again, and ultimately triumphed. But more importantly, it’s a story about love and family. And at the end of the day, isn’t that what it’s all about.
Worth a read.
*Note: I discovered the book while researching an article for RECON magazine about Alamo Scout, Rey Urbano, aka pro wrestler, The Great Kabuki. Jourdan and Urbano were teammates on the City College of San Francisco (CCSF) Football Team that won the mythical 1948 National Junior College Championship, and mentions Urbano in the book.