Nobody Asked Me, But....
by Bob Podoff

George M. Tanner was a great player! He was a marvelous player! He was a super player! The reason I know all about him is Because Jimmy Keene, who was the greatest checker historian of them all, told me this story. When I was a teenager, over 50 years ago, I found that most of my friends knew absolutely nothing about George M. Tanner and the story I am about to tell you. However to my pleasure I found that three of my friends know what I know about him and agree to everything I am about to tell you. They are Norman Wexler; LaVerne Dibble and Karl Albrecht. Now everyone is going to ask who is George M. Tanner!

George M. Tanner was born in 1885 in Illinois, and lived most of his life in Chicago. He was the Chicago Checker Champion in 1911, 1914, 1916, 1917, and 1918! He also was the Illinois State Checker Champion in 1919, 1920, 1923 and 1924, defeating the famous player and author Preston H. Ketchum in 1924! He defeated Morton B. Spielman 4 to 2 and 9 draws in a 16 game Match for the Chicago Challenge Cup. In 1914 He shut out the famous player and Internationalist Jesse B. Hanson by the score of 5 to 0 and 11 draws! Hanson, who once beat the great Alfred Jordan in a match!! After the match Jordan Proclaimed Hanson to be "The equal of any player in the World." Then in the 3rd American Tournament 1915, Tanner qualified for the majors , but lost to Hanson 3 to 1 and 2 draws. So in these two encounters, Tanner had the score on Hanson by 6 to 3 and 13 draws lifetime!!! So naturally I believe that Tanner was a better checker player than Jesse B. Hanson!! In the 2nd International Match in N.Y. in 1927, Hanson had the second worst score on the U.S. team!! He won 8 games while losing 5! Heffner the captain and coach of the team won 6 games while losing 5. In 1919 Tanner beat S.S. Bell 4 to 2 and 9 draws, the exact same score that he beat Spielman! In 1920 Tanner again beat S.S. Bell 3 to 1 and 15 draws. Stewart S. Bell was a very famous and a very strong player! As a matter of fact he came in tied for 5th and 6th place in the 6th American Tournament, ahead of Tanner who came in 7th. In the 5th American National Tournament in 1922 he came in 9th place ahead of H.B.Reynolds who finished 11th. He lost to Asa Long the eventual winner of this tournament. But he forced Long to 14 games before Long could beat him after 13 hard draws! Not too shabby a showing against the new U.S. Champion! In the playoffs of this tournament he beat H.B. Reynolds ( Internationalist) 1-0-3.

In the 6th American National Tournament 1924 George M. Tanner won 7th Prize! He beat the great Mike Lieber (internationalist) 1-0-5. Lieber won 8th Prize.And again he came in ahead of H.B. Reynolds, who won 12th Prize. Go to Page 83 of the 6th American Tournament Book, last 3 sentences of the biography of George M.Tanner, and I quote, "With such a splendid record in match and tourney play, we might venture to state that he has surely earned a right to be considered as worthy timber for the International Team." George M. Tanner's one burning desire and goal was to play on the U.S. Team in the 2nd International. Match, or at the very least to be an alternate! He wanted this more than anything he ever wanted in his life.

Now let me paint a picture of what this great country of ours was all about in 1927 and then in the 1930's and then in the 1940's! This is done for any and all of us who were not around in those years and didn't know what happened! But especially for the new, young checker players who I met in Las Vegas, and who weren't born in that era. This country was racially divided! It was bigoted! It was biased! It was definitely very predjudiced!! And it was SEGREGATED!!! We all know that Blacks had to sit in the back of the bus or give their seat to a white person because we all saw that on television during the race riots. In 1927 Louis "Satchmo" Armstrong, one of the greatest swing and jazz trumpeters of all time, could not register at a "White Hotel" or be served in a first class restaurant in Manhattan! Why? Because he was colored! In the 1930's Bennie Goodman hired the first Black musician in any white band. His name was Lionel Hampton, and he was the greatest swing & jazz vibraphonist of all time. Bennie had to sneak Lionel up to his room in the hotel! Then there were the Harlem Globetrotters, the greatest basketball team ever! They could not be housed or fed because they were colored! They had to eat and sleep on the team bus! Then there were the famous Negro Baseball Leagues, who could never play on a white team! I enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1948. The U.S. Army was SEGREGATED!!! I bet not many people know that. I was stationed in Ft. Eustis, Virginia, and also in Ft. Bragg, North Carolina and in Ft.Sill, Oklahoma. There were bathrooms for colored men & women. There were bathrooms for white men & women. There were water fountains for white men & women. There were water fountains for colored men & women. There were separate swimming pools for white & colored! There were separate movie theaters for white & colored. I guess by now you get the picture!

George M.Tanner certainly earned and deserved a spot on the U.S. International Team, or at least an Alternate. He should have been on that team! So say:- Bob Podoff, Norman Wexler, LaVerne Dibble, Karl Albrecht, Harold M. Freyer, Jimmy Keene, John Smarra, Orlando Saracino and others! Was George M. Tanner selected to play on that team, or at least an alternate? I should say not! He was not even considered! And do you know the reason why? Because he was a colored man! Today he would be called a black man. What did this do to Tanner? It broke his heart! It destroyed his pride and his self-esteem! So much so that he never played another game of checkers! He quit the game and no one ever saw or heard of him again! Now isn't that a sad story?