I love biographies. I’m not claiming myself as a self-proclaimed book reader. Though I do love learning about people and their histories. Everybody has a story to tell and it’s what makes them what they are. Each person overcomes pain, adversity, and heartache and learns their own life lessons in hopes to pass along their knowledge to others. We are all unique and entwined through humanity.
In the 1960s, Rocky was a football star through high school and college and was soon drafted as a running back with the Pittsburgh Steelers. After his rookie season, Bleier was drafted into the U.S. Army, and he volunteered for duty in the Vietnam War. While on patrol, Bleier was wounded in the left thigh by a rifle bullet when his platoon was ambushed in a rice paddy. While he was recovering in a hospital in Tokyo, doctors told him that he would not play football again. Soon after, he received a postcard from Steelers owner Art Rooney which just read “Rock – the team’s not doing well. We need you. Art Rooney”. Bleier later said “When you have somebody take the time and interest to send you a postcard, something that they didn’t have to do, you have a special place for those kind of people”.
One year after being wounded, Bleier reported to Steelers training camp. Upon his return, he couldn’t walk without being in pain, and weighed only 180 pounds. He spent two full years trying to regain a spot on the active roster, and was even waived on two occasions. But Bleier never gave up, and later was back to 212 pounds. From that point in time, he would be in the Steelers’ starting lineup. Bleier played in the first four Steeler Super Bowl victories and at the time of his retirement, he was the Steelers fourth all-time leading rusher.
Bleier said that he worked hard so that “some time in the future you didn’t have to ask yourself ‘what if?'”.
On December 1, 1955, after a long day at work at the Montgomery Fair department store, Rosa Parks boarded the Cleveland Avenue bus for home. She took a seat in the first of several rows designated for “colored” passengers. Though the city’s bus ordinance did give drivers the authority to assign seats, it didn’t specifically give them the authority to demand a passenger to give up a seat to anyone (regardless of color). However, Montgomery bus drivers had adopted the custom of requiring black passengers to give up their seats to white passengers, when no other seats were available. If the black passenger protested, the bus driver had the authority to refuse service and could call the police to have them removed.
As the bus Rosa was riding continued on its route, it began to fill with white passengers. Eventually, the bus was full and the driver noticed that several white passengers were standing in the aisle. He stopped the bus and moved the sign separating the two sections back one row and asked four black passengers to give up their seats. Three complied, but Rosa refused and remained seated. The driver demanded, “Why don’t you stand up?” to which Rosa replied, “I don’t think I should have to stand up.” The driver called the police and had her arrested.
Later, she recalled that her refusal wasn’t because she was physically tired, but that she was tired of giving in.
Williams described his childhood in Mississippi as pleasant and happy. But life changed for him when his family moved to St. Louis, Missouri. His parent’s marriage, often strained, could be a tense place to live. The family situation, however, did offer fuel for the playwright’s art. His mother became the model for the foolish but strong Amanda Wingfield in “The Glass Menagerie,” while his father represented the aggressive, driving Big Daddy in “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.”
In 1929 Williams enrolled at the University of Missouri to study journalism. But he was soon withdrawn from the school by his father, who became enraged when he learned that his son’s girlfriend was also attending the university.
Deeply despondent, Williams retreated home, and at his father’s urging took a job as a sales clerk with a shoe company. The future playwright hated the position, and again he turned to his writing. Eventually, however, the depression took its toll and Williams suffered a nervous breakdown.
After recuperating in Memphis, Williams returned to St. Louis and where he connected with several poets studying at Washington University. In 1937 returned to college, enrolling at the University of Iowa. He graduated the following year.
When he was 28, Williams moved to New Orleans, where he changed his name (he landed on Tennessee because his father hailed from there) and revamped his lifestyle, soaking up the city life that would inspire his work, most notably the later play, “A Streetcar Named Desire.” The play also earned Williams a Drama Critics’ Award and his first Pulitzer Prize.
Williams said that “a vacuum is a hell of a lot better than some of the stuff that nature replaces it with.”
Aron Lee Ralston
Ralston became famous after having suffered a horrible accident. An experienced mountain climber, he was hiking in Utah when a boulder crushed his right hand, and pinned it against the canyon’s wall. He remained there for 5 days, trying to free himself and recording what he thought to be his last days on Earth, before amputating his arm with a knife that was not made for such an operation. He then managed to climb back and was found by rescuers in time to save his life. His experience inspired the movie 127 hours, which received great feedback. Ralston is still a passionate climber and his disability or the unfortunate accident did not stop him from doing what he likes best.
Aron said, “At this point, I’ve got the confidence to know that I’ll get through anything in my life given I have the motivation to do it, … If it’s an act of survival, we’ve all got a reason to keep living. It may not be pretty, but surviving is grit and determination in its highest form. I learned that I’ve got the capacity to do a hell of a lot more than I thought I could if I have the proper motivation.”
There are so many, many more to add and have started a list. Who inspires you?
- What Super Steeler Best Describes Your Athletic Abilities? (behindthesteelcurtain.com)
- Rocky Bleier, Dick Hughes Team Up For Fundraiser (pittsburgh.cbslocal.com)
- A Conversation with Boss Steeler Chick: Uniting the Nation (behindthesteelcurtain.com)