In 1946 I entered Fifth Avenue High School and met a young Jewish boy who was an exceptional student, talented violin player and even at that period of time was out spoken. He was Cyril Wecht and that was 66 years ago. We both graduated from high school and went our separate ways. Wecht went to college and I went to work on one of my father’s trucks. For a number of years our paths never crossed, but one day I was in Squirrel Hill and we literally just ran into each other; we embraced and reminisced. At the conclusion he said, “We must get together and talk about what we have been doing.” We exchanged phone numbers and the rest is history.
The academic accomplishments of Wecht are common knowledge; he has a degree in medicine and a law degree and excels at both. Our relationship expanded as we grew beyond being former schoolmates and became personal friends. The irony was that our paths were not really that different because both of us had been extremely active throughout the course of our lives doing whatever we could to level the playing field. Wecht in his early days was involved with one of the great ones, A. Phillip Randolph; and I on the local level with the NAACP, church, family and over all Black communities.
Cyril has proven conclusively in his political career that he is truly the friend of Black residents of Allegheny County when he was an Allegheny County Commissioner. It was more visible when he was Allegheny County Coroner by hiring the largest percentage of Blacks in the history of the Allegheny County Row offices and in meaningful positions.
There came a time that mean spirited, vicious, vindictive, unscrupulous White politicians conspired to put Cyril in his place and if possible that place should be jail. However, because he had financial resources to hire the best attorneys that money could buy, it was proven that Cyril had done nothing wrong. The original charges went from 85 counts to two and eventually to zero. It is my personal belief that Cyril Wecht, MD should be reappointed to the position of Allegheny Medical Examiner. There is no question about his ability that is acclaimed worldwide or the established fact that the trial (political lynching) should have never taken place.
I was under the impression that Dan Onorato, who was still Allegheny County Executive was going to reinstate Cyril, but for whatever reason he did not. Someone suggested to me that Dan was reluctant because the Allegheny County District Attorney would not approve of it. I took it upon myself and asked Dan right out whether there was any validity to that and he assured me that was an absolutely ridiculous and unfounded statement.
I will be in the office of the current Allegheny County Executive, Rich Fitzgerald on Wednesday asking him to reappoint Cyril Wecht to the position of Allegheny County Medical Examiner.
We live in a time where those who are guilty are given a second opportunity and sometimes a third. These persons come from every walk of life—religious leaders, everyday citizens, politicians and even police officers. How can Allegheny County in good conscience deprive a competent, qualified man who is a proven asset to Allegheny County of returning to a position that he was unjustly driven from? In fact it is my fervent belief that the medical examiner office should be an elected office and then there would be no need to write this column, because in an election Cyril Wecht would be elected overwhelmingly.
This year be sure to send a financial contribution to Kingsley Association.
(Louis “Hop” Kendrick is a weekly contributor to the Forum Page.)