Five miles from where George Floyd was publicly killed recently by Minneapolis police, another black man was accorded the highest honour by the PGA of America. For William Powell it represented amends for the blatant racism he was made to endure through a lifetime in golf.
he scene was the Pantages Theatre in downtown Minneapolis during the week of the 2009 PGA Championship at Hazeltine National. And at 92, Powell joined such legendary figures as Jack Nicklaus, Byron Nelson, Patty Berg, Mark McCormack and Pete Dye as the recipient of the PGA's Distinguished Service Award.
An inevitable by-product of such ceremonies is that while attempting to right a wrong, the organisers expose themselves to stark reminders of grave shortcomings from the not-too-distant past. And the treatment of black players by American golf is especially regrettable.
Jim Murray, the highly-regarded sports columnist of the Los Angeles Times, was fearless in his condemnation of what he observed. When noting the white-only policy on the US Tour, Murray savagely castigated golf as essentially "the recreational arm of the Ku Klux Klan."
And when Charlie Sifford eventually made the breakthrough of becoming the first black player to win an official tour event, Murray wrote: "The Masters, which love to invite some obscure golfer from Formosa but never invited a black American, ought to send a car for Charlie."
As it happened, they didn't. That distinction would come in 1975 to Lee Elder. The manner of his qualification for Augusta was recounted beautifully by US author, John H Kennedy, with the words: ". . . Americans opened their sports pages to a picture of a black man weeping into a towel. In a voice choked with emotion, he was telling his wife over the telephone: 'Baby, we did it! We finally did it, baby. We finally won.'"
I first became aware of the Powell family on meeting William's daughter, Renee, at Firestone during the NEC Invitational in August 2000. That was when she talked about Clearview, the golf club that was owned, designed and built by her father in 1946, as the first of its kind in the black community.
Yet progress remained painfully slow, so slow in fact that at the time of our meeting, Renee remained the only black American to be a member of both the LPGA and the PGA of America. She was at Firestone as a consultant for the First Tee programme, which had been launched three years previously, aimed at opening up the game to underprivileged youngsters.
She talked about the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America having 16,000 members, of whom only 29 were black. And two of those happened to be her father and her brother Lawrence, the course manager at Clearview, a public facility situated 13 miles from Firestone.
"At the time we were expanding to 18 holes in 1978, our clientele was more than 90 per cent white," said Renee, who fills the role of resident professional. "Yet they called it the N****r Nine. Indeed some of them continued to do so, even after we extended to 18."
Her father recalled the light-bulb moment when he made the decision to go it alone. It came at the Tam O'Shanter club in north-eastern Ohio where, incidentally, Joe Louis was turned away, even as the reigning world heavyweight champion. Though Powell was permitted to play, he claimed it was made abundantly clear that he wasn't welcome.
So, he set about following his dream. The upshot was that with the support of two doctor friends and his brother, he raised enough money to buy a 78-acre farm in East Canton, which remained his home until his death on December 31, 2009. "I didn't build this course for blacks," he insisted, "I built it for anybody who wanted to play golf and be treated good. Remembering that the only colour that matters is the colour of the greens."
Given his international celebrity, the treatment of Louis was shocking, though by no means unique. After his retirement from the ring, he became an accomplished amateur golfer and won the so-called Negro National tournament in 1951.
Arising from this achievement, the sponsors invited him to play as an amateur in the San Diego Open on the PGA Tour the following year. Having originally rejected the sponsor's overtures, the Tour eventually bowed to considerable pressure and accepted Louis as an "exempted amateur."
The one-time 'Brown Bomber' went on to use his celebrity to raise awareness of racial prejudice in tournament golf while quietly providing financial and moral support for select black players. His efforts are believed to have helped the eventual removal of the odious Caucasian-only clause in 1961.
In the meantime, The Atlanta Journal carried a story in 1955 which began: "Five Negroes played golf on Atlanta's North Fulton course Saturday. They were the first Negroes to play on a public course since the city was ordered on Thursday to open golf facilities to them."
Turning to his early years, William Powell offered me the compelling mantra: "Golf will not change anything; people change things for the better."
He then recounted how he was posted to Britain when serving his country in the 8th Airborne during World War II. "Buddies of mine visited Ireland and I don't know whether they played golf there, but they loved the place," he said.
"For myself, I played some fine courses in England during the War, like Southampton and Bury St Edmunds. But afterwards, they wouldn't let me play here at home."
Though he was discharged as a sergeant from the US military, this was the harsh reality of golfing life for the black residents of Ohio. "What I went through isn't like what Jackie Robinson in baseball or Marion Motley in football did," he said. "I was on my own, with my own money. I didn't have a team."
In 1992, the Powells were nominated by America's National Golf Foundation as the Jack Nicklaus Family of the Year. Five years later, William was made an honorary member of the Northern Ohio section of the PGA of America. Then in 1999, the PGA of America made him a Life Member. There was also the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, conferred by the local Baldwin-Wallace College in 1998.
Another gift, from the Tiger Woods Foundation in conjunction with The First Tee, took the form of two university scholarships, named after William and his late wife Marcella, offered each year to high-school graduates who have had to overcome serious adversity of any kind.
It seemed that people couldn't resist showering him with bounty in his autumn years. And you imagined him being too polite to question why they hadn't done so years earlier when he desperately needed help.
I can still feel the emotion of that memorable evening in the Minneapolis theatre where Powell sat on the stage in a leather armchair with a folder in his hands, a stranger to celebrity. Beside him on a stool was the ever-supportive Renee, as he told us his life story in a strong, steady voice belying his years.
Later came a visual tribute from Tiger Woods and congratulatory letters from two US Presidents, George Bush Snr and Barack Obama.
There wasn't the slightest hint of rancour. Having won his battle, his legacy to us was: "May the struggle and triumph of my life wrap itself around you with a healing and understanding that sends the message to forgive and move on. Write on your heart that hope triumphs over bitterness, and love conquers hate."
Surely perfect words for these troubled times.