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Bernie Casey

Bernie Casey was born Bernard Terry Casey on June 8, 1939, in the small coal mining community of Wyco, West Virginia, to Frank Leslie Casey and Flossie Coleman Casey. While Casey was still a youth, he and his family moved to Columbus where he attended Garfield Elementary School, Champion Junior High, and Columbus East High School. Casey had already shown an aptitude for painting and drawing, and soon developed his athletic abilities as well, particularly for basketball and football.

Casey attended Bowling Green State University (BGSU) in Ohio in 1957, thanks in part to an athletic scholarship, where he remained intent on becoming an artist. Casey excelled in football while attending BGSU, and was considered a key player in the school’s 1959 championship season. Casey was named a member of the Little All American Team, and was also competitive in track and field. Casey received his B.S. degree in Art Education from BGSU in 1961, and later received his Master of Fine Arts degree from the same school.

In 1961, after receiving his B.S. degree, Casey was drafted into the NFL in the first round by the San Francisco 49ers, with whom he would spend six seasons, followed by two years with the Los Angeles Rams. In the off-season, Casey returned to Bowling Green State University, in order to complete his M.F.A. degree, which he received in 1966. After his standout 1967 athletic season in which Casey caught 53 passes for a career-high 871 yards and eight touchdowns, Casey was named to the 1968 Pro Bowl team. Shortly thereafter, Casey became disillusioned with the NFL and professional sports in general, and decided to return to his creative pursuits.

In 1969, Casey appeared in his first film, Guns of the Magnificent Seven, a sequel to The Magnificent Seven; that same year, he wrote Look at the People: Poems and Paintings, a book of art and poetry. Casey would publish two similar books later on in his career: Where is the Revolution? And Other Poems in 1973, and Silent Screams in 1983. In 1971, Casey produced an independent film entitled Bernie Casey: Black Artist, which focused on his thoughts and observations as a painter. As an artist, Casey has produced more than 30 solo exhibitions; he received an honorary doctorate degree from The Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) in Savannah, Georgia, where he served for twenty years as chairman of the board and advocated for arts education.

Casey has made over fifty-seven appearances in film and television, including the movies Cleopatra Jones, I’m Gonna Git You Sucka, Revenge of the Nerds, and Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure; and TV programs such as Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and L.A. Law. In 1997, Casey produced, wrote, directed and acted in The Dinner, an allegorical drama.

Casey passed away on September 19, 2017.

Accession Number

A2005.229

Sex

Male

Interview Date

10/4/2005 |and| 10/8/2005

Last Name

Casey

Schools

East High School

Garfield Elementary School

Champion Avenue School

Bowling Green State University

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Bernie

Birth City, State, Country

Wyco

HM ID

CAS02

Favorite Season

Spring

State

West Virginia

Favorite Vacation Destination

Jamaica

Favorite Quote

I can do this.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

California

Birth Date

6/8/1939

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Los Angeles

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Soup

Death Date

9/19/2017

Short Description

Film actor and football player Bernie Casey (1939 - 2017 ) played for the San Francisco 49ers and the L.A. Rams before turning to acting in film and television. As an artist, Casey produced more than thirty solo exhibitions and served for twenty years as chairman of the board at the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) in Savannah, Georgia.

Employment

San Francisco 49ers

Los Angeles Rams

Various

Harris and Company

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Bernie Casey's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Bernie Casey lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Bernie Casey describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Bernie Casey describes how his parents met

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Bernie Casey describes his childhood communities in Ohio and West Virginia

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Bernie Casey describes his earliest childhood memories

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Bernie Casey talks about his parents' marriage

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Bernie Casey describes his family life in Wyco, West Virginia

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Bernie Casey recalls butchering hogs in Wyco, West Virginia

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Bernie Casey recalls how his family stored provisions in West Virginia

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Bernie Casey remembers moving with his family to Columbus, Ohio

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Bernie Casey remembers Garfield Elementary School in Columbus, Ohio

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Bernie Casey describes the demographics of his community in Columbus, Ohio

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Bernie Casey describes his community at Garfield Elementary School

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Bernie Casey remembers Champion Junior High School in Columbus, Ohio

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Bernie Casey recalls his early artistic and athletic talents

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Bernie Casey recalls the opportunities for black students during segregation

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Bernie Casey recalls his early awareness of racial discrimination

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Bernie Casey remembers East High School in Columbus, Ohio

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Bernie Casey describes the lack of career prospects for black students

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Bernie Casey recalls his aspirations during high school

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Bernie Casey recalls his scholarship to Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, Ohio

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Bernie Casey describes his relationship with his parents in his adult life

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Bernie Casey remembers Bowling Green State University

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Bernie Casey recalls racial discrimination at Bowling Green State University, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Bernie Casey recalls racial discrimination at Bowling Green State University, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Bernie Casey reflects upon the increase in black professional athletes

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Bernie Casey talks about being drafted by the National Football League

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Bernie Casey recalls uproar over his friendship with a white female classmate

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Bernie Casey recalls graduating from Bowling Green State University

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Bernie Casey recalls his career with the San Francisco 49ers football team

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Bernie Casey describes his art career in California

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Bernie Casey remembers his acting training with Jeff Corey

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Bernie Casey recalls establishing his art career in Los Angeles, California

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Bernie Casey reflects upon his successful careers in several fields

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Bernie Casey recalls joining the board of Savannah College of Art and Design

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Bernie Casey recalls recruiting sports coaches for Savannah College of Art and Design

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Bernie Casey describes the growth of Savannah College of Art and Design

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Bernie Casey recalls his transition from professional football to acting

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Bernie Casey describes the challenge of beginning a career later in life

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Bernie Casey recalls his early acting roles

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Bernie Casey recalls acting in the movie 'Brian's Song'

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Bernie Casey talks about acting in blaxploitation films

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Bernie Casey talks about his roles based on historical African Americans

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Bernie Casey recalls working on the NBC series 'Harris and Company,' pt. 1

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Bernie Casey recalls working on the NBC series 'Harris and Company,' pt. 2

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Bernie Casey talks about his acting roles on television

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Bernie Casey reflects upon the legacy of the 'Roots' miniseries

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Bernie Casey reflects upon his challenges as a former professional athlete

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Bernie Casey talks about the history of race in America

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Bernie Casey reflects upon his legacy

DASession

2$2

DATape

5$6

DAStory

3$2

DATitle
Bernie Casey recalls joining the board of Savannah College of Art and Design
Bernie Casey talks about acting in blaxploitation films
Transcript
When I became an educator, I was the board chairman of the largest art university in the world, the Savannah College of Art and Design [Savannah, Georgia] with 5500 students.$$Wow.$$Most art universities are like six hundred, eight hundred students, maybe 1200, RISD [Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, Rhode Island] and Cranbrook [Cranbrook Academy of Art, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan] and CalArts [California Institute of the Arts, Valencia, California] and all those schools, Chaminade [ph.], they're not that big. But, the president who asked me to become aboard, this story is really interesting, when I was doing a television series and I was being interviewed by NBC, and the president, Dr. Richard Rowan [Richard G. Rowan] at that time who was the, who had started the Savannah College of Art and Design, he started it--$$Okay.$$--in 1978.$$Okay.$$So, he saw the interview and he's a very tenacious fellow, tracked me down. He called NBC in New York [New York], and they said, "We didn't tape it here, it was in Los Angeles [California]." He kept pursuing everything until finally they left a message with me that Dr. Richard Rowan had called you and would like to speak with you, and I called him back at the Savannah College of Art and Design. At that time, it was two buildings and about twenty students. They had only been in business for a year.$$Since 1977.$$Seventy-eight [1978].$$Seventy-eight [1978], okay.$$He hocked his--he and his wife [Paula Wallace] were both educators and they refi'd [refinanced] their house and got some money from her parents [May Poetter and Paul Poetter], who were also educators, and they scratched this money up and they purchased an empty armory in Savannah, Georgia, and rehabbed it themselves. They painted it (laughter).$$They did the painting themselves (simultaneous)?$$(Simultaneous) Yes and fixed the toilets and everything, yes. That housed the first beginning of that school. So, when he called, he said, "We have a gallery called Exhibit A [Exhibit A Gallery, Savannah, Georgia], would you consider showing here?" And I said, "I have two commitments, so I will show with you if it's possible when I'm done with those commitments." He said, "Fine, sir, we will look forward to that. Will you speak with me again?" I said, "I will." So, I called him and we arranged to have a show here in Savannah, Georgia. And so I flew in and had the show.$$That show, do you remember it?$$Oh sure, Exhibit A Gallery, which was in the armory. It was a well-received show--$$Okay.$$--and we became just the fastest of friends. And so he asked me if I would consider being a board member, and I was so charmed by his ideology and his courage to start a college because most colleges that we are mindful of started in 1892--$$Right.$$--nineteen twelve [1912] or something, you know what I mean?$$Exactly.$$So, no one starts a college today, he did, and so I accepted to come aboard as a board member--$$Okay.$$--and to fast forward I served that and then was asked to be the board chairman, and our ideologies were in sync because he had been a college basketball star--$$Oh.$$--so he understood athleticism and success--$$Right.$$--and all of that, so we were on the same page. So, our school, we with great diligence pursued educating the whole person because you're not just a painter--$$Right.$$--or sculptor or jewelry maker or designer or computer graphic artist, you are a person.$Following 'Brian's Song,' you started to get more attention, I'm imagining, in your career (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Yeah. Yes, I started to do films, and I had a conversation, this is interesting, with a young man who--an African American man who's a writer who wants to do a documentary about, he said, blaxploitation. And I said to him, "There was no such thing." He said, yeah the whole, there's a whole time when there was a lot of films with blaxploitation film. I said, "You know, that's a phrase that was coined by an African American man who put that phrase into the lexicon for the media, but there's no such thing as blaxploitation," because it was of the time, like I did 'Hit Man' and 'Cleopatra Jones' in 1972--$$Right.$$--and they were films that weren't terribly sophisticated, but they were certainly watchable. But, we all had those big afros and those bellbottom pants, and we strutted around and everything was a clenched fist, and you know, and power to the people.$$Right.$$So, that--I said, "Let me tell you something and be mindful of this, when white films were done for not much money for a very specific audience," because most films are done with an audience in mind, "and when they are complete and marketed to that audience no one calls them white exploitation films. You've been hoodwinked. You've been bamboozled as Malcolm [Malcolm X] would say."$$Right.$$So get that out of your mind. It's just a certain time and a certain genre film that that's what it was, and I can remember during that time, there was a phrase called the nigger budget of $400,000 or $500,000, and then you rush it out and if you got $3 million returned you were happy as you could be, so that was the turnover. Like today I don't think they'll do what they call, you flip it. You buy a condo for $175,000, and you hold it for a minute, you flip and sell it for $220,000--$$Right.$$--and you take, you make the profit.$$Right.$$That's, you know, same premise. So, until the bubble bursts and the bottom drops out, you can do pretty well with that. So, a lot of the studios would put up a small amount of money, rush the film out, shoot it in six weeks, I shot 'Hit Man' in six weeks, had it back in the theaters within six months, which is fast. The film made $4 million, they shot it for $300,000; they were happy as they could be. So by the time the smoked cleared with P and A, printing and advertising and all of that, and if you put, if the studio, if MGM [Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc., Los Angeles, California] did it with their money, so if they put up $300,000 and put in their pocket $700,000, are they happy, absolutely.$$Right, right made a quick turnaround.$$Sure. But, there's no such thing as blaxploitation.$$Well let, let me ask you this question. Because I know you are a very no-nonsense person, you think when black folks need to be thinking about advancing the cause if they're out there singing and dancing, they're wasting time and hurting us all.$$Sure.$$There were a few films that were meant to be jokes, a play--$$Sure.$$--and you were in one called--with the platform shoes.$$'I'm Gonna Git You Sucka.'$$'I'm Gonna Git You Sucka,' that's what--$$But, that was written to be a joke.$$It was written to be a--$$It was not a joke accidentally--$$Right.$$--it was written to be a joke.$$Okay.$$I mean it was a parody of certain genre of film.$$Right, right.$$And, and that's what made it so funny.$$Okay. So, but you would have no problems with that as long as it was meant to be a joke?$$Yeah, then you just simply must decide if the film is a good film or not for what it was made for.$$Okay.$$And if it is made to be a joke, it's not funny, well the film failed--$$Okay.$$--but the worse thing is it becomes a joke accidentally because it's so bad and stupid, that's demeaning.$$Okay. Now you did a film called 'Gordon's War.'$$No, that was, that was the fellow who passed away two years ago, Paul Winfield.$$Paul Winfield, okay, okay. Got, got that--$$I've done I think fifty-four films, and most I can't even remember.$$I remember one where you were stuck on a foreign planet, and Charlton Heston.$$No, that was Rock Hudson.$$Rock Hudson.$$'The Martian Chronicles.'$$'Martian Chronicles.'$$That's a classic.$$Right, right.$$Ray Bradbury.$$Right and--$$Classic.$$--it was a very serious film and I remember your performance (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Yeah, going, when they went to Mars.$$Right, right.$$Yeah.