Excerpts from "the first rough draft of history" as reported in The Washington Post on this date in the 20th century.
Several years after AIDS began its rampage through the population, former Redskin Jerry Smith was stricken with the disease. He died in October 1986, two months after revealing his condition, and was inducted into the Washington Hall of Stars at RFK stadium that November. An excerpt from The Post of Aug. 26, 1986:
The letter arrived at the family house this summer. It invited Jerry Smith, who had caught 421 passes for 5,496 yards and 60 touchdowns in 13 seasons as a tight end with the Washington Redskins, to be inducted in the Washington Hall of Stars at RFK Stadium this fall.
In the room at Holy Cross Hospital in Silver Spring where Jerry Smith is fighting the deadly disease AIDS, his mother, Laverne, asked, "Do you think when they [the committee] find out, they'll change their mind?"
No, her son whispered to his mother, the committee will not change its mind. It will understand, just as his friends, former teammates and fans will understand.
"It just happened," Smith, 43, said. "It just happened."
In the past year, such well-known Americans as actor Rock Hudson, lawyer Roy Cohn and fashion designer Perry Ellis have died of AIDS. Smith is the first professional athlete -- retired or active -- known to suffer from the disease. When he played, Smith weighed 210 pounds and blocked 260-pound defensive ends. Now his weight is about 150 and he grows weaker each day.
"I feel a sadness for anyone with a diagnosis of AIDS. My heart goes out to him and the people close to him," said Jim Graham, director of the Whitman Walker Clinic, a District treatment and counseling clinic for homosexuals. "This disclosure destroys the stereotype that AIDS is a disease of drug addicts and hairdressers. AIDS does attack all manner of people from all walks of life. When the disease strikes someone you know and respect, the viewpoint changes. He's [Smith] contributed to that change by his disclosure."
The last thing in the world Jerry Smith wanted was a life-threatening disease and to have it made public. "Of all that he's been through, that's been the biggest fear," Laverne Smith said last week as her son held the second of two meetings with a reporter in his hospital room.
"I want people to know what I've been through and how terrible this disease is," Jerry Smith explained. "Maybe it will help people understand. Maybe it will help with development in research. Maybe something positive will come out of this." ...
Although Smith was willing to discuss his struggle with the disease, he would not elaborate on his life style. ...
"It never crossed my mind anything like this could ever happen," he said. "No one thinks about getting a long-term disease. Not me, not anyone. I always took care of myself. I worked hard to do things well, to make sure I was prepared. I tried to do things right."