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Holmes, Larry

Larry Holmes

1949—

Boxer, businessman

Larry Holmes, "the Easton Assassin," was known as much for his retirements and comebacks as for his skill in the boxing ring. He emerged from a small shack in Cuthbert, Georgia, to become, as Arthur Ashe wrote in A Hard Road to Glory, "the most underrated and underpublicized heavyweight champion in history." With one of the greatest left jabs in boxing history—the result of training while his right hand was in a cast—Holmes won forty-eight consecutive matches, one short of Rocky Marziano's record, including twenty successful championship defenses.

Quit School to Help Support Family

Born on November 3, 1949, in Cuthbert, Georgia, Holmes was the fourth of twelve children of John and Flossie Holmes, sharecroppers who lived in a small shack with a corrugated metal roof and a red clay floor. In 1956 the Holmes family moved to Easton, Pennsylvania, where the opportunities were greater, as were the struggles to keep the family together. "I'll never forget how people used to make fun of us when my mother took us over to Northampton St., the nice part of Easton," Holmes recalled in his Web page biography. "They snickered when we went to the Salvation Army rummage sale to get our clothes. I always felt humiliated when I had to go with her to the welfare office, even though welfare was the only way we could have survived as a family." His father had left the family to work as a gardener in Connecticut. "Their daddy would come back to see us about every three weeks," Flossie told Pat Putnam of Sports Illustrated. "He didn't forsake us. He just didn't have anything to give."

A poor student, Holmes dropped out of school in the seventh grade. To help support his family, he took a job working for a dollar an hour at the Jet Car Wash. John DiVietro, the owner of the car wash, would often hire neighborhood kids who were having a tough time in an attempt to help them straighten out their lives. "Larry was typical of my kids," DiVietro reminisced to Putnam. "When he first came, he was insubordinate…. Always had a chip on his shoulder. His was the natural animosity that comes from his background…. Guys like that are looking for discipline, and when you give it to them they do one of two things: they go back to the streets for good, or they come back. Larry always came back."

Sparred with Frazier and Ali

When he wasn't working at the car wash, Holmes spent most of his free time at the St. Anthony's Youth Center, where he learned how to wrestle and box. On Saturday nights, he and his brother Lee would hold makeshift boxing matches at local bars with their friends Pooch Pratt, Butch Andrews, and Barry DeRohn. "We'd take gloves and fight right in the bars," Holmes told Putnam. "We'd fill the bars on a Saturday night. And no matter what happened in the fight, they'd always call it a draw. Then we could go in the kitchen and eat hot dogs and hamburgers, which is all we wanted anyway." It was during these Saturday night bar fights that Holmes began to consider pursuing a career as a boxer.

At the age of nineteen, Holmes approached Earnee Butler, a local businessman and former boxer. He challenged Butler to a fight and, following a few rounds at a local gym, asked him to be his trainer. Butler agreed and Holmes went on to win nineteen of the twenty-two amateur bouts he fought under Butler's guidance. In 1971 Holmes was chosen as one of the sparring partners for Joe Frazier, who was training for his first fight with Muhammad Ali. "Joe took his anger at Ali out on me," Holmes told Thomas Hauser, the author of Muhammad Ali: His Life and Times. "He broke one of my ribs and hurt me in places I didn't know I had." Holmes tried to win a spot on the U.S. Olympic boxing team in 1972, but was disqualified in the finals for holding. Holmes turned professional in 1973 and won his first fight, which netted a purse of only $63. He also split with Butler and went on to be managed by the team of Don King and Richie Giachetti.

In 1973 Holmes went to work as a sparring partner for Muhammad Ali. Ali had just opened his training camp in Deer Lake, Pennsylvania, the previous year and Holmes went there hoping to be introduced. The two sparred and, by the end of the day, Holmes's left eye had been swollen shut. However, he had secured an offer to become one of Ali's regular sparring partners. Holmes accepted the offer, but refused to receive any medical treatment for his eye. As Gene Kilroy, one of Ali's assistants, told Hauser, "I said, ‘Come here, kid; I'll put some ice on it.’ And Larry told me, ‘No way. I want to go back to Easton and show everybody the black eye I got from Muhammad Ali.’"

Holmes sparred with Ali for two years. He also continued to fight his own bouts, often on the undercard of Ali's fights. However, he still struggled for recognition within the boxing world and for fights that would pay larger purses. Even though Holmes was viewed in the boxing world as a fighter with impressive skills, it was widely believed that he avoided tough opponents and lacked the heart and desire of a true champion. In 1978 Holmes silenced his critics when he defeated the heavily favored Earnie Shavers in a stirring twelve-round bout. This win set the stage for Holmes to fight Ken Norton for the World Boxing Council (WBC) heavyweight championship in Las Vegas a few months later. Norton had been proclaimed the WBC champion in 1978 after the world champion Leon Spinks refused to defend his crown against an assigned challenger.

At a Glance …

Born Larry Holmes on November 3, 1949, in Cuthbert, Georgia; son of John Holmes and Flossie Holmes; married Diane; children: Belinda, Misty, Lisa, Kandy, and Larry Jr.

Career: Began boxing at St. Anthony's Youth Center in Easton, Pennsylvania, early 1960s; amateur boxer, 1969-73; hired as sparring partner for Joe Frazier, 1971; became a professional boxer, 1973; hired as sparring partner for Muhammad Ali, 1973-75; twenty consecutive successful title defenses from 1978 to 1985; Larry Holmes Enterprises, founder and president, 1980—; officially retired from boxing, 2002, with an overall record of 69-6 with 44 knockouts.

Awards: World Boxing Council Heavyweight title, 1978; Edward J. Neil Award for Fighter of the Year, 1978; World Heavyweight title, 1980; Ring magazine Fighter of the Year Award, 1982; International Boxing Hall of Fame, 2007.

Addresses: Office—101 Larry Holmes Dr., Easton, PA 18042.

Won the World Championship

The Holmes and Norton bout became a truly classic battle. By the end of the fourteenth round, both of the exhausted fighters had battled to a tie. However, in the closing seconds of the final round Holmes gained the upper hand and secured just enough points for a victory. When the judges' decision was announced, Holmes nearly passed out from pain and exhaustion as he tried to raise his arms in victory. Giachetti told Putnam, "It was the greatest display of courage I have ever seen in a ring. Both of his arms were hurting so bad it was agony just to keep his hands up. How he was able to throw punches and win the round I'll never know."

Over the next two years, Holmes successfully defended his title by scoring eight knockouts in a row. The last of those knockouts came in October of 1980 against his idol and former employer, Muhammad Ali. Ali had come out of retirement for the bout, but was clearly a shadow of his former self and Holmes put him away in the eleventh round. "It was one fight I really didn't want, but couldn't avoid," Holmes told Norman O. Unger of Jet in 1981. "I love Ali for what he did for boxing and the chance he gave me. But now it's my turn to be champion, and as long as he stayed in boxing, my reign was incomplete."

After the defeat of Ali, Holmes would remain the WBC heavyweight champion for another five years. He was finally dethroned in 1985 by Michael Spinks in a unanimous decision. A Holmes-Spinks rematch was held in April of 1986 that resulted in a controversial split-decision victory for Spinks.

Bitterly disappointed by the loss, Holmes announced his retirement and returned to Easton to head Larry Holmes Enterprises, a real estate and property management company he founded in 1980. With the same tenacity and dedication he displayed in the ring, Holmes built Larry Holmes Enterprises into a highly successful venture. In 1998 the company boasted more than $13 million in real estate holdings. These holdings included the Ringside Restaurant; Diane's Lingerie, which was run by his wife, Diane; and the five-story L&D (Larry and Diane) Holmes Plaza, which houses Lehigh Valley Bank, the Federal Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, and the corporate headquarters of Larry Holmes Enterprises.

Returned to the Boxing

In 1988 Holmes decided to come out of retirement and step back into the boxing ring. He quickly scheduled a fight with the reigning champion Mike Tyson. However, Holmes proved to be no match for Tyson and was knocked out in the fourth round. After the fight, Holmes announced that he was again retiring. Even though he was disappointed by the loss, the fight proved to be a sound business decision—much of the $3 million purse that Holmes received for the fight was used to finance the construction of the L&D Holmes Plaza building.

At the age of forty-two, Holmes again returned to boxing. He easily defeated his first six opponents and scheduled a title fight against the heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield. Holmes and Holyfield battled for twelve rounds, with Holyfield emerging victorious. Some boxing analysts remarked that Holmes's boxing skills had deteriorated. "The fans kept waiting for the old Larry Holmes to show up," Pat Putnam wrote in Sports Illustrated. "What they got instead was an old Larry Holmes. The pride was still there, and that great heart which had carried him to 54 victories in 57 fights, but the old hammer of a jab was now more of a running back's straightarm. When Holmes remembered to use his right hand, which wasn't often, he looked like an older sister trying to show her kid brother how to throw a slider."

Pursued Fight with George Foreman

Despite his poor performance against Holyfield, Holmes was undaunted. As he told the New York Times in 1997, "I still like fighting. I think I can still beat any heavyweight. I'm sure I can beat Evander Holyfield. The one I really want is George Foreman, but he's afraid of my jab. He said to me, ‘I won't say I won't fight you, but I won't say I will.’" Holmes later told the Times's Timothy Smith, "I'll never get a shot at the title, but I can get a shot at George Foreman. I think it will be a big draw. Me and George can do a lot for boxing."

Between 1993 and 2002, Holmes fought a total of seventeen bouts, mostly against noncontenders and fighters past their prime. But the most lucrative matchup, against Foreman, eluded him. In 1998 the two heavyweights reached a contract to fight in January of 1999 at the Houston Astrodome. However, after the fighters had received nonrefundable advances on the purse (10% of $4 million for Holmes and $10 million for Foreman) the bout's financing fell through. The fight's promoters attempted to reschedule the match for later in the year, with no luck.

Holmes's fighting career ended on July 27, 2002, with a ten-round bout with Eric "Butterbean" Esch. However, years later Holmes continued to needle Foreman in the media, attempting to goad the former champion into the ring, and as of 2008, Holmes's official Web site still listed George Foreman as his next bout. In 2005 Holmes was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame. The Hall of Fame trainer Emanuel Steward told William Kates of the Associated Press that Holmes was "probably the most under-appreciated heavyweight champion in history. He should be right there with Muhammad Ali and Joe Louis, an all-around fighter. He would have been a major problem for any heavyweight champion of any era."

Even before his most recent retirement, Holmes channeled his sense of showmanship to venues outside of the boxing ring. He took the stage as a singer, fronting a soul band called Marmalade, which opened for Kool and the Gang and played on the Tonight Show. In 1987 he gave a concert called Battle of the Singing Heavyweight Champs with his fellow boxer-turned-crooner Joe Frazier. At other times, he has given musical performances after his boxing matches. In 2005 Holmes entered the celebrity singing competition "But Can They Sing?" for the music television network VH1, but was eliminated in the early rounds.

His comebacks from retirement, while frequently derided as sideshows by boxing purists, were lucrative—Holmes claimed to have made $11 million from his various comebacks. Unlike many of his boxing colleagues, he made wise use of his money—at one time, his company owned so much of Easton that Richard O'Brien of Sports Illustrated remarked that the town "felt like a Larry Holmes theme park." All told, Holmes was a fine showing for a middle school dropout who started life on the welfare rolls.

Selected works

(With Phil Berger) Against All Odds, St. Martin's Press, 1998.

Sources

Books

Ashe Jr., Arthur, A Hard Road to Glory: The African-American Athlete in Boxing, Amistad Press, 1993.

Hauser, Thomas, Muhammad Ali: His Life and Times, Simon and Schuster, 1991.

Periodicals

Jet, April 9, 1981, p. 48; May 3, 1993, p. 46; April 24, 1995, p.52.

New York, July 28, 1997, p. 32.

New Yorker, August 11, 1997, p. 25.

New York Times, July 11, 1997, p. B19; July 29, 1997, p. B12; July 30, 1997, p. B12; May 14, 1998, p. C8; July 18, 1998, p. C7; August 7, 1998, p. C5; January 2, 1999.

Sports Illustrated, April 3, 1978, p. 67; June 19, 1978, p.20; November 6, 1978, p. 46; September 22, 1980; p. 74; January 18, 1988, p. 73; June 8, 1992, p. 76; June 29, 1992, p.22; April 17, 1995, p. 11; June 3, 1996, p. 16; October 28, 1996, p. 29; February 19, 2001; July 11, 2005; July 2, 2007.

USA Today, December 11, 2007.

Online

Larry Homes Web Site, http://www.larryholmes.com (accessed May 20, 2008).

—Brian Escamilla and Derek Jacques

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Holmes, Larry 1949–

Larry Holmes 1949

Professional boxer

Seventh Grade Dropout

Worked for Ali

Became Heavyweight Champ

Returned to Boxing

Sources

Larry Holmes, the Easton Assassin, is known as much for his retirements and comebacks as his skill in the boxing ring. The world heavyweight champion from 1978 to 1985, he emerged from a small shack in Cuthbert, Georgia to become, as Arthur Ashe wrote in A Hard Road to Glory, the most underrated and underpublicized heavyweight champion in history. With one of the greatest left jabs in boxingthe result of training while his right hand was in a castHolmes is not content to sit idly and talk about the old days. Whether its continuing to fight into his late 40s, or being the biggest entrepreneur Easton, Pennsylvania ever saw, Holmes lives up to the title of his 1998 autobiography, Against All Odds.

Born November 3, 1949 in Cuthbert, Georgia, Holmes was the fourth of 12 children of John and Flossie, sharecroppers who lived in a small shack with a corrugated metal roof and red clay floor. In 1956 the Holmes family moved to Easton, Pennsylvania where the opportunities were greater, as well as the struggle to keep the family together. Ill never forget how people used to make fun of us when my mother took us over to Northampton St., the nice part of Easton, Holmes recalled in his web page biography. They snickered when we went to the Salvation Army rummage sale to get our clothes. I always felt humiliated when I had to go with her to the welfare office, even though welfare was the only way we could have survived as a family. His father had left the family to work as a gardener in Connecticut. Their daddy would come back to see us about every three weeks, Flossie told Pat Putnam of Sports Illustrated He didnt forsake us. He just didnt have anything to give, she continued.

Seventh Grade Dropout

A poor student, Holmes dropped out of school in the seventh grade. To help support his family, he took a job working for a dollar an hour at the Jet Car Wash. The owner of the car wash, John DiVietro, would often hire neighborhood kids who were having a tough time in an attempt to help them straighten out their lives. Larry was typical of my kids, DiVietro reminisced to Putnam in Sports Illustrated When he first came, he was insubordinate.Always had a chip on his shoulder. His was the natural animosity that comes from his background.Guys like that are looking for discipline, and

At a Glance

Born November 3, 1949 in Cuthbert, Georgia; son of John and Flossie Holmes; married to Diane; children: Belinda, Misty, Lisa, Kandy, Larry, Jr.

Career: Boxer; began boxing at St. Anthonys Youth Center in Easton, Pennsylvania, early 1960s; amateur boxer, 196973; hired as sparring partner for Joe Frazier, 1971; became a professional boxer, 1973; hired as sparring partner for Muhammad Ali, 197375; defeated Ken Norton for the World Boxing Council (WBC) heavyweight championship, 1978; defeated Muhammad Ali and for World heavyweight title, 1980; founded Larry Holmes Enterprises, Inc., 1980; lost championship to Michael Spinks, 1985; retired from boxing, 1986; returned to boxing, lost fight to Mike Tyson, retired again, 1988; returned to boxing, defeated by Evander Holy-field in championship title fight, 1992; wrote autobiography, Against All Odds, 1998.

Awards: WBC Heavyweight title, 1978; Edward J. Neil Award for Fighter of the Year, 1978; World Heavyweight title, 1980; Ring magazine Fighter of the Year award, 1982.

Addresses: Office 101 Larry Holmes Dr., Easton, Pennsylvania, 18042.

when you give it to them they do one of two things: they go back to the streets for good, or they come back. Larry always came back.

When he was not working at the car wash, Holmes spent most of his free time at the St. Anthonys Youth Center, where he learned how to wrestle and box. On Saturday nights, he and his brother Lee would hold makeshift boxing matches at local bars with their friends Pooch Pratt, Butch Andrews, and Barry DeRohn. Wed take gloves and fight right in the bars, Holmes told Putnam. Wed fill the bars on a Saturday night. And no matter what happened in the fight, theyd always call it a draw. Then we could go in the kitchen and eat hot dogs and hamburgers, which is all we wanted anyway. It was during these Saturday night bar fights that Holmes began to consider pursuing a career as a boxer.

At the age of nineteen, Holmes approached local businessman and former boxer Earnee Butler. He challenged Butler to a fight and, following a few rounds at a local gym, asked him to be his trainer. Butler agreed and Holmes went on to win 19 of the 22 amateur bouts he fought under Butlers guidance. In 1971, Holmes was chosen as one of the sparring partners for Joe Frazier, who was training for his first fight with Muhammad Ali. Joe took his anger at Ali out on me, Holmes told Thomas Hauser, author of Muhammad Ali: His Life and Times He broke one of my ribs and hurt me in places I didnt know I had, he added. Holmes tried to win a spot on the U.S. Olympic boxing team in 1972, but was disqualified in the finals for holding. Holmes turned professional in 1973 and won his first fight, which netted a purse of only $63. He also split with Butler and went on to be managed by the team of Don King and Richie Giachetti.

Worked for Ali

In 1973 Holmes went to work as a sparring partner for Muhammad Ali. Ali had just opened his training camp in Deer Lake, Pennsylvania the previous year and Holmes went there hoping to be introduced. The two sparred and, by the end of the day, Holmess left eye had been swollen shut. However, he had secured an offer to become one of Alis regular sparring partners. Holmes accepted the offer, but refused to receive any medical treatment for his eye. As Gene Kilroy, one of Alis assistants, told Hauser, I said, Come here, kid; Ill put some ice on it. And Larry told me, No way. I want to go back to Easton and show everybody the black eye I got from Muhammad Ali.

Holmes sparred with Ali for two years. He also continued to fight his own bouts, often on the undercard of Alis fights. However, he still struggled for recognition within the boxing world and fights that would pay larger purses. Although Holmes was viewed in the boxing world as a fighter with impressive skills, it was widely believed that he avoided tough opponents and lacked the heart and desire of a true champion. In 1978, Holmes silenced his critics when he defeated heavily-favored Earnie Shavers in a stirring 12-round bout. This win set the stage for Holmes to fight Ken Norton for the World Boxing Council (WBC) heavyweight championship in Las Vegas a few months later. Norton had been proclaimed WBC champion in 1978 after world champion Leon Spinks refused to defend his crown against an assigned challenger.

Became Heavyweight Champ

The Holmes and Norton bout became a truly classic battle. By the end of the fourteenth round, both of the exhausted fighters had battled to a tie. In the closing seconds of the final round, however, Holmes gained the upper hand and secured just enough points for a victory. When the judges decision was announced, Holmes nearly passed out from pain and exhaustion as he tried to raise his arms in victory. It was the greatest display of courage I have ever seen in a ring, manager-trainer Giachetti told Pat Putnam, who covered the fight for Sports Illustrated. Both of his arms were hurting so bad it was agony just to keep his hands up. How he was able to throw punches and win the round Ill never know.

During the next two years, Holmes would successfully defend his title by scoring eight knockouts in a row. The last knockout came in October of 1980 against his idol and former employer, Muhammad Ali. Ali had come out of retirement for the bout, but was clearly a shadow of his former self and Holmes put him away in the eleventh round. It was one fight I really didnt want, but couldnt avoid, Holmes told Norman O. Unger of Jet in 1981. I love Ali for what he did for boxing and the chance he gave me. But now its my turn to be champion, and as long as he stayed in boxing, my reign was incomplete.

After the defeat of Ali, Holmes would remain the WBC heavyweight champion for another five years. In 1985, he was finally dethroned by Michael Spinks in a unanimous decision. A Holmes-Spinks rematch was held in April of 1986 that resulted in a controversial split-decision victory for Spinks. Bitterly disappointed by the loss, Holmes announced his retirement and returned to Easton to head Larry Holmes Enterprises, Inc., a real estate and property management company he founded in 1980. With the same tenacity and dedication he displayed in the ring, Holmes built Larry Holmes Enterprises into a highly successful venture. In 1998, the company boasted more than $13 million in real estate holdings. These holdings included the Ringside Restaurant; Dianes Lingerie, which is run by his wife Diane; and the five-story L&D (Larry and Diane) Holmes Plaza, which houses Lehigh Valley Bank, the Federal Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, and the corporate headquarters of Larry Holmes Enterprises.

Returned to Boxing

In 1988, Holmes decided to come out of retirement and step back into the boxing ring. He quickly scheduled a fight with the then-reigning champion, Mike Tyson. Holmes proved to be no match for Tyson, however, and was knocked out in the fourth round. After the fight, Holmes announced that he was again retiring. Although he was disappointed by the loss, the fight proved to be a sound business decision. Much of the $3 million dollar purse that Holmes received for the fight was used to finance construction of the L&D Holmes Plaza building.

At the age of 42, Holmes returned to boxing. He easily defeated his first six opponents and scheduled a title fight against heavyweight champion, Evander Holyfield. Holmes and Holyfield battled for twelve rounds, with Holyfield emerging victorious. Some boxing analysts remarked that Holmess boxing skills had deteriorated. The fans kept waiting for the old Larry Holmes to show up, Pat Putnam wrote in Sports Illustrated What they got instead was an old Larry Holmes. The pride was still there, and that great heart which had carried him to 54 victories in 57 fights, but the old hammer of a jab was now more of a running backs straightarm. When Holmes remembered to use his right hand, which wasnt often, he looked like an older sister trying to show her kid brother how to throw a slider, Putnam continued.

Despite his poor performance against Holyfield, Holmes continued his quest for another title fight. Between 1993 and 1997, he fought a total of 14 bouts. In 1997 Holmes gave conflicting reasons for stepping into the boxing ring, telling Mark Jacobson of New York magazine, it was, For the money, man! Why else would I fightfor the love of the game? Conversely, he told the New York Times, I still like fighting. I think I can still beat any heavyweight. Im sure I can beat Evander Holyfield. The one I really want is George Foreman, but hes afraid of my jab. He said to me, I wont say I wont fight you, but I wont say I will. He also remarked to Timothy Smith of the New York Times, Ill never get a shot at the title, but I can get a shot at George Foreman. I think it will be a big draw. Me and George can do a lot for boxing.

In 1998, George Foreman announced that he would fight Holmes. The fight was scheduled for January 23, 1999, at the Houston Astrodome. Foreman was expected to receive $ 10 million for the fight and Holmes would receive $4 million. Although some have dismissed the bout as a publicity stunt by two fighters who are past their prime Roger Leavitt, the fight promoter, disagreed. Most people think that youre going to see two jelly beans in there, he told Smith of the Times But I believe this will be a serious fight. I think George and Larry will show young heavyweights how its supposed to be done.

Sources

Books

Ashe, Jr., Arthur, A Hard Road to Glori; The African-American Athlete in Boxing, Amistad Press, Inc., 1993.

Hauser, Thomas, Muhammad Ali: His Life and Times, Touchstone, 1991.

Holmes, Larry, with Phil Berger, Against All Odds, St. Martins Press, 1998.

Periodicals

Jet, April 9, 1981, p. 48; May 3, 1993, p. 46; April 24, 1995, p.52.

New York, July 28, 1997, p. 32.

New York Times, July 11, 1997, p. B19; July 29, 1997, p. B12; July 30, 1997, p. B12; May 14, 1998, p. C8; July 18, 1998, p. C7; August 7, 1998, p. C5.

New Yorker, August 11, 1997, p. 25.

Sports Illustrated, April 3, 1978, p. 67; June 19, 1978, p.20; November 6, 1978, p. 46; September 22, 1980; p. 74; January 18, 1988, p. 73; June 8, 1992, p. 76; June 29, 1992, p.22; April 17, 1995, p. 11; June 3, 1996, p. 16; October 28, 1996, p. 29.

Other

Additional information for this profile was obtained from the Larry Holmes Web site at www.larryholmes.com

Brian Escamilla

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"Holmes, Larry 1949–." Contemporary Black Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. 10 Dec. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Holmes, Larry 1949–." Contemporary Black Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. (December 10, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/holmes-larry-1949

"Holmes, Larry 1949–." Contemporary Black Biography. . Retrieved December 10, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/holmes-larry-1949