Episode 14

The Best Man

Howard invites an old army buddy, Fred Washington, over for dinner. His friend is in town to get married. Fred asks Howard to be his ‘Best Man‘ but warns him that he and Marion may be the only white couple at the wedding. Howard gratefully accepts.

A neighbor of the Cunninghams, Mrs Finley, asks to use their phone. When she sees Fred in the living room however she makes an excuse to leave quickly, not bothering to make the call.

Later, Howard tells Marion he gets the feeling she doesn’t want them to go to Fred’s wedding. He accuses Marion of being prejudiced. Marion takes exception but admits at some unconscious level, and against her better judgement, that may be true. Marion admits she’s never met a ‘Negro’ before.

The next day Howard accompanies his friend to Fred’s father-in-law’s office to discuss plans for the wedding. The Father-in-law, Mr Davis, tells Fred that Howard can’t be his best man because he’s the wrong colour.

Fred explodes, telling Mr Davis his services will no longer be required and that he himself will be taking over the wedding planning. He soon discovers however all the alternative hosting venues are either ‘out of his price-range or out of his race-range’.

Marion then offers the Cunningham house as the wedding venue. Howard wonders ‘whether the neighborhood is ready for this’ but plans begin in earnest. It soon becomes clear the wedding has become the talk of the town and not all of it is positive.

Joanie comes home from school and says Sarah Johnson’s mother won’t let her play with her any more. Marion confesses Mrs O’Good from the Church told her “under the circumstance it was best if she handed in her bingo card.”

Despite the backlash, the wedding goes ahead and is a joyous occasion. Citing the racial prejudice, Richie tells his father, “I wouldn’t mind if Fred moved in next to me”. Howard replies, “Richie, by the time you get married, maybe he can.”

The actor who played Howard’s army buddy Fred was Robert DoQui (1934 – 2008). Among many film and television credits, he played the role of Sgt. Warren Reed in ROBOCOP (1987) – ROBOCOP 2 (1990) – and ROBOCOP 3 (1993).