SELINSGROVE — Former Republican congressman, minister and retired professional football player J.C. Watts Jr. said faith has always guided him through his many careers, including his latest venture as the co-founder of Black News Channel.
Before taking the stage at the Degenstein Center to talk about those experiences Wednesday evening as part of Susquehanna’s Alice Pope Shade Lecture, Watts met with members of the media.
His faith, he said, has helped him navigate the professional football field in the 1980s when he played in the Canadian Football League and the halls of Congress from 1994 to 2002 when he represented the Fourth district of Oklahoma.
“Faith encourages you to look for the truth, not the left or the right,” said Watts.
The 63-year-old said three events have stunned him in his lifetime, beginning with the April 19, 1995, Oklahoma City bombing that happened 20 minutes from his home and killed 168 people.
The second event was the 9-11 terroristic attacks when he was serving as a member of Congress. He is convinced that the doomed hijacked flight that crashed in Shanksville was headed to the Capitol building, his workplace at the time.
The third event was the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol building.
Watts says political divisions and group identity are harmful.
“The left-wing and the right-wing carry so much weight that the poor bird is dying,” he said. “We have to agree that Jan. 6 was a threat to all of us.”
And while the insurrection at the Capitol “speaks to how bad our system has decayed,” Watts remains optimistic in the future of the country.
“I don’t think God allows crisis or trials in our lifetime to tell us what we are. He allows it to tell us what we are not,” he said. “This isn’t the first time politics has been nasty. America is still the world’s best hope.”
In 2019, Watts, who graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 1981 with a journalism degree, co-founded the Black News Channel which focuses on African-American cultural topics.
The Black Lives Matter movement and killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor by police officers “affirmed that the Black News Channel mattered,” he said.
Watts is named after his father who was given the initials JC as a first name. However, the elder Watts was pressed to come up with a full name by a teacher who said the initials had to stand for something so he said, “Julius Caeser.”
That’s how his son got the name Julius Caeser “J.C.” Watts Jr. And, like his father, only answers to J.C.