The following program was produced by
the United States courts. I never thought because, I came from a
poor family or the segregated south or that I was culturally and educationally
disadvantaged, that those would be barriers to my success. I always
believed that you can achieve anything in life you want.
I was born in the segregated south of Southwest Georgia. It was a very
difficult time in the south. I saw that in my uncle’s slang and the brutality
that he faced. A law enforcement officer, Sheriff Screws, arrested and beat to
death my uncle. He was later convicted. The case went to the Supreme Court and
eventually was overturned on constitutional grounds because the
sheriff had testified at trial that he meant to kill him, he didn’t mean to
deprive him of civil rights. My uncle’s case really motivated me to
be a part of our justice system because I had seen that injustice and it had
such an impact upon me as a child. When I was five years old we migrated to Ohio
to escape the discrimination that was practiced on an open the basis. My dad
wanted me to use my brain. He knew that education was the key. I
went through the public school system and eventually went to boarding school
in New England. I had never heard of boarding schools before. I didn’t know
they existed, but a teacher had seen my performance in school and knew it would
be a wonderful opportunity for me. It was a struggle at first. At 14, number one
being such a distance from home, and number two being in a very culturally
challenging environment. I stepped outside my comfort zone. To go and find
help I went over the Headmaster’s house participating in sack races and other
kinds of corny events but it built a bond for me. And I knew that he would be
a friend that I could go to whenever I needed help. And in fact it came full
circle because when I was applying for this job I actually asked the head of
school to write a letter of support for me, and it was
very helpful in my receiving the appointment to the bench.
The difficulty with our society is not everyone has wonderful parents like I
had. The way one overcomes that is to go out and find mentors because there are
plethora of folks out there who if you show an interest if you show a desire
and if you show that you’re willing to work hard we’ll help you we’ll guide you
and we’ll give you the opportunity that you will need to succeed.