It was about 3:30 in the morning when I felt my first pain and I cried out with a loud voice. I was born that morning at Hugh Spalding Hospital, a division of Grady hospital where black people could receive care. I was born into a segregated world in the heart of the south in Atlanta Georgia. Blacks had their own separate schools, hospitals, restrooms, and water fountains back then. We usually had to go to the back door to be served. We could go to the Fox Theatre, but we were only allowed in the balcony. Why? White people at that time felt that black people would contaminate them. The “N” word was a normal part of the public vocabulary, even in the courts. Praise God, things have change.
In spite of the existing social situation, from my beginning, I have been blessed. I had a loving mother and father. My mother was saved, sanctified, and filled with the Holy Ghost. She taught me, by her example, to respect, appreciate, adore, and love women. My mother was very beautiful, and she had the voice of an angel. My childhood was filled with her singing. She would sing while cooking or cleaning. She was a stay-at-home mom. She was always there, and she always sang. As her songs of praise went up to the Lord, I was introduced to and began to learn about Jesus.
My father was a true provider. He had a third-grade education, but still he was one of the most intelligent men I have ever known. When I was in high school, I help him study for the GED exam. He passed it and became a high school graduate. He always had a job and always found a way to put food on the table. Many times, it was squirrels and rabbits. Still, we always had food on the table and clothes on our backs. My daddy would always plant a big garden in the field behind our house. My jobs were to pull the weeds when the plants were growing, and to pick the vegetable when they were ripe.
One day my daddy came home with a big box. It contained 100 biddies, that’s baby hens (chickens), and three baby roosters. It was not long before we had a chicken coup filled with chickens and enough eggs to share with our neighbors. It was my job to feed the chickens and collect the eggs. I learned then, when you are feeding hungry chickens, you shouldn’t stand too close. You have to throw that feed away from you. Hungry chickens and cousins will knock you down and make you waste all your feed.
Next, my daddy came home with a bull. It became my job to feed the bull, and to move him around in the field to eat grass. I learned then that if you talk and act like you are not afraid even when you are, you can get big mean animals to do what you say. That came in very handy when I became platoon leader of my Army basic training class. In that position, I had to order many big bulls around.
My daddy taught me how to work. He worked on automobile engines, did construction, electrical and plumbing work. I was his helper (this started when I was in elementary school.) My daddy was not afraid to try anything. Yes, he taught me to work, but he still made time to play with me. He taught me how to be a good daddy.
There was one other person in my immediate family as I was growing up. It was my big sister. She gave me my first real name. She started calling me brother, and then everyone else followed suit. I became known as “Little Brother.” Most of my family still call me that. My sister loved and protected her little brother. We would walk to and from elementary school together. While we were walking home together, the older boys would pick on me to get her attention. That was when I learned that sometimes you have to separate yourself from your family. I stilled loved her, but it was not wise to walk home with her.
My family was a singing family. My daddy taught my sister and me how to sing shape notes before I learned how to read well. We grew up singing notes with them and the note singing group they belonged to called, the Atlanta Travelers. Music became an important and, required part of my life. I learned then that I was a singer. Since then, I have developed a talent and a passion for singing. God gave me a gift and I sing praises to Him as often as I can. I have sung in church choirs, groups, and college choirs. I’ve sung at many weddings and funerals. Yes, I sing karaoke at bars, too.
It was in the GSU Community Gospel Choir where I met my first wife. She was a sweet, pretty, intelligent, Christian lady who had a good job, and we got along well. I knew she would be a good mother and wife. We dated for a year. I loved being with her and her family, especially at Sunday dinner at the house of her mother and father. Since I was twenty-seven, I felt like I was getting old, and I wanted a son to carry on the family name, so I decided to get married. I don’t know if I got married for the right reasons, maybe I didn’t love her enough. Either way, I caused the relationship to go bad. If I had been a better husband maybe it would have lasted. We were married for 23 years and she had two beautiful daughters and no sons. During my marriage, I learned an important lesson. Once I made plans around what my wife said she was going to do. When she didn’t do what she said I was upset because my plans for us failed. I asked her why she didn’t do what she said she was going to do. She told me, “I changed my mind.” That was the day that I learned, it was okay, to change your mind. It seems trite. It is not. It is life changing.
Raising two little girls in the baby years was not easy. I worked at night, so in the daytime, I took care of each baby from the age of six month till the age of two, when we put them in day care. I missed a lot of sleep during those times, but my daughters and I really bonded then. There are two significant things that my daughters taught me. Once I told my youngest daughter Miya, who was two years old at the time that I was going to whip her. She looked up at me, waved her finger, and said, “I gone tell my mama on you.” I know I should not have, but I replied, “I’ll whip your momma.” Then she said, “I’m gone tell God on you.” Now, I took a little time to think about that. I really didn’t want her to do that, so I said, “Well, maybe we should just talk about this.” I never spanked after that. It’s amazing. She never did anything that we couldn’t discuss and come to an understanding about. She is my angel child. She now has a calling on her life to teach, to do mission work and to spread the gospel of Jesus. I learned that day, if you let people know that you have the Lord on your side, they will think twice before bothering you.
My oldest daughter, Jamie, also taught me something very profound. On her marriage CD, she told the story of how she and her husband Michael met and started their relationship. During that story she made this statement, “I decided that I would never date anyone that I wouldn’t want to marry.” I adopted this principal to my life.
These are the persons who primarily shaped and influenced my early life. However, there have been a few close friends who I love dearly, who gave me encouragement, support, and love when I needed it most. I don’t know if I would have made it without these wonderful people God placed in my life. There was Zack, my best friend ever, who taught me, “he who fails to plan, plans to fail.” He also taught me that life can be filled with sorrow and tragedy, if you see that you are going in the wrong direction and you don’t turn around. There was Debbie, my second girlfriend. She taught me that absence seldom makes the heart grow fonder. When she left to go on a summer vacation, she loved me so much. She cried in my arms saying how much she didn’t want to leave me. While she was gone, she never returned any of my letters. When she came back, she acted like she barely knew me. Because of her, I also learned that hearts are very resilient. They can be bruised and broken, but in time they can completely heal. Now, you can’t keep picking at the wound and expect it to heal. Then, there were my white high school classmates. They taught me that hate is something that can be taught. At my predominantly white high school in the first years of desegregation, I was hated, because I am black. Many of those students were taught to hate blacks. They were taught that blacks were inferior to whites in every way. Consequently, I was called everything but a child of God, every day during my first year as a ninth grader at Fulton High School. However, during my remaining years, I was able to teach them by example that it was not color, but character, that makes a person. I lettered in baseball, and football, and I graduated fifth in my class.
The story of my development would not be complete without mentioning my church, the True Light Baptist Church. When I was in despair, during the most difficult times in my life, my church was my haven. First, it was a haven during my mother’s fight against cancer and her passing, then immediately following that, it was a haven during the years of marital problems and eventually divorce. Then it was a haven when my former wife and mother of my children passed suddenly. I found refuge there from the stress and distress, and from my pain. I was rejuvenated, just knowing I was in a place where people loved me with the love of God. My faith was renewed just by being in the house of God with the people of God where the word of God is preached by the man of God, my pastor, Darrell D. Elligan. My church, where I have been a member for over fifty years, is an integral part of my life.
Over my life I developed three rules:
- James Rule #1: Don’t force it.
- James Rule #2: You can never be hurt, unless you expect too much, so don’t expect too much.
- James Rule #3: Do things in the right order. If you don’t, you may never be able to straighten things out.
However, in my latter years, even though I still feel these rules have some value, I have come to realize there is a rule that takes precedence over all others. This rule is also scripture. Proverbs, chapter 3, verses 5-6, NIV says:
Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.
Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.
Now, in the final season of my life, God has once again demonstrated His enduring love for me, by blessing me with a wonderful woman to live the remaining years of my life with. Marie became my wife on March 31, 2018. We acknowledged Jesus as the center of our marriage at our wedding and Jesus continues to hold us together. I love her, need her, want her, like her, and adore her. She is my precious gift from God. She is my beautiful bride, my wonderful wife, and the best baby in the whole, wide world.
Finally, I praise God the Father, Jesus the Lamb, and the Holy Spirit my comforter for my accomplishments. I have been featured on a nationally distributed album. I have written, arranged, and produced my own CD, “Be Saved.” God has also blessed me with the ability to write. I have written several church plays. I have also written and published a book of short stories, a book of plays, and two novels. Currently, I am working to get my third novel publish and hopefully a movie deal. I am also working on a new CD. I praise God, in the name of Jesus, for the victory.