Thursday, December 11, 2014

Tennessee Baptist Convention elects its first African-American president, Dr. Michael Ellis Sr.

     A spirit of humility swept over Dr. Michael Ellis Sr. after he was elected the Tennessee Baptist Convention’s first African-American president in its 140-year history. He’d also served as the convention’s first African-American vice-president three years ago.
     “I am grateful and blessed all at the same time and humbled that we have a Tennessee Baptist Convention that is inclusive,” said Dr. Ellis, pastor of Impact Baptist Church at 835 Whitney Ave., a church plant of the Bellevue Baptist congregation, which he organized in 2006.
Dr. Michael Ellis Sr. and first lady Angela Ellis.
     The unanimous vote of more than 940 “messengers” representing hundreds of Southern Baptist churches from across the state was a turning point that catapulted the convention into the 21st century as an inclusive body of believers.
     The annual meeting – or Summit – was held Nov. 10-12 in Brentwood, Tenn., at Brentwood Baptist Church. The convention rotates each year around the state. The vote drew a standing ovation for Dr. Ellis, who believes he was chosen to lead the convention based on his qualifications. He will serve a one-year term.
     Two years earlier, the Nashville-based Southern Baptist Convention, the nation’s largest Protestant denomination, elected its first African-American president, the Rev. Fred Luter Jr., pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans.
     Dr. Ellis succeeds Dr. Fred Shackelford, senior pastor of Ellendale Baptist Church in Bartlett, as president. He was quoted as saying Dr. Ellis’ election was “long overdue” and that he has what it takes to lead the convention.
     Dr. Ellis said the conventioneers were looking for the best-qualified person, “and God put me in the path to receive the nomination.”
     The newly elected president said he would love to be a connector “to connect our convention with others who believe what we believe.” He also intends to move expeditiously to implement the vision of Dr. Randy C. Davis, the convention’s executive director-treasurer.
     “I’m going to stay focus on his vision for the convention, such as planting churches and reaching the lost for Christ,” said Dr. Ellis, 54, a U.S. Navy veteran and the father of six children. He and his wife, Angela Ellis, are uniquely positioned in ministry.
     “We are in a unique situation,” Dr. Ellis said. “My wife has been elected president of the Baptist Ministers’ Wives Guild of Memphis and Vicinity Inc. She will serve a four-year term. We’re in a unique position to create a spirit of unity in the body of Christ.”
     He said he wants the city of Memphis and the state of Tennessee to “shine” across the country.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Not ready for pregnancy!

      Neither Burnudecia Huey, Bonnie Stevenson nor Akilah Wofford were ready to get pregnant. Two – Huey and Stevenson – were teenagers and Wofford was 23. All were single.
      Getting pregnant before they chose to be is not a road any one of them would choose to travel again. Despite making bad decisions and grappling with a torrent of circumstances in some cases, the experiences have not derailed their aspirations of achieving something worthwhile in life.
      "I thought it would never happen to me. I was shocked," said Huey, 18, relating her story to Minister Telisa Franklin, host of "The Telisa Franklin Show," during a taping with Stevenson and Wofford Friday evening (Nov. 22) on the topic, "Voices of Teen Moms." The segment will be aired soon on Franklin's cable TV network on Comcast 31.
      Determined to succeed… Burnudecia Huey was 17 and in her second trimester before she mustered enough nerve to tell her mother that she had gotten pregnant. Undaunted, the high school senior still plans to pursue her education while taking care of 10-month-old Jamarcous Graves. 
      "There are extenuating circumstances sometimes that cause teens to make the wrong decisions," said Franklin. "But those problems don't always stop teens from exceeding in life. That's why it's so important to address the issue."
      Although the birthrate for teenagers aged 15-19 dropped 8 percent in the United States from 2010 to 2011, the latest data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows teen pregnancy is still a major concern affecting all population groups.

Burnudecia Huey

      In 2011, 90 girls were reported to be pregnant at Frayser High School, about 11 percent of the school's approximately 800 students. The staggering number of pregnancies received national attention and prompted local authorities and school officials to mount a campaign to urge and help young girls and boys make better decisions.
Burnudecia Huey and Jamarcous Graves.
      Huey had heard about the high pregnancy rate at Frayser, but never in her wildest dreams thought she would get pregnant. It happened when she was 17 and in the 11th-grade at Trezevant High School in the Raleigh-Frayser community.
      "I didn't find out that I was pregnant until I had five months to go. I wasn't that big at all," said Huey, now a senior at Trezevant running track, playing the French horn and trumpet, and keeping a steady 3.0 GPA.
      Huey was in her second trimester and feared telling her mother. Her father is deceased. "When I asked Burnudecia if she was pregnant, she told me no," said Laveta Huey. "But she kept sleeping a lot and gaining weight."
      Huey didn't know how to break the news to her mother. So she wrote her a letter, which read in part: "I'm sorry. I know you're going to be disappointed. I hope you still love me."
      Laveta Huey was disappointed, but not enough to reject her grandson. Instead, she gave her daughter the leeway to raise him with minimum help. "It's her responsibility," she said. "I have to let her be a mom."
      Jamarcous Graves is 10 months old now. His father, Huey said, is still in her life and caring for his son. Meanwhile, she is putting all the pieces together to become a nurse.

Bonnie Stevenson

      Stevenson was 16 when she found out she was pregnant. The baby's father was 23. The news, she said, was depressing. The expectant mother was a power forward on the basketball team at Trezevant. She played softball, too, and the French horn in the school band.
      Originally from Boston, Stevenson moved to Memphis when she was 13. Shortly thereafter, she was raped, which left her devastated. On top of that, her mother was a substance abuser and her father was incarcerated.
      "I didn't blame anybody for my problems. I knew what I was doing," said Stevenson, who was raised by her grandmother. "I put my trust in him (the baby's father). But he didn't hang around. I was vulnerable at the time."
      People started looking at her differently, being judgmental, she said. "I lost a lot of friends. A lot of family members started looking at me in disgust."
      Stevenson dropped out in the 11th grade and was pregnant again by another man. At 18, she moved back to her hometown and back again to Memphis when she was 21. She persevered, earning her GED, the equivalent of a high school diploma.
      Stevenson is 23 years old now and has three children – Baija Miller, 8, Dyuana Stevenson, 6, and Ephan Eubanks, 1. She and the children live in Bartlett with Ephan's father.
      Two weeks ago, Stevenson lost her job. Undaunted, she is pressing on, studying to become a physical therapist at Southwest Tennessee Community College.

Akilah Wofford

      Wofford and Stevenson were classmates from the 6th-grade at Brookmeade Elementary until they matriculated together at Trezevant. She also played basketball on the team at the point guard position.
      After graduating in 2008, Wofford went to Tennessee State University, majoring in communications. She left in 2011 and enrolled at the University of Memphis, this time studying journalism with a minor in communications.
      "I got pregnant at 23," said Wofford, who once considered having an abortion before deciding to go through with the pregnancy. She still has a relationship with the baby-to-be's father.
      Nearly six months pregnant now, Wofford laments the fact that she got pregnant. Her mother died three years ago and she wishes her father could be there for the birth of her child, but he died in June before Wofford learned she was pregnant.
      "He raised me," Wofford said, noting that he was an 85-year-old doting father. "Three years ago I lost my mom, who was a drug addict. So I'm bringing a child in the world without grandparents."
      Wofford does have a godmother, Phyllis Thomas, whom she regards highly. Thomas, said Wofford, will step in to fill the role of a grandmother. But family, she noted, hasn't been there to support her, "particularly on my mother's side."
      Reflecting on her father's love and the circumstances of her pregnancy, Wofford said, "I will persevere."

      (This story was first published in the Nov. 27, 2013, issue of the Tri-State Defender.) 

Love of teaching shaped Dr. Sarah Chandler's legacy

      She was a woman of “grace, substance, intelligence and wisdom” – attributes that endeared Dr. Sarah Chandler to family and friends. Many noted her “good looks” but it was her penchant for reading and her love of teaching that shaped her legacy.
      Those who knew Dr. Chandler were impressed with her skillset and her commitment to equip students with the skill to read books that could take them anywhere they wanted to go in the world. She taught sixth-grade and retired in 1992 after serving as principal of Dunn Elementary.
Dr. Sarah Chandler and her daughter Judge Jayne Chandler.
      Dr. Chandler died Friday, Nov. 28, following a long illness. She was 84.
      Herman Morris Jr., a former student, said he loved Dr. Chandler at first sight. “I met Dr. Chandler when I was in the 4th grade and again in the 6th grade at Lester Elementary School. She was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen, other than my own mother.
      “She was well read. She said you can go anywhere in the world and do anything that you dreamed by reading a book. So I wanted to be well read,” said Morris, attorney for the city of Memphis. “She inspired me and my classmates to be excellent. We all wanted to please her.”
      Dr. Chandler set the bar high for herself by earning a master’s degree and a doctorate. She valued her family and challenged them and others to get an education, no matter what rung of the socioeconomic ladder was the starting point. 
      “Sarah Chandler was the cheerleader for the underdog and the downtrodden – always trying to help those at a disadvantage to be able to enjoy the benefits of the ‘haves.’ That is one of the reasons she worked hard to ensure that her students were good readers and orators,” said Daryl Leven, Dr. Chandler’s son-in-law. “She knew that without those skills, students would struggle in adult life and have difficulty in being successful.”
      Dr. Chandler also challenged her children.
      “I remember her buying a set of encyclopedias – the animal encyclopedias and the science encyclopedias – and encouraged us to read them,” said her son, Horace L. “Randy” Chandler Jr. of Houston, Texas. “If you’d ask her a question, she would say, ‘Look it up and come back and we’ll talk about it.’”
      Chandler would challenge his three children as well. He grew up with a sister and they were taught that success demands hard work. “I had the kind of mother that was perfect for a boy,” said Chandler. “I’m going to miss her.”
      She also was the kind of mother who was perfect for a “village,” said her daughter, City Court Judge Jayne Chandler.
      “She was an educator and teacher and saw children as her own. Although she was human with human frailties, she was perfect for me. And God blessed me to have her as my mother.”
      Judge Chandler said she was raised to be independent. She recalled her mother giving her an American Express card when she was 18. “She wanted me to be independent and instilled in me a sense of truth and righteousness and a desire to help people. I had to do the right thing.”
      Dr. Chandler also encouraged honesty and a higher level of ethics, said Judge Chandler, recalling her election to the bench after detractors had railed against her.
      “When I ran for judge my Mom, like others, did not think I could win,” she said, “because I was a young, newly licensed attorney with no money. However, she supported me financially and encouraged me to pursue my dreams.”
      Inger UpChurch was smitten by her aunt’s intelligence and commitment to family.
      “Some people called her Sarah, but she was ‘Auntie Mae’ to me. She knew the family history and was a strong advocate. She encouraged us to stick together.”
      Dr. Chandler wouldn’t accept failure, added UpChurch, who manages the Cornelia Crenshaw and Gaston Park branch libraries. “When I wanted to give up, she would say, ‘I’ll kick you in the butt if you quit.’ She was strong and hard on us, but loving nonetheless.”
      She was a true Renaissance woman, said UpChurch, a woman who juxtaposed her gifts as an artist, songwriter, wordsmith, art critic, and lover of music, history, and the game of Jeopardy with her lifetime dedication to community service.
      It was Dr. Chandler’s love of community that prompted her and lifelong friend Josephine Bridges to found a charitable organization in 1953 that they named JUGS, an acronym for Just Us Girls. The letters now stand for Justice, United, Generosity, Service, International. There are as many as 11 chapters in the U.S. and Bahamas.
      Dr. Chandler graduated from Manassas High School and received her undergraduate degree from LeMoyne College. She earned a master’s from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, followed by a certificate in library science from Memphis State University. She was conferred a doctorate in education, administration and supervision from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.
      Dr. Chandler will be eulogized at 1 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 4, during a family graveside service at Memphis National Cemetery, 3568 Townes Ave., at Jackson Avenue.
      R.S. Lewis & Sons Funeral Home has charge.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Dr. Charles A. Champion: ‘A Pill-er in the Community’

     After the doors to Champion’s Pharmacy and Herb Store swing open, the voice of Dr. Charles A. Champion is activated and beckons customers into a nostalgic world that is replete with both medicinal drugs and herbal remedies.
     While herbs, tonics and vitamins are juxtaposed on shelves upfront, drugs requiring a prescription are filled behind the counter. It is a fusion of two worlds – one, a portal to yesteryear, or rather a makeshift museum, where the photos of pioneers and other artifacts are displayed; and the other, where customers can tarry until their prescriptions are filled.
     Longtime customers and others familiar with Dr. Champion’s reputation look to him to fill their prescription or remedy simple ailments with an herbal mix that don’t require a doctor’s prescription. Got a cough or cold, try the Cod Liver Oil Liquid Emulsion; for skin and hair care, try the Corn Huskers Hand Lotion or the Pine Tar Shampoo. 
     “If you come in and have high blood pressure, and buy high blood pressure herbal medicine, I’m going to give you a brochure,” said Dr. Champion. “If you come in with high cholesterol or diabetes – whatever you come in with – I try to have a brochure to accompany the medicine so you can get a better understanding of what is going on.”  
Dr. Charles A. Champion is an integral part of Memphis'
medical history. (Photos by Wiley Henry)
     Some medical doctors in Memphis who may find themselves baffled by a patient’s ailment, he added, “say go and see Dr. Champion and see what he has to say.” This is an honor that extends his reach in the community.
     Dr. Champion is a first-rate pharmacist with a thorough understanding of pharmacy. However, after 33 years in business – a total of nearly 60 years in pharmacy altogether – changes in the pharmaceutical industry have become increasingly evident.
     Insurance, low cost prescriptions and convenience often drive customers to the chain pharmacies. But Dr. Champion is not be deterred, owing longevity to his ingenuity, inventiveness, adaptability, and, most importantly, his willingness to serve the community.
     Service is the hallmark that keeps Champion’s Pharmacy flourishing, even though economic downturns and the rising tide of chain pharmacies have swept independent pharmacies like Dr. Champion’s to the wayside and, in some cases, out of business.
     Walgreens, for example, is the largest drug retailing chain in all 50 states. It has 17,935 pharmacists working in 7,694 stores. CVS Corp. follows with 7,288 pharmacies and 15,064 pharmacists; Walmart Stores Inc., with 4,242 pharmacies and 10,273 pharmacists; Rite Aid Corp., with 4,531 pharmacies and 8,769 pharmacists; and Kroger, with 1,876 pharmacies and 4,508 pharmacists.
Dr. Champion mixes a gel-based ointment with a spatula.
     The top five chain pharmacies, ranked this year by the number of pharmacists by the National Pharmacy Market Summary, could be the death knell of fledgling independent pharmacies. Still, there are other chains encroaching on the independents. But Dr. Champion is making headway in spite of stiff competition.  
     In the state of Tennessee, there are 418 chain pharmacies, 555 independent pharmacies, 222 supermarket pharmacies, and 244 mass merchant pharmacies, according to the National Community Pharmacists Association.
     “When I started in pharmacy in 1955…there were 154 independent, community-type drug stores,” said Dr. Champion, making note of his research. “There were two Walgreens…two Rexall’s…and six Pantaze Drug Stores that were owned by Mr. (Abe) Plough, who owned the Plough company.”  
     In 2014, Dr. Champion continued, “We have on record 128 chain drug stores (in the U.S.). We have in the city now four, or possibly five, independent community drug stores and about 14 hospital pharmacies. That is a complete turnaround of the number of private stores verses chain stores.”
     The independents include the minuscule number of African-American pharmacies here and across the country, said Dr. Champion, pointing to the only other African-American pharmacy in Memphis besides his own, Taylor Brown Apothecary.
     “Through all of this I’ve been able to survive,” the 84-year-old pharmacist said. “I feel that the reason for our survival is that we have been able to embrace the past, sustain the present, and always set goals for our future.”
The tools for survival…

     Despite the overwhelming odds against independent pharmacies and their unwillingness to yield to the conglomerates, Dr. Champion is not planning on yielding one iota. In fact, he is deeply rooted in Memphis and Shelby County, and his reputation for providing good service is stellar, widespread.
     “Serving people has been one of the survival tools of my business,” he said. “I’ve taught my employees and my family members…when serving a person, get their attention. Don’t do all the talking. Look them in their eyes.”
     Although Dr. Champion is African-American, he is not pigeonholed. His customers come from various communities, some faraway – Chinese, Hispanic, White, and Indian, for example – to see the pharmacist who bills himself as “the herbal pharmacist” and “the Pill-er in the community.”
      Dr. Champion didn’t get to where he is today overnight. After graduating from Xavier University College of Pharmacy in New Orleans in 1955, he spent two years in Germany in the United States Army as a pharmacist. Afterward, he worked 12 years at the former John Gaston Hospital as a pharmacist and 12 additional years as a pharmacist at a chain drug store.
     “I was the first African-American pharmacist to ever work in a hospital system in Memphis,” said Dr. Champion, noting as well his stint as the first African-American pharmacist at a drug chain, also in Memphis.
     Those honors are a few of several that were heaped upon Dr. Champion, whose claim to fame initially began after launching Champion’s Pharmacy and Herb Store in 1981 at 1925 Third Street. Ten years later the pharmacy would move to its current location at 2369 Elvis Presley Blvd.
     The focus and centerpiece of the business has always been on the application of pharmacognosy (the study of herbal medicine) and compounding medicine, said Dr. Champion, which he’d studied extensively in pharmacy school.
     The study of pharmacognosy and pharmaceuticals didn’t end after Dr. Champion graduated pharmacy school. “I have all kinds of books on compounding, on herbal medicine, on pharmacy,” he said. “I read all the journals that come across my desk. I know what’s in them. I know what’s going on in the field of pharmacy today.”
     Dr. Champion also has an extensive library at home, and reads the books and medical journals when he needs to research something. “So if something comes to mind when I need to look for something, I can do it right at home,” he said.

Continuing the legacy…

     Champion’s Pharmacy and Herb Store is a family business owned by Dr. Champion and his wife Carolyn Bailey Champion, who were married May 18, 1958. The couple has three daughters: Dr. Carol “Cookie” Champion and Dr. Charita Champion Brookins are pharmacists. Chandra Diane Champion-Walker, who died in March, was a certified pharmacist technician.
     Dr. Champion also has a grandson, Charles Edwin Champion, who is a chemist working in Nashville testing drugs in a lab. “I also have a granddaughter who is a financial advisor,” he said. “She has a degree from Christian Brothers University and she’s part of the business.”
     Longevity has kept Dr. Champion at the forefront in pharmacy. In retrospect, he’s made his mark in the community and beyond, doing what he does best – serving his customers. His knack for service started when he was 15 years old, assisting his grandmother who worked for a Jewish family in Greenfield, Tenn., his hometown.
     “It was my duty, with my little black bowtie on, to go out and announce to the Jewish host that dinner is served,” he recalls.
     Now Dr. Champion is serving people a prescription for wellness. The legacy is assured, he said, even as age slows his stride and renders him powerless to operate Champion’s Pharmacy and Herb Store. “Champion Pharmacy will live on,” he said. “ I hope I’ve been able to part some information and some skills so they (family) can carry this business on.”

     (For more information about Champion’s Pharmacy and Herb Store, contact Dr. Charles A. Champion at (901) 948-6622 or email him at The website address is

Friday, November 21, 2014

LEGACY: Timothy Lee ‘El Espada’ Matthews

     “El Espada is a fascinating thinker and fine writer who has a unique gift of bringing to life characters whom we come to know and love. This grand highlighting of the rich humanity of everyday people is powerful and poignant.”
     Dr. Cornel West’s endorsement of Timothy Lee Matthews’ book, “The Purple Tiger,” is also a reflection of the man whom others have touted for his writing ability – not just as El Espada, Matthews’ pseudonym, but as a gentle, unassuming personality who possessed inordinate skills and talent in other areas.
Timothy "El Espada" Matthews
     Aside from writing, Matthews was an educator, songwriter, novelist, performing artist, certified paralegal, community activist, and actor whose stage credits included “Ain’t Nothing but the Blues,” “Aida,” “Marry Christmas” and “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.” He also released two CDs – “Songs for the Greats” and “Mistic Blues.”
     Matthews recently finished another book, a memoir entitled “Confessions of a Proletarian.” The book is unpublished due to Matthews’ death on Nov. 14 at Methodist University Hospital. He’d suffered a stroke on Oct. 31. He was 66.
     Writing and music fueled Matthews’ creative spirit. He had works published in “Kulture Kritic,” “Jewels Magazine,” “Chicken Bones,” and “Homespun Images: An Anthology of Black Memphis Writers.” A song he co-wrote, “I Feel Like Breaking Up Somebody’s Home,” catapulted him in the blues genre.
     After earning his Bachelors of Arts in creative writing from Vermont College’s Norwich University and a Masters of Fine Art from Fairfield University in Connecticut, Matthews opted to teach English at Wooddale and Raleigh-Egypt high schools.
     When he died, Matthews’ family and friends still were mourning the loss of Matthews’ brother, Orlando Matthews, whom they eulogized Oct. 4 in Hernando, Miss., after he suffered a stroke.  
     Maurice Walker, who befriended Matthews at Lincoln Elementary School, described him as “a good brother and solid citizen” and good for the liberation movement in Memphis.
     “We grew up in Memphis where racism was the law of the land. In adulthood, we dedicated our lives to making life a little better for others,” said Walker, a resident of Dallas. “He was very focused, sharp and intelligent.”
     Cornelius Chambers met Matthews in Los Angeles in 1991, where he’d spent three years “in search of stardom.” “We were roommates for about two years,” said Chambers, an entrepreneur. “He was into music and introduced me to the underground music scene. He was always writing plays…anything entertainment.”
     Matthews was bodacious, too, he said, and recalls an experience he’d never forget. “We were at the House of Blues in West Hollywood, Calif., and El Espada got up on stage and did one of his blues numbers. I didn’t know if I should be embarrassed, but they gave him respect. He always believed he was a star.”
     Matthews was a star in his son’s eyes. Edward Matthews III said his father taught him the pros and cons of being a black man in America. “He didn’t sugarcoat anything. He would give it to you straight. A lot of my friends would reach out to him for advice.
     “He was my best friend, motivator, mover and shaker. I’m proud to carry on his legacy. He will be remembered through his music, writing and his memoir,” said Matthews, founder of Independent Artists Media Group in New York of which his father was a board member.
     Another son, Tracy Matthews, followed his father’s lead as a filmmaker and schoolteacher. “While I worked at ABC News at night, I taught school during the day in New York,” he said. “He was my best friend. He gave me good instructions and I’m going to miss him dearly.”
     Timothy and Carolyn Matthews were married 34 years.
     “He was very perceptive of the most mundane situations to the most complex situations of life,” Carolyn Matthews said. “He saw irony in a situation and found it amusing.”
     For example, while recovering in the hospital, Carolyn Matthews said her husband had texted his “mentee” a message that he’d had a stroke on Halloween.
     The Matthewses were a creative team.
     “He believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself. He always rooted for me,” she said. “He never displayed envy or jealousy of someone’s ideology. If it were a spark of brilliance, he would applaud it. He would encourage it.”
     The visitation is Friday, Nov. 21, from 5-7 p.m., at Christian Funeral Directors, 2615 Overton Crossing St. The body will lie in state from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday, Nov. 22, followed by the funeral at Morning View Baptist Church, 1626 Carnegie St.
     The interment will be in Elmwood Cemetery, 824 South Dudley St. 

Friday, November 14, 2014

A model for beating the odds

     Kylan Robertson has big plans for the future. “I hope to be an NBA player and an NBA game designer some day,” the 12-year-old said. “I also want to be a multi-millionaire. But it would be nice to be a billionaire.”
     For a sixth-grader, Kylan seems to know what he wants – perhaps because Paul Lamar Hunter had assured Kylan and his schoolmates at St. Joseph Catholic School on Nov. 6 that their dreams could come true after relaying his personal story of triumph over adversity.
     The 19th child of his mother’s 21 natural children, Hunter recounted his story about growing up poor, neglected and abused in a crowded household in Racine, Wis., and beating the odds to become the first of his mother’s children – in addition to her 63 grandchildren and 61 great grandchildren – to earn a college degree.
Paul Lamar Hunter encourages the students at St. Joseph
Catholic School to pursue their goals, even if they're struggling
to survive dysfunction in the home. (Photo: Wiley Henry)
     The narrative drew the students to Hunter and his dogged determination to overcome his harrowing circumstances, which he underscores in his autobiography, “No Love, No Charity: The Success of the 19th Child.” (Published by Life to Legacy, LLC; 184 pp.) 

     The book traces the author’s meandering journey from a dysfunctional childhood to his graduation in 2012 from Upper Iowa University in Fayette, Iowa, where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration.
     “If I can live my dream, you can live your dream,” said Hunter, 44, encouraging the students to pursue their goal in spite of family dynamics or an inauspicious environment. For example: His mother, relentlessly dismissive, finished third-grade and “discouraged education.”
     “She told me that I’d never amount to anything,” said Hunter, which motivated him to debunk his mother’s assessment of her children by pursuing and eventually earning his college degree. “She didn’t believe in an education.”
     Hunter implored the students not to give up. He stressed three points, the catalyst for his own success: 1) change your behavior; 2) surround yourself with positive men and women; and 3) stay hungry to learn.
     Following Hunter’s talk, Kylan asked if he was nervous about going to college. The other students were just as inquisitive. Xavier Randle, 11, asked about the price of the book. “I want to write a book, too,” the sixth-grader said.
     “Did you have to share anything with your brothers?” Kimberly Smith, a 10-year-old fifth-grader, asked Hunter, the writer, entrepreneur and businessman.
Paul Lamar Hunter
     “It was very difficult, because we had a lack of clothes, food. We were living with a detached mother. She wasn’t there for us emotionally and physically,” said Hunter, noting that he was close to his nine brothers and 11 sisters. Three are deceased.
     Hunter’s terse criticism of his mother stems from his belief that the love, attention and presence that the Hunter household needed was directed instead to The Love and Charity Homeless Shelter that his mother founded in Racine.
     She had published her own book – “Love and Charity, The Life and Story of Louise Hunter, and The Love and Charity Homeless Shelter” – as a testament of her success years before her son penned his own story.
     Hunter’s father was an assembly line worker, but died in a car accident when he was 8 years old. “If it wasn’t for my older siblings, I wouldn’t be here today,” said Hunter, an Austin, Texas, resident and father of four.
     Kimberly was so inspired by Hunter’s story that she’d decided henceforward to attend college. “I want to become a veterinarian,” she said.
     Hunter rolled out a few catchphrases to drive home the point that one can overcome his/her obstacles with faith and determination: “I didn’t let my past dictate my future; it doesn’t matter where you come from, it matters where you’re going; turn your setbacks into opportunities.”
     Jovan Green, who teaches fourth, fifth and sixth-grade social studies and science, characterized Hunter’s survival as a “perfect example” that anything is possible. “It’s good to hear it first-hand than to hear it from someone on the outside.”
     Leslie Harden, St. Joseph’s principal, added, “Our students need to hear from people who’ve lived and experienced hunger, loneliness…the things they experience in their own home. They need to know that there’s a way out and that they can be successful.
     “A mentor, or role model, in the flesh is so important so they know it’s possible for them to overcome their own struggles,” Harden said. “It was important for Mr. Hunter to be here. He had a great message.”
     “No Love, No Charity: The Success of the 19th Child” can be purchased on Amazon and Barnes & Nobel or online at

Working with the 14th child…
     Paul Lamar Hunter’s visit to St. Joseph Catholic School is just one of several scheduled during his six-month stay in Memphis while working with his brother, the Rev. Larry Hunter – his mother’s 14th child – who operates the non-profit Sober House Homeless Mission at 791 Crillion Dr. Proceeds from Hunter’s book, or from his speaking engagements, will be used to help fund the homeless mission. The website address is

Friday, October 31, 2014

U.S. Attorney Edward L. Stanton lll: Ensuring the safety of citizens in West Tennessee

       FedEx attorney Edward L. Stanton III has to pinch himself sometimes to make sure that his nomination by President Barack Obama on April 14, 2010, to be the next chief federal law enforcement officer for West Tennessee’s 22 counties is still real and not a dream. 
       “It was an unbelievable honor. It’s something I will always cherish and try to uphold…and I will honor this appointment in the appropriate way,” said Stanton, who was confirmed by unanimous consent of the U.S. Senate on Aug. 5 of that year as the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Tennessee.
       Tennessee’s 9th District Congressman Steve Cohen and 8th District Congressman John Tanner, two senior members of the U.S. House of Representatives from the President’s party, recommended Stanton for the position.
       Memphis attorney Veronica Coleman-Davis was the last Democratic nominee and the first African-American to serve as U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Tennessee. She received the nod from President Bill Clinton.
U.S. Attorney Edward L. Stanton lll
       Sworn into office on Aug. 16, Stanton is one of three U.S. Attorneys in Tennessee and 93 across the country. Atty. Gen. Eric L. Holder Jr. was in attendance for Stanton’s ceremonial investiture later on in December.
Stanton oversees a staff of nearly 100 people working out of two offices. The main office is located on the 8th floor of the Clifford Davis-Odell Horton Federal Building in Memphis and the Jackson Branch Office is in Jackson, Tenn.
The staff includes 40 prosecutors, legal assistances, paralegals, support staff, and an administrative division that deals with everything from H.R. to budget, IT to investigations, and contracting. Over the past year, more than 20 million dollars in restitution, fines, and fees in civil and criminal matters were collected. 
U.S. Attorneys are responsible for the following: 1) the prosecution of criminal cases brought by the Federal Government; 2) the prosecution and defense of civil cases in which the United States is a party; and 3) the collection of debts owed to the Federal Government, which are administratively uncollectible.
The Criminal Division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office handled nearly 400 matters over the past year, including indictments and information filed; and the Civil Division handled over 3,500 cases over the same period. He established a Civil Rights Unit in 2011.
       “What makes the news all the time are high criminal profile cases,” said Stanton, 42.
Three well-known cases come to mind prior to Stanton’s administration – Tennessee Waltz, which led to the arrest of seven Tennessee lawmakers and two others in 2005; Tarnished Blue, the roundup of “corrupted” Memphis police officers over a number of years; and Main Street Sweeper, where three high-profile Memphians were nabbed in 2007.
The aforementioned sting operations are indicative of the type of criminal cases that land squarely on the U.S. Attorney’s desk, and the type of cases where taskforces of local, state and federal law enforcement agencies are deployed.
Indictments and arrests are often reported in the media, such as drug distribution conspiracies, sex trafficking, money laundering conspiracies, illegal prescription drug distribution rings, mail fraud, child pornography, and other crimes.
The apprehension and sentencing of Craig Petties and his drug trafficking organization for packaging and distributing cocaine in Mexico, Texas, Mississippi, North Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, and elsewhere, is perhaps Stanton’s crowning achievement to date as a U.S. Attorney.
He said the wife of Mickey Wright Sr., who worked for the Shelby County Office of Construction Code Enforcement before he disappeared in 2001, sent him a card thanking his office for securing a life-sentence without parole in 2011 for Dale V. Mardis, who admitted killing Wright and dismembering and burning his remains in Mississippi.
“I told her that justice delayed is not justice denied,” said Stanton, a driven crime fighter focusing on ensuring the safety of the district’s 1.5 million citizens. “I give it 110 percent. The staff steps in and gives the same.”

‘We’re very vigilant…’

       There is an uptick in criminal activity in the district, notably prescription drug abuse, which often leads to heroin use and trafficking, Stanton said. “Quite frankly, we’ve seen a record number of heroin overdoses here, particularly of young teenagers and young adults.”
       Another area is sex trafficking, he pointed out.
       Crime reduction initiatives have been relatively successful in Shelby County primarily due to taskforces like Project Safe Neighborhoods, Project Safe Childhood and Safe Streets Task Force, Stanton said. Partners include local, state and federal law enforcement agencies.
The Multiagency Gang Unit is another taskforce being deployed. Its mission is to eradicate gang activity, Stanton said. It is comprised of the Memphis Police Department, the Sheriff’s Department, the District Attorney’s Office, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, and the FBI.
Our goal is to dismantle gang organizations, beginning at the top. We’re very vigilant,” the U.S. Attorney said matter-of-factly.
While fighting crime is Stanton’s No. 1 goal, “what is equally important is to get out into the schools, neighborhood and communities,” he said. “There’s not a call that doesn’t get returned. There’s not a request that doesn’t get answered for someone to come out. The children need to see that.”
Stanton is a role model trying to steer youth in a positive direction. Supporters like his guidance counselor in school helped to nurture his aspirations – just like he’s trying to do for students at the schools he visits.
“I thought I wanted to be a pilot. That kind of went to the wayside,” said Stanton, whose foray into public service began in 5th grade when he ran for student council president at Idlewild Elementary. “That was my first loss. I thought I was going to make a difference for the 5th graders.”
He’s made a difference since graduating from Central High School, the University of Memphis in 1994, and U of M’s Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law in 1997. He began his legal career at the law offices of Charles Carpenter. From there, he went to the assistant city attorney’s office, the law firm Armstrong Allen, and finally to the legal department of FedEx before his appointment as U.S. Attorney.

Setting an example…

       Stanton comes from a family of public servants. His father, Edward L. Stanton Jr., is the current General Sessions Court Clerk; and his mother, Ruth Johnson Stanton, is retired from Memphis City Schools.
He grew up with two sisters in Whitehaven. Arnetta Stanton Macklin is vice president of seniors at MIFA and Tameaka Stanton-Riley, his younger sister, is the administrative director for the Shelby County Property Assessor.
       “It’s a part of my DNA,” said Stanton, also noting that his maternal grandfather, a trailblazer in his own right, was one of the first African-American letter carriers in the North Memphis area. The examples set by the Stanton men, he added, helped to solidify his role as a husband and father.
       “I didn’t have to look anywhere else,” said Stanton, who is married to Mae Smith Stanton and has two children, a seven-year-old and a 10-year old. “I saw the example of being a father, husband, a provider. I saw men who stood up on principle as opposed to what was popular…and really instilling into me what character is, integrity, and how important your name is.”
Quoting Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., he said, “‘Life’s most persistent and urgent question is what are you doing for others.’ That drive’s me. Not how much money you’ve made, how many people know your name, how many titles you have, but what are you doing for others.”