|Timothy "El Espada" Matthews|
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.
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 The book is unpublished due to Matthews’ death on Nov. 14 at Methodist University Hospital.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.