"I WAS TALKING TO RICHARD NIXON...
AND OTHER FAMOUS PRISONERS I HAVE KNOWN"
September 11, 2008
You'd be amazed at how many famous prisoners I've met over the past thirty years or so, many of them presidents, or at least named the same.
George Washington was a young black guy from Fort Lauderdale. He'd never seen a cherry tree. John Adams was both an old white dude and an old black dude. Thomas Jefferson was a disappointment, a semi-hippie who got thirty years for cocaine. He got out years ago, never looked back at all those who helped him, kept not one promise, but that's to be expected.
Andrew Jackson ran football pools and other betting games, a solid middle-aged black man from Miami, strictly business. If you didn't have cash, see you later. No credit.
Just a couple of weeks ago Richard Nixon came here to Tomoka C.I. off the bus. No, we didn't have a seance. Richard Nixon is alive and well and in a prison near you, if you live in Daytona Beach. Don't believe me-- go to the DOC web site and check him out, and any of the other 100,000 or so poor souls serving time in Florida. You can find most anybody you're looking for there.
Stevie Wonder is not blind, nor can he play the piano and sing. He's a blond-haired white guy best known for escaping from Polk C.I. in the early 1990's. "Stevie Wonder Escapes From Prison!" Sounds like a "National Enquirer" headline. Michael Jackson also white, born that way, not bleached, was once a friend of mine. Michael Jordan couldn't play a lick of basketball, though.
I met Ted Bundy the day I came to prison at the Lake Butler Reception Center. He really was the serial killer, not any impostor, although there are several Bundys in prison, no relation.
A dozen of us rode in a sheriff's van from Tampa to prison a few days after I was sentenced to life. We joined a crowd of "newcocks," what they call new arrivals, seated on folding chairs waiting for initial processing, sort of like steers in a pen at the slaughterhouse. We still had on our "street clothes," and hadn't had our heads shaved yet.
All heads turned when a couple of deputies brought in Ted Bundy, handcuffs, leg irons and chains, still wearing his trial suit. Unlike us, they locked him in a small holding cell with a barred door and concrete bunk, no mattress, and a stainless steel toilet.
Nothing else was happening, so I went over to check him out, one convicted murderer to another.
He asked me if I had a cigarette.
"I don't smoke, Ted. Don't you know cigarettes are bad for your health?"
"I just got the death penalty. Lung cancer's the least of my worries." He grinned.
At least he hadn't lost his sense of humor.
I went over to the crowd and bummed a cigarette and a book of matches from a homeboy from Tampa. I knew he had some, since he'd kept lighting up in the van. I took the cigarette and matches back to Ted. He was grateful, fired up, inhaled, and blew out a plume of smoke.
I had to ask. "Why did you kill a twelve-year old girl, Ted? That's messed up."
He laughed, not a "funny, ha-ha" laugh, but a "can you believe it?" laugh.
"That's what's so messed up," he said.
"I had nothing to do with that one."
"No. Not my type. They got the wrong guy. He's still out there."
"Yeah, I've heard that one before, too." I'd said it myself. But I just couldn't summon any sympathy for Ted Bundy. He'd done plenty of others.
The guards came in and got him then, took his clothes, head shaved, fingerprints, photo, sign some forms, some shots, new set of prison blues, and he was out of there, off to Death Row, start to finish, forty-five minutes. We stayed there five weeks getting processed. That's the prison way. They can move like lightning when they want to. Otherwise, it's hurry up and wait.
Little known fact - men on Death Row get contact visits. A woman hooked up with Ted, came to see him for awhile. One day she turned up pregnant, got bigger and bigger. It has been done, the guards get busy over here, over there - well, you know how people are.
Some people didn't believe it, but others who were there said Ted loved that little girl, and she looked just like him. You make the call. The mother quit coming to visit Ted after awhile. A man facing electrocution doesn't have a bright future, except in those last few seconds when they pull down the breaker, and he goes to the sweet by and by. When they fried Ted I wondered about that little girl, if she knew, if her mother told her who her daddy was, what effect it had on her later. She'd be grown by now, possibly a mother herself.
Mercury Morris was a "real person," too, the original running back for the 1972 Miami Dolphins football team, got a taste for cocaine, came to Raiford, lived next door to me. He was always in debt, borrowed money and paid it back every week, still owes me $35.00, said he'd send it, never did. But that's another story.
There are many, many more famous people in prison - I knew George Bush - he was good at horseshoes. I don't think the famous monikers did them any good, though. This is one of those places where anonymous is best.