I was saddened to learn from the Gainesville Sun that my old friend, Dr. Jack Detweiler, Professor Emeritus at the University of Florida, passed away recently. He was 82. I met Jack in 1980 at Union C, I,, Raiford, where I ran the GOLAB prisoner self-help program. Jack brought in a group of college students to visit the GOLAB classroom and meet prisoners up close.
When they first walked in, the students were like frightened bunnies in a room full of greyhounds, but after half an hour of talking and listening to the prisoners, their attitudes completely changed. Most found that there was little difference between themselves and prisoners serving life, but for circumstances.
Dr. Detweiler organized criminal justice seminars in which legislators, state senators, judges, prosecutors, professors, and other experts came into the prison visiting park and took turns with select prisoners addressing the gathering on various topics. One of my proudest moments was debating a noted juvenile psychiatrist and professor and having him concede my solutions to juvenile crime and delinquency made more sense than his.
Jack Detweiler brought his wife, Pat, and their daughter to numerous prison events, and was one of the founders of the Kairos Prison Ministry. We became good friends, and he gave me good advice and encouragement over the years. I went through several years of being transferred back and forth to prisons all over Florida, and Jack and I lost touch for some years. Then in 2001, I helped organize and institute the first Kairos at Columbia C. I. in Lake City, and who should appear, working on the volunteer team, but my old friend, Jack Detweiler! Over the three-day weekend, we took advantage of a great opportunity to renew our friendship. We continued to correspond up until his death.
At my first parole hearing in Tallahassee in 2001, Jack led a crew of Kairos men to appear on my behalf. He wrote letters lobbying for my release, and spoke up for me in front of the parole commission. When I went to Tomoka C.I. in Daytona Beach, he came for the Kairos program there, driving from Gainesville.
Jack Detweiler was a good man and committed Christian who put his beliefs into practice everyday. He and Pat were together 60 years. He was a role model and mentor, a constant encouragement to me and a true friend. Many will sorely miss him, especially me.
As this life sentence reaches 35 years, I look back at all the good people, family and friends, who have passed away while I do this time. The few who were there with me at the beginning, in most cases, have grown old waiting for my freedom. Now, most of those who are with me, who are hanging in there despite all the setbacks, are friends I’ve met along the way, by the grace of God, and who have seen something in me that they felt was worthy of their attention and concern. My prayer is that this living nightmare will end soon, I can rejoin society, and meet those kind souls without razor wire or gun towers in the vicinity. I’ve outlived my staunchest supporters, it seems, but also some of my enemies, the evil, corrupt ones who conspired to put and keep an innocent man in prison for their various reasons. A few of the “old-timers” remain, and I am grateful to God for our mutual longevity.
This photo was taken at Union C.I., Raiford, in 1981, in the visiting park, at sunset, with the infamous steam plant tower in the background. That’s me in the center (with the head full of hair, between the women). Pat Detweiler is immediately to my left (right in the photo), and behind me. Dedi Anderson is next to me on my left (in the flowered blouse), and Jack Detweiler is to her left and behind her. Jack Murphy is at the extreme left, with the cap and tee-shirt.