Thursday, November 20, 2014



My friend, Dru Greene, blessed us recently when she sent my wife, Libby, sixteen photos from the 1980’s, taken at Zephyrhills C.I. I had thought these photos were long-lost and never to be found, since I’d sent my copies to a lawyer in Tallahassee in 1997, and she “misplaced” them. Prison was much different during a four-year period, 1983-87, when we were given free rein to implement a variety of successful programs, and the prisoners responded. Many lives were changed.

I am preparing a presentation for the parole commission documenting that period, and some of these photos illustrate the accomplishments far better than words. When Jack Murphy and I began brainstorming and planning “Sonshine Adventure,” three-day religious weekend in 1983, we had no idea that our modest program would result in “The National Prison Invasion,” in 1986, with over 40,000 Christian volunteers going into 400 prisons nationwide over one weekend.

I wanted to share a few of these photos now, with short explanations, followed by more later, to seek your comments and opinions. Many of the men in these photos were freed years ago, and lead successful, law-abiding lives.

The week before Jack Murphy was released on parole in November, 1984, he and I posed for this photo at Zephyrhills C.I. We silk-screen printed the “Sonshine Adventure ‘84” logo on over 900 t-shirts. Over 200 Christian volunteers from churches in Orlando, Lakeland, Dade City, Tampa, and Clearwater attended, as well as divinity students from Trinity College and Southeastern College. That’s me on the left, with a lot more hair. We are standing in front of the horticulture area where I was allowed to raise thousands of flowers.

In his last months in prison, Murf was inspired to work with the flowers, getting his mind right for freedom. As a result of his efforts beautifying some areas around the chapel, the warden reduced Murf’s custody and put him “outside” the fences for the first time. He told Jack to fix up the flower beds around the administration building like he’d done at the chapel.

The above photo was taken around the same time as the one of Murf and me. That’s me at the back, with sunglasses. Murf is on the right. Friends Gary Toth, left, and Juan Acebo, center, along with Jack Murphy have been free for decades. I am the only one left in captivity.

This area was the result of a “Jaycees” beautification effort, a fish pond and stone waterfall, a wood bridge and tropical plants, all built by prisoners. This area became the backdrop for the Jaycee Photo Project on Saturday and Sunday afternoons. Sadly, I’ve been told, the Jaycee pond and wooden bridge are gone now, eliminated by some later, less enlightened officials. Prison officials no longer allow group photos of prisoners, like the one below, for fear of “gangs,” I suppose.

That’s me holding the “Hard Labor” sign (a joke for those humorless folks who might assume otherwise). All these men worked very hard at self-improvement and community service in all our programs, Jaycees, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Winners Program, Sonshine Adventure, and others. Almost all of these men have been free for many years, with the exception of Mike Riding (directly behind me with no shirt) and myself. Ricky Batten, at lower left, recently contacted me to say he was living a successful law-abiding life near Tampa. Over the years, I’ve lost touch with close friends Rusty York, Gary Toth, Juan Acebo and Mike Singletary. I wish them well.

This photo of my aunt, Alice Walker, and myself was taken in the Zephyrhills C.I. visiting park in July, 1986.

That’s my youngest brother, Tom, and aunt, Alice Walker, another time at visit. Tom has a long, scruffy beard now. I expect to see him in “Duck Dynasty” any time.

In September, 1986, we’d been taking “selfies” for years, mostly because no one seemed able to properly focus the 35 mm camera the warden entrusted me with.

November 16, 2014, Columbia C.I., Lake City

What a difference thirty years make! This photo with my wife, Libby, shows that I am still hanging on, working hard, maintaining a positive attitude, hoping and praying for release.


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