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I Could Have Been A Thug


By Jay Thomas Willis

Senior Columnist and Political Analyst

Mid-South Tribune and Black Information Highway

Based on some aspects of my childhood background, I was at first headed in the direction of being a thug. But something turned me around. While observing my brother try to cut my sister’s throat with a razor-sharp-pocket knife, it turned me off to violence. I learned to deplore violence, but still loved to drink and party. Eventually I was turned-off to even drinking and partying. The thug life just wasn’t in me.

            My oldest brother, Sam, came home from the Gulf Coast early one Christmas morning. My father said he was smoking those funny cigarettes (marijuana). I’m not sure how the argument got started. It seems to have started while my brother and sister were visiting in the community a few minutes earlier. Sam pulled out a knife and went for my sister’s jugular. My mother threw her fleshy arm around my sister’s neck and caught the knife in her arm.

            The next day my mother had to get twenty stitches in her arm. It was my first encounter with violence. I was about four years of age, and could have become violent as the results of such a traumatic scene, or turn completely passive. Unconsciously and deliberately, I chose to become passive. From that point on was slow to anger, slow to be aggressive, and slow to fighting and violence.

            I joined the marching band in sixth grade, it was the only type of band we had. I quit in eighth grade because of being disappointed that in three years the band director had made absolutely no effort to teach me to read music. My objective was to learn to read music. After quitting the Band the one coach showed no interest in me as a potential athlete. If you weren’t involved in the band or in sports, there was nothing else to involve yourself in except your studies, and the studies weren’t challenging.

            I drifted for a few years until I could get my drivers license. At that point would go to activities at the school slightly inebriated. Maybe I couldn’t play in the band or play sports, but could get drunk whenever I wanted. Drinking was for the purpose of dealing with less than desirable conditions at home, and lack of constructive extra-curricula activities.

I would go to Longview, because Hallsville was dry, and drink from an open container of beer on the way to school, and could barely see over the steering wheel. I was lucky the police never stopped me while drinking from an open container. I could have been in big trouble, and probably would have been on my way to a juvenile detention center.

            I felt right at home sitting in the stand at games—higher than a kite. No one ever said anything to me about my drinking, and I’m sure everyone expected me to be a thug. At one football game an individual whom I classify as another young thug, bet me $5.00 that our school would lose the game. When he saw that it was the last few minutes of the game, and there was no way for us to lose, he tried to renege on the bet. He first picked a fight with me before following me home in a high-speed chase.

            A fellow student heard about what happened, and suggested putting a gun in my car and being prepared to shoot this guy. This guy didn’t bother me again. If he had I had put my father’s .410 caliber squirrel gun in the trunk of my car. If he had persisted in his behavior, I planned to take him out of the game. If I had I would have become just another thug on the corner. With such crazy notions in my head about carrying a gun, I was definitely on my way toward being a thug.

            I would hang out in cafés, and observed quite a bit of violence, but each time I saw violence it made me more intent on being passive. I never will forget what happened one particular night. Two individuals walked into the Centennial Café in Hallsville, Texas. An argument had started between them while in Longview, about 10 miles away. The first guy wanted to know why the second guy had put his hands on his girl. The second guy told the first guy he didn’t know it was his girl. The first guy told the second guy he would know the next time, and pulled out a knife with a six-inch blade and stuck it in his arm until it reached the bone. The first guy then ran out with the second guy sitting there motionless with the knife sticking out of his arm. This scene left an indelible impression upon me. I vowed not to ever be a violent individual.

            I was never violent and never committed any kind of theft, but I felt comfortable drinking wherever I went. I remember being in school programs, and drinking to help me perform better. My drinking mostly discontinued after high school.

High school for me was forty-eight years ago. In college I only drank socially on rare occasions, and quit having anything but an occasional glass of wine many years ago. Possibly, I could have turned-out to be another thug—under given circumstances. My drinking could have gotten me in deeper trouble. But I never even experimented with Marijuana, or got into any other type of trouble.

            I was able to graduate from college, get two Masters’ degrees, and work on a Ph.D. I have a beautiful wife, two wonderful sons, a nice home, and reliable transportation. That’s about all a “would-be thug” could hope for. I’m thankful for having taken the “road less traveled.”


 The above is on the Black Paper lane on the Black Information Highway and The Mid-South Tribune ONLINE. Mr. Willis is the author of twenty-three books, fifteen professional journal articles, a number of magazine articles, and over 300 newspaper articles. His books can be reviewed at www.jaythomaswillis.com .  Email him at jaytwillis@gmail.com  or MSTnews@prodigy.net or BlackInfoHwy@prodigy.net








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