ACTION WORDS

My Story
by George Clayton
June 2010

 

Do you believe in miracles?  Well, once you have heard my story, I have no doubt, you will, because it is only through the miraculous saving and transforming power of our Lord Jesus Christ that I am even able to write these words to you.

Let me start near the beginning.  I was born on the east side of Cleveland, Ohio in 1957.  I was the second to the last of eight children.  I can recall a incident when I was seven years old that dramatically changed my perspective on life.  I stole some fruit off a truck and hid behind a car to wait until the truck left. 

A man and woman approached the car and found me crouching beside it.  Immediately the female said,  “That little _____ ______ is trying to steal your hub caps.”  The man pulled out a gun, placed on my left temple and said, “I am going to kill you ______ ______ ______!” 

I started to cry. Sobbing, I blurted out, “I aint trying to steal you hubcaps!”  I just kept repeating that statement over and over.  Incredibly, the fruit truck driver came to my rescue.  He told the man to leave me alone.  Eventually, he persuaded the man holding the gun to let me go.  The man said, “Get out of here you little _____ _____ before I kill you!” 

I jumped up and ran away from the car so fast you would have thought I had been shot out of a cannon.  Amazingly, I still had the fruit.

Whenever I look back upon the incident now, I know that luck had nothing to do with me walking away.  Instead, it was God showing His love and mercy by sparing my life.  How ironic it is that God used the very person I stole from to save my life!  God is good!  Since that incident, God has intervened to save my life on many different occasions.

Since the age of nine, I have lived a lifestyle of gang and criminal activity.  Frankly, I lived a life of total sin.  I misused and abused anyone who was not considered a part of my family or part of my crew.  I experimented with and used all types of drugs; such as marijuana, a variety of different narcotics in pill form, acid, cough syrup, cocaine, etc., until I settled on heroin as my drug of choice.  If I had not come to prison, I would have been a full-fledged heroin addict by the age of twenty, that is, if I would have even lived to the age of twenty.  I was a soldier for the devil and proud of it. 

As a juvenile, I was always in trouble with the law and getting locked up.
In 1975, at the age of 18, I was arrested along with three friends for the murder of a police officer during the commission of a robbery.  In 1976, at the age of 19, I was convicted and sentenced to die in Ohio’s electric chair and sent to death row.  I also received 49 to 175 years for seven counts of aggravated robbery run consecutively.

Whenever someone asks me about my death row experience, I tell the person it was a bittersweet time in my life.  Bitter, because I had to experience death row, but sweet, because I got to know myself as an individual as opposed to just being a part of a gang.

Something special happened while I was on death row.  God blessed me again by sending what I consider now to be an angel in my life.  My angel came in the form of Sister Paulette Schroeder, a nun out of the St. Francis Convent in Tiffin, Ohio.  Sister Paulette has corresponded with me, and travelled all over the state to visit me for the past thirty-five years.  She is an extraordinary woman, someone very special in my life and a very dear friend.

In July of 1978, after I had served approximately two and a half years on death row, God once again intervened and spared my life when the US Supreme Court ruled that Ohio’s death penalty statute was unconstitutional.  As a result, my death sentence was changed to life imprisonment. 

In November of 1978, I was released into the general population at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville, Ohio, where I continued my evil ways.  I used and sold drugs, loan sharked, ran two-for-one stores, and extorted inmates.  You name it, I have probably done it, inside these prison walls. 

I have been in trouble in every prison I have ever been in until now.

In the summer of 1985, I decided to stop using drugs.  I was tired of the daily grind associated with using and chasing drugs.  Instead, I focused my attention on my workouts and reading, in an effort to educate myself, but I continued selling drugs. 

From 1986-1998, I travelled back and forth to Lucasville numerous times from different institutions for disciplinary action due to trouble I got into because of my involvement with selling drugs in the prisons I was doing time in. 

In 1998 I was serving disciplinary time in Administrative Control, which is the highest level of disciplinary punishment, when a friend, Kim, asked me to start praying.  She said that all I had to do is talk with God like I would anyone else.  Over the years many people have asked me to give the Lord a chance.  Unfortunately, their requests fell on deaf ears.  In retrospect, I realize that Kim planted a seed that would one day take root and grow over the years.

In between the years 2000 and 2005, I was transferred to a couple more prisons before ending up at Warren Correctional Institution in Lebanon, Ohio.  While at Warren, I met a man named Gordon in the law library. 

Somehow our conversation turned toward religion.  Normally, I would refuse to discuss the subject of religion with anyone.  My position was that I believed there was a God, but I didn’t know if His name was Jesus, Christ, Allah, Buddha, or some other name.  Gordon told me he had been involved with several religions and they all lead him back to Jesus Christ. 

After our conversation, Gordon asked me to do him a favor.  He asked me to attend church with him.  Initially I said, “no”, but he persisted by saying if I did not like the service I did not have to come back.  I agreed to attend, went to a service, and enjoyed it.  I went back each Sunday until my transfer in 2006.

In 2006, I transferred to the Richland Correctional Institution in Mansfield, Ohio.  Upon my arrival, I began attending the Praise and Worship service on Thursday evenings.  Eventually, I was invited to a Toastmasters meeting where I met Johnny Harvey, also known as, Irish Johnny, or Johnny Irish. 

We became fast friends and running partners on the track, because we learned that we were both avid runners.  When we would run, we would talk about all kinds of things, but Johnny would always somehow work God and His Word into the conversation.  We ran and talked, ran and talked, mile after mile, day after day.  I always felt good after those runs and Johnny said they were a blessing to him too.  Little did I know that this man was praising God for what he saw the Lord doing in my life.

In 2008 Johnny invited me to attend a Catholic Reunion.  I attended and my life has never been the same since.  He introduced me to all in attendance as his close friend and guest.  I did not know it then, but later when I reflected on the events of that day and recognized how the atmosphere was so moving, caring and loving, it occurred to me that this prison ministry team had made a profound impact on me.  In fact, the peace and euphoria I experienced on that day is a major reason why I stand before you today, a believer in the teachings of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, a fellow brother in Christ, and a member of the Roman Catholic Church.

During the reunion, I met two people who have been instrumental in helping me to learn about the Catholic Church and the teachings of our Lord Jesus.  One of the people I met was Deacon Terry Philpott.  He is truly a man of God with a loving and caring heart for all people, but especially prisoners.  The second person I met was a wonderful sister in Christ named Diane Rowe.  She sat in the same group with me throughout the reunion, and was very kind, caring and loving to me and the other men in our group.  She is a very special person and has a powerful witness for our Lord.  So much so that she ended up becoming one of my sponsors.  Diane and Deacon Terry have been Godsends in my life, and I thank the Lord for their presence in my life.

I want to share with you a story about Diane and my other sponsor, Johnny Irish.  They are two charismatic and dynamic people who have made a lasting impression on my heart.  I received a letter from Diane one day.  She shared an experience about how she struggled in her walk with our Lord until she totally surrendered completely to Him.  I was touched by her story.  As I was reading her letter, I was listening to this Gospel song entitled, “Look At Me Now”, by Wayman Tisdale.  I unknowingly started crying. 

A friend called my name playing with me, and when I looked up and he saw that I was crying, he immediately said, “Oh, I’m sorry,” and he walked away. I realized that tears were running down my face.  Despite this fact, I continued to read Diane’s letter and listening to the song until it ended.  My bunky, Billy LeMasters, asked me if I was all right.  I explained to him what had happened and he replied, “George, the Holy Spirit is working on you.” 

I met Johnny later in the day and told him what had happened.  He agreed with Billy that it was the Holy Spirit working on my heart.  As Johnny and I continued to talk, he said something to me that I shall never forget.  He said, “George, if God gave me the choice right now to either go home, or stay here with you so that I can see you give your life to Him, I would stay here.  That’s how much I want to see you take this leap of faith.  I wouldn’t miss it for anything in the world!” 

Earlier in the day I was crying like a baby and did not know why while I was reading Diane’s letter.  Now, Johnny drops this bomb on me!  This man is serving a life sentence, yet he would give up an opportunity to go home just to see me become a soldier for our Lord.  If this is not unconditional love, can someone please define it for me?!  I was completely overwhelmed. 

Listen, here’s how I see it…I received a stiff left jab from Diane, and then Johnny finished me off with a straight right hand.  Together, they TKO’d me!  After this dynamic duo planted their seeds, it was only a matter of time before I took that leap of faith.

After the Reunion, I began attending Catholic Mass on Saturday evenings.  I wanted to learn more about the Catholic faith, so I attended and completed the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults [RCIA].  By the end of the classes, I had decided to accept Jesus as my Lord and get Baptized and Confirmed.  On May 2, 2009, I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior, was Baptized and Confirmed, and became a member of the family of God in the Roman Catholic Church.

Many of you have heard Irish Johnny Harvey’s story.  He is an ex-member of the Aryan Brotherhood.  I, on the other hand, am an ex-member of the Black Nationalists.  Now, we stand together as brothers in Christ and very dear friends.  We don’t see color when we look at each other, only the Light of Christ.  Only our Lord Jesus could be the author of a story this good!  If this is not a miracle, then I want to know what a miracle is!

I would be remiss if I did not share with you how much the Prison Ministry Team that comes from the Catholic Diocese in Toledo, Ohio, means to me.  I want to say, “Thank You”, to every member of the team for the love they have shown me and all the other men that are fellow prisoners here with me.  I will always hold a special place in my heart for these brothers and sisters in Christ.  They have opened and touched my heart in a very real way.  They have shown me what it means to be a Christian. Frankly, their love started my heart to beat again after all those years of working for the devil. 

You see, they did not have to kill me on death row, because I was already dead-spiritually. 

I have been incarcerated since I was 18, and I am 52 now.  I have spent my entire adult life in prison.  Now I am working for the Lord and walking in His light.  Because of the love of the brothers and sisters in Christ, it occurred to me that God has radiated His love to me through each of them.  Their outpouring of love brought a dead man back to life.  If I can follow their examples and affect someone else in the same way that they have me, then I will be fulfilling my duty as a Roman Catholic Christian man.

Looking back, I see how God used Sister Paulette, Kim, Gordon, Johnny Irish, Diane and all the others.  God strategically placed them all in my path at the appointed time in my life.  Currently, Sister Paulette is Doing missionary work in Palestine and does not yet know I have accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior, and have been Baptized and Confirmed into the Roman Catholic Church.  I would love to see the expression on her face upon hearing this good news.  The moment would be priceless.

This is my testimony of how God took a dead man and brought him to life, and believe me, it is an abundant blessing filled life!  I have a peace and a love in my heart for others that I never felt before.  I love going to Mass, worshipping and serving our Lord.  I attend Bible study classes and lead our Rosary Prayer Group.  I no longer get into trouble or live a sinful lifestyle.  I love my new life.  Even though I am in prison, and have been for over 25 years, I am freer now that I have ever been.

I will leave you by paraphrasing a saying that Diane, our sister in Christ, often tells me, I pray the fire of the Holy Spirit fall on you.

 

Read Action Words by "Irish" Johnny Harvey

Finishing the Course by Johnny Harvey - May 2009

 

Read John Harvey's responses to the innovative course—
The Psychology of Incarceration;
it's
Criminogenic Needs Domains

and
Transformational Needs Domains.

What are Criminogenic Needs Domains? — Read John Harvey's Response

What are Transformational Needs Domains? — Read John Harvey's Response