Ex-con turned minister urges students to make good choices

Published 5:00 am Monday, April 17, 2006

When Eddie Spencer’s shoes fell apart in the first grade, hismother sent him to school in his sister’s shoes.

After being ridiculed and taunted by classmates, Spencer made adecision that no one else would taunt him again. For the next 13years, his life was marked by violence and destruction, determinedthat no one would ridicule him or perceive him as weak.

His choices eventually landed him in Mississippi StatePenitentiary at Parchman.

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Spencer, now an author, Methodist minister, and motivationalspeaker, Thursday challenged Lipsey Middle School students to makebetter choices and explained the course of events that led to amajor transformation in his life.

“I knew how to tell somebody a piece of my mind. I knew how toact a fool. I knew how to make classmates laugh at me. But I didn’tknow how to read,” Spencer told students. “I wasn’t scared ofanybody. My greatest fear was reading in public.”

Spencer grew up in Hollandale Greenwood with eight siblings. Hismother’s monthly income was $108 from the government. His familylife was marked by conflict, hardship and violence.

Spencer turned to crime at a young age.

“I was in and out training school,” he told students.

Spencer was eventually sent to Parchman at age 17 for pointing asawed-off shotgun at two young children. Two years into his prisonsentence, Spencer had a life-changing experience and made threechoices that would forever alter the course of his life.

“Sitting on my cot in Parchman, with a shank sitting next to meon the bed, I decided to give my life to the Lord,” Spencersaid.

At the age of 19, Spencer had decided to kill two fellow inmatesto toughen his image and intimidate fellow prisoners.

In his biography, “Inmate 46857,” co-written by Lafon WalcottBurrow, Spencer writes about an internal conviction of his choicesand his determination to respond to God and turn from his violentways. The book is scheduled to be made into a movie soon.

Spencer told the students of his second life-changingchoice.

“I went to my clique that I was hanging with and told them Icouldn’t run with them any more,” he said.

Spencer said his friends gave him two weeks before he turnedback to violence.

“They’re still waiting,” he said.

Spencer’s third life-changing decision was to get aneducation.

“Without education, every door will be shut in your face,” hesaid.

Spencer informed the youth that even the most basic jobs willsoon be out of reach without a college education.

“A lot of people my age wish they could go back,” he said.

Spencer is now busy proclaiming his testimony of redemption.

He tours the country challenging youth to make positive choicesand he is a full-time minister. He is associate pastor of AlderwoodUnited Methodist Church (UMC) in Jackson and also pastors White OakUMC in Hazlehurst.

Spencer sees his mission in keeping youth from the choices hemade as a youth.

“My ministry is prevention,” Spencer said. “I try to keep themout of the jails. It really is to keep some child from experiencingthe same things I did and to empower them to make good choicesnow.”

Spencer believes that young people can make decisions today thatwill better prepare them for a productive adult life.

“Some people say that experience is the best teacher,” Spencersaid. “I think listening and observation make better teachers.”