Sometimes our society can be unforgiving. A person breaks the law, owns up to it, pays a heavy price for it, but often finds it difficult to regain community acceptance. There are some among us who thrive on watching others fall – and take pride in seeing them stay there.
The stronger person fights through the adversity, ignores the naysayers and looks to use his talent for the greater good. And in so doing, he mutes the critics and learns that he has more friends than he ever knew, the kind of friends who don’t leave because he missed the mark.
Marshall Ramsey’s Conversations piece with Richard “Dickie” Scruggs is the perfect example of finding redemption and purpose in the face of adversity. Scruggs was once one of the most powerful attorneys in Mississippi if not the nation. But he took a self-inflicted hard fall from grace. He attempted to bribe a judge. He could have spent his six years in prison biding his time, waiting until the end of his sentence where wealth from years of running an extremely prosperous law practice awaited him.
But Scruggs saw a need, and that need helped him and scores of inmates spend their jail time in a manner that has changed both the inmates and their teacher, Dickie Scruggs. The former superstar attorney quickly learned that a major reason that inmates become inmates is that they lack an education. So he involved himself in helping fellow prisoners obtain their GEDs, even teaching his self-described weakest subject, math.
We learn in Ramsey’s compelling and revealing conversation with Scruggs – which airs May 5 at 10 p.m. and repeats May 8 at 11:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. -- that since being released from prison, Scruggs has found lasting purpose in helping as many people obtain their GEDs as he possibly can. In Mississippi, it’s an important mission. With a dropout rate that is still too high and with at least 500,000 Mississippians without a high school diploma, Scruggs may well be the high-profile ambassador this sector has long needed.
He isn’t excusing the crime he committed. Neither am I. But in receiving the second chance that our justice system says he has earned, a large group of Mississippians may well have a chance at a new life of their own, a life that only an education can provide.