Friday, July 22, 2011

Blog 65 - Tell Him "I'll Be There"

Blog 65

Tell Him, “I’ll Be There”: A Mother’s Love

Vernon M. Herron

For those of you who have read my life’s story, you may know of my humble beginnings. My father died when I was one year of age, leaving my mother with six children to rear alone. The achievements of my siblings were noteworthy: one did construction work, two worked for the Federal Reserve System, one was a cosmetologist, one was a trained nurse and one was/is a minister. Regarding the engagement of each sibling, the pursuit of each was noteworthy with accolades. However, one sibling was called the “black sheep” of the family, I suppose because he was always getting into trouble and not following “the law.”

For the sake of anonymity, I will call this sibling “sheep.” This story is about “sheep,” a mother’s love and is the second in a series of reported childhood experiences.

As an early teen-ager, I assumed many male adult functions of the home, as most of my siblings had left the homestead. I remember one day a portion of the bedroom ceiling fell to the floor, narrowly missing my head. I quickly learned how to plaster and to repair the broken ceiling. My! that made me feel like a helpful child taking on adult responsibilities.

Let me give you another example. My mother chronically had back pain suffering from degeneration of bone and muscles. Heat seemed to have given some relief. After heating irons at the open fire or on the heater, I would apply the same to her back for ease. This seemed to give her some temporary relief.

One day as I was administering to my mother with a hot iron, the phone rang and I answered. The caller said, “your brother was in a fight and was almost killed, he wants his mother to come and help him. He wants to know, will she, and how soon?” I thought that I was speaking for my mother when I said, “tell ‘sheep’ mother is sick in bed with pains in her back. I am applying heat with a hot iron! and besides, tell him to call his friends with whom he has spent his life’s substance for help.” Just at that moment, mama jumped out of bed, snatching the phone away from me, saying, “you are beside yourself boy! That’s my child too.” Then she said to the caller, “tell ‘sheep’ that I’ll be there shortly.”

This was a demonstration of a mother’s love.

Mother O’Mine
Rudyard Kipling

If I were hanged on the highest hill,

Mother O’ mine, O mother o’ mine!

I know whose love would follow me still,

Mother O’ mine, O mother o’ mine!

If I were drowned in the deepest sea,

Mother O’ mine, O mother o’ mine!

I know whose tears would come down to me,

Mother O’ mine, O mother o’ mine!

If I were damned of body and soul,

I know whose prayers would make me whole,

Mother O’ mine, O mother o’ mine!

Blog 64 - Tricky the Dog and Kate the Cat

Blog 64

Our Dog Tricky Died, So Did Kate the Cat.
Vernon M. Herron

This blog begins a series of sharing three childhood experiences which reflect culture, mores and emotion. With culture, the customary beliefs, social forms and material traits of a racial, religious or social group are noted. Mores give us habits and manner while emotion shows us grief and love.

Today’s blog describes family conflict, reconciliation, death, funeral, burial, grief and finally healing.

Besides parental care, my early childhood consisted of two sisters, a brother, a dog named “Tricky” and a cat named “Kate.” When Tricky first met Kate, there was constant warfare. There were protective areas for food, shelter and play but Kate held her own. With a “whist”, a “brisk” and an intended claw slap, Tricky “backed down.”

When the two realized that we all were family and that we had to “get along,” then, we all became family united. Tricky accepted Kate without threats as Kate not only tolerated Tricky but also loved him. The family conflict was resolved and peace abound.

The name, “Tricky” was germane to his nature. He performed unusual tricks, obeyed commands, carried bags when he could hold the same with his teeth, would run and hide at bath time and did other funny things. We all loved Tricky, so did Kate. Then there came an unexpected tragedy, Tricky died! How sad! We the kids, decided to act out our culture and give Tricky a proper funeral and burial with all of the accustomed emotions. The back steps were used as the pews of a church; brother and sisters were the mourning family; I was the minister who gave the eulogy at the age of six. I don’t remember my words of comfort but I do remember one sister instructing the other one to “pinch me hard so I will cry.” She did, in fact, the yell was “loud and uncontrollable.”

These actions were in keeping with what we had seen, heard and experienced in our culture. (Will elaborate just a little later)

At the conclusion of the funeral service, we followed the custom and buried Tricky out in the back yard without vault, head stone, bush or tree. May the memories of Tricky live a long time.

This is not the end of the story. Just a short time later when the family was “grief healing,” Kate died and the process was repeated. We often wonder why Kate died so soon after Tricky. Was it due to loneliness, fate or what- ever? Never-the-less, we thank both of them for re-defining for us culture, mores and emotions.

Now, it is clearer why Tricky’s funeral gave us the opportunity to reenact what we had seen, heard and learned.

We had seen male mourner family members sit in church with their hats on.

We had heard family members cry audibly, uncontrollably and even faint.

We had heard the people sing, “Near-row” My God to Thee, instead of “Nearer My God to Thee.” etc., and we had observed “all night” wakes.

Dorothy Law Nolte describes our childhood experiences in her writing:

A Child Lives What He Learns

If a child lives with criticism, he learns to condemn,
If a child lives with ridicule, he learns to be shy.
If a child lives with hostility, he learns to fight.
If a child lives with shame, he learns to feel guilty.
If a child lives with tolerance, he learns to be patient.
If a child lives with encouragement, he learns confidence.
If a child lives with praise, he learns appreciation.
If a child lives with fairness, he learns justice.
If a child lives with security, he learns faith.
If a child lives with approval, he learns to like himself.
If a child lives with acceptance and friendship, he learns to find love in the world.

The next blog will reveal the second childhood experience, noting a mother’s love.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Blog 63 - Be Successful / Be Independent / Be Employed

Blog 63

Be Successful-
Be Independent-
Be Employed-
(An abridged speech delivered June 11, 2011
at Sycamore Hill Baptist Church, Greenville, NC)
Mark S. Woodson
Our guest writer

                                                         Stephen Woodson           Mark S. Woodson

Class of 2011, you made it. You’ve graduated.  Enjoy the moment realizing that this is not an ending but a new beginning.  I want to encourage you to be life long learners and doers ever moving higher to pursue your dreams. Last year, my son, Stephen, graduated from high school and the day before this same service I presented him with a book I had written entitled, “I Couldn’t Ride With My Father.” It was my gift to him about growing up, my early life experiences and lessons I learned along the way. Today, I will be sharing some of those life experiences and lessons with you.

In Fayetteville during the 1960’s, I attended all black elementary, junior and senior high schools because all the schools were still segregated.  In my book, I talk about two teachers I had.  My 7th grade teacher and my high school Spanish teacher both had major impacts on my life.  First let me tell you about my 7th grade teacher.

Miss “E”, at Fayetteville’s only black junior high, taught the smartest students coming from the five black elementary schools in the city.  Sadly, Miss “E” judged us and our ability to learn by the elementary schools and neighborhoods we came from, the jobs our parents had, the way we dressed, how poor we were, and how influential our parents were in the community. She told us from the “wrong side” of town, in both words and actions, that she was not going to waste her time teaching us because we were not smart, we would never amount to much, never be able to afford college and never succeed in life.  We would be forever poor, struggling to survive and exist like our parents and grandparents before us. Therefore, she moved us to the back of her class, stopped calling on us and treated us as failures.  She focused on the privileged kids of status who would go to college and become our future black leaders of tomorrow.  Eventually, about a dozen of us from the wrong families, wrong schools and neighborhoods stopped trying in her class.  We began to perform to our teacher’s expectations. Even worse, the privileged students in class began to treat us the same way, at times questioning why we should even be in the same class with them. At ages 12 and 13, we (they) didn’t know any better. That was a painful time for me during my early development.

My self esteem was so low that for many years afterward I did just enough to get by because I thought I wasn’t good enough at anything I tried in life.

Being successful means being in a position to get all the stuff you want.   Being independent means you don’t have to ask anyone else to help pay for it.

I have had terrible jobs; as a teenager I worked on a garbage truck in the afternoons while still in high school, then to get tuition for college poured hot asphalt in 100 degree weather building interstate highways, and was almost killed by shrapnel while serving the military in Viet Nam. Also, as a supervisor I had to select and terminate good employees when my company downsized and sent jobs overseas. I didn’t enjoy any of those jobs. But I did them.

I want to talk about what to do for you to get fired from a job.

When you get that good job, there are five sure-fire ways to get fired.  I’m encouraging you to please DON’T do these five things:

1.If you want to get fired: Compare yourself to others on the job, especially if you’re the new person.  Your education and knowledge may have gotten you in the door but performance will keep you there.

2. If you want to get fired: Work less and then offer excuses for not doing your work and not performing.

 3. If you want to get fired: Spread gossip about everyone else’s business whether it’s personal or job related. Use the company network to send text messages, voice mails, tweets, or emails about anything or anyone that’s not work related.

4.  Make your  boss mad by hitting his or her hot buttons

5. Finally, if you want to get fired, take all the credit, accolades and praises for yourself:  Start by telling people how great you are, how valuable you are, and how indispensible you are.  Just, don’t be a team player.

I started by talking about my gift to my son, the book “I Couldn’t Ride With my Father”. I told you about my 7th grade teacher, Miss “E”, and the devastating impact of that school year on my life. Now, let me tell you about my high school Spanish teacher, Miss “C”.

As my high school graduation approached students would gather in small groups to talk about where they were going after high school. Some were going into the military during this Viet Nam period, others “up north” and others to the various black colleges. At that time most white colleges were still segregated. Those few beginning to integrate accepted only the top black students in the state. 

During one of those bragging sessions, I said I was considering engineering at A&T in Greensboro.  Miss “C” overheard me, called me to the side and asked if I really was going to A&T. She knew the truth before she asked.  I confided to her that although I liked electronics and engineering, we didn’t have the money for me to go to any college. She asked if I had considered Fayetteville Tech (now FTCC), they had an electronics program and tuition was inexpensive. My excuse was, “Miss “C”, you know they are not admitting blacks there, only white kids can go.” Of course, I hadn’t even considered it because of the racial climate of the day.

She refused to let me get away with that excuse. She hammered me hard, asking, “Have you applied, did you try to get in?” “There is a first time for everything.” “You’re too smart to do nothing with your life.”  For every excuse she had a response.  Miss “C” held me responsible for applying and she wrote a letter to the school.  To my shock, I was accepted, and that August, I integrated the electronics engineering technology program at Fayetteville Tech, the only black in the freshman class with 42 white students.  I would graduate in 2 years with only 14 white students remaining and with my Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degree in electronics engineering technology.

Miss “C” was right to push me beyond my comfort zone. She put the responsibility for my future back on me, by not allowing me to blame someone else for something I hadn’t even tried. Yet, in a strange surreal way Miss “E”s 7th grade class taught me valuable coping techniques that helped me adapt and survive the blatant, hateful and vicious racism I would encounter my first year at Fayetteville Tech.  It’s amazing how God equips and prepares you early for battles and challenges yet to come in life. 

Since that day in 1997, I have tried to live my life with that lesson in mind.


I told you about my two teachers, Miss “E” and Miss “C”, and their impact on my life. Even today, for every new challenge I face or obstacle I try to overcome both of these ladies whisper in my ear.  Miss “E” tells me that I can’t do it, I’m not smart enough, I don’t have enough money. I will fail because of who I am and where I came from.  People will hurt my feelings and laugh at me if I say or do anything. I’m a “nobody” and will never make a difference in this big cruel world. So, why try.

But, Miss “C” still speaks to me over the span of time during  my life’s ups and downs. She says, No excuses. Stop lying to yourself and blaming others for what you haven’t done. Have you tried it to see if you can do it? There’s a first time for everything. Blaze a path for others to follow if you have to go it alone. Live outside your comfort zone. No one can stop you but you.

Graduates, the battle of those two voices still rages within me many years after leaving high school. I hear both of them in every major challenge I face in life today. And, you too will hear your own competing voices of despair and hope, those demons of darkness and those angels of light, during your life.  But with an abiding faith, and a steadfast belief, with hard work based on integrity, doing the right things, and prayers for guidance and direction you will make the right decisions.

Remember, the hope and dreams of your parents, grandparents, and family, the tears and struggle of those long gone before – All go with you. Honor them.  The aspirations of those yet to come -- Await you, Make a difference.  The future is yours – Build it.

Be successful! Be independent! Be Employed! But with the right values and with Christ in your life.

Thank you for this opportunity and congratulations all graduates of 2011.

Profile of Mark S. Woodson

Mark S. Woodson is President of the True Venture Media Group that operates WECU-1570AM gospel radio at Greenville, NC. He assumed his responsibility in May 2005 with the operation of radio station WWNB 1490AM at New Bern, NC. Since then the company has added the True Ventures in Gospel Magazine publication and syndicated programming running on other stations and networks. Currently he directs the overall operations of the company in providing comprehensive multimedia solutions for customers and the religious community.


Friday, July 8, 2011

Blog 62 Bench Marks: A Chronicled Journey

Blog 62

Bench Marks:

A Chronicled Journey


Vernon M. Herron

Writing one blog triggers a thought for another one. When writing a blog, often I have need to reference a date or a time period, which may for the moment elude me. I found that chronicling has been helpful in writing. But a startling and greater benefit of chronicling is spiritual; a revelation of predestination and of providential care. Here is my chronicled journey:

1928_____Birth Year.

1940_____Finished elementary school- Myers Street School.

1940_____Confessed Christ, Baptized and joined the church.

1947_____Finished High School- Second Ward High School.

1947_____Entered College- Shaw University.

1948_____Licened for Ministry.

1950_____Initiated into Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity.

1951_____Graduated from Shaw University.

1951_____Ordained for Ministry.


1952_____Pastored First Church- First Baptist Church- Dallas, NC

1953_____Graduated from JCSU Seminary-(Bachelors)

1953_____Began fatherhood

1955_____Pastored Second Church- Hopewell Baptist Church- Jeannette, PA.

1955_____Pastored Third Church- Friendship Baptist Church- Pittsburgh, PA.

1956_____Purchased First Home.

1958_____Graduated from JCSU Seminary- (Masters)

1962_____Pastored fourth church- Second Baptist- Joliet, IL

1968_____Represented City of Joliet at funeral of Dr. MLK, Jr.

1968_____Joined the staff of National Ministries- ABC- Valley Forge, PA

1968_____Purchased Second Home-King of Prussia, PA

1973_____Travel to Africa, Europe and West Indies.

1978_____Received Masters and Doctoral degrees.

1979_____Started genealogical practice.

1980_____Joined staff – Shiloh Baptist Church- Philadelphia, PA.

1985_____Traveled to South America.


1993_____Organized Comprehensive Genealogical Services- PA

1995_____Interim Pastor-St. Paul’s Baptist Church- West Chester, PA

1995_____Purchased, built third home and returned to Charlotte, NC.

1996_____Renewed membership with the Ebenezer Baptist Church- Charlotte.

2004_____Was Widowed.

2005_____Joined Friendship Missionary Baptist Church- Charlotte, NC.

2005_____Organized Comprehensive Genealogical Services- Charlotte, NC.

2005_____Had major back surgeries.

2009_____Started blog writing.

Reviewing a life’s span did two things for me. First, it helped me to understand life’s total perspective. I have an appreciation of how the first part of life sets the perimeters for the latter part and vice verse, because of the latter, the former is understood. I see as never before that “the child is the father of the man.”

Robert Browning confirms this truth in his writing:

Grow Old Along With Me Rabbi Ben Ezra

Grow old along with me!

The best is yet to be,

The last of life, for which the first was made:

Our times are in His hand

Who saith, “A whole I planned,

Youth shows but half; trust God: see all, nor be afraid!”

Secondly, it reinforced the spiritual truth that in my life, God’s presence carried me during the “low-ebb” experiences. Mary Stevenson describes my experiences very well.

Footprints in the Sand

One night I dreamed I was walking along the beach with the Lord.

Many scenes from my life flashed across the sky.

In each scene I noticed footprints in the sand.

Sometimes there were two sets of footprints,

other times there was one only.

This bothered me because I noticed that

during the low periods of my life, when

I was suffering from anguish, sorrow or defeat,

I could see only one set of footprints,

So, I said to the Lord, “You promised me Lord,

that if I followed you, you would walk with me always.

But I have noticed, that during the most trying periods of my life

there has only been one set of footprints in the sand.

Why, when I needed you most,

have you not been there for me?”

The Lord replied, “The years when you have seen one set of footprints,

my child, is when I carried you.”

Friday, July 1, 2011

Blog 61 - My 1947 Autographic Journal

Blog 61

My 1947 Autographic Journal:
Human Interest Notes, Genealogical Data and Prophecy

Vernon M. Herron

I had a blessed experience today. Reviewing some memorabilia stored away in a strong arm box, I saw the clock of time turned back to 1947, sixty four years ago. I found my one and only worn autographic journal in which fellow high school class mates, teachers and renowned world personalities had penned words of greetings. You will recall that the signatures of those great people were carried in blog 59. I was moved with a sense of awe and delight to read the sentiments of fellow classmates and former beloved teachers, because their writings constituted human interest stories, genealogical data and a bit of prophecy.

Human Interest Story

Seventy eight persons constituted the number of High School graduates in the class of ’47. Of that number, eight classmates found the love of their lives within the group and because of it, the eight became four couples. Within that context, here is the irony of it all. This is a true story. Only the names have been changed to protect the innocent.

Classmate Bill’s girl friend was classmate Susie. My girl friend was classmate Alice. All four of us were the best of friends. Eventually, Bill married my former girl friend Alice while I married Bill’s former girl friend Susie. And we all lived happily ever afterward. (Of course, as you may know, both wives passed.)

Genealogical Data

The above reminds me of my father and his brother who married two sisters and their children were double cousins. Often in genealogical study, we see family members often marrying their relatives due to confinement, geography and population limitation. (See marriage limitation in blog 34 on Family Relation.)

Finding my autographic journal reminds me of the variety of family records, papers and memorabilia which may contain genealogical information and can be found in the home. Family Bible, old letters, newspaper clippings and photographs may often have genealogical value.

Other family papers and memorabilia found in the home may include diaries, journals, letters, deed, wills, marriage certificates, patriotic and fraternal organization papers, military records, photographs and other items. Take a second look at your memorabilia in the home.


In my journal, a most revealing autography was written by a Mrs. Bernidine Pinkney, now 97 years young. She taught me English, Drama and Human Relationship. Sixty four years ago, Mrs. Pinkney wrote in my journal the following:

May 28, 1947

Dear Vernon,

Knowing you has been a pleasure. In the future, may you realize your dreams. One day, I shall sit in an audience and enjoy hearing a sermon that you will preach.


Bernidine Pinkney

Twenty seven years later (1974), when I was on national staff of The American Baptist Churches, one Sunday I was the guest preacher at The First Baptist Church, Capitol Hill, Memphis, Tenn., when Dr. Kelly Miller Smith was the pastor. Lo, and behold, in comes Mrs. Pinkney to worship and to hear her former student speak. Needless to say, I immediately went to cloud nine. Now re-reading Mrs. Pinkney’s desire this day in 2011, as written sixty four years ago and fulfilled twenty seven years later, is really prophecy fulfilled.

Another treasured teacher’s note comes from Mrs A. S. McCorkle, our homeroom teacher, now 94 years young. She wrote:

Dear Vernon:

If you improve as much in the next 4 years as you did in the past 4 years, success will be yours. Keep up the good work.


11th & 12th grade teacher

A.S. Mc Corkle

Thanks to all!