Turning his head and closing his eyes, he paused and then the words stumbled out. Secrets, upon secrets, upon secrets. A shiver ran down my spine. The psychic medium had concluded my session by asking if I had any questions. This man had already demonstrated his incredible ability by telling me things that he should have never known as well as, predicting things that I now know, would eventually come true. I had just finished writing Kept in the Dark and had asked him if he saw a vision that pertained to the story that I was now ready to tell. He told me that there was an abundance of material for several books. One year later, I released Songs from an Imperfect Life which continued the tale of my family’s secrets.
I have made peace with my dad’s 1954 Miami arrest feeling that it was always my parent’s story to tell or keep to themselves. I don’t fault them for not telling me except by way of a box of letters and newspaper clippings to read long after their deaths. Nor, do I fault my relatives or our Miami friends for taking this secret to their graves. They may have thought it was never their place to tell. And yet, now that I’ve chosen to share what I have learned, I have realized that there were those in Nashville who already knew.
We left Miami and moved to Nashville to start over in the 1950s – a time when secrets could stay buried and people could reinvent themselves and start anew. After learning about my parents’ ordeal in Miami, I decided that this was exactly what they had done. There is no way that I would believe my parents would go to that much trouble only to expose their past once we moved. However, I have realized that they would have always lived in fear of word getting out.
It makes sense to me, that with my mother employed by the Christian Life Commission and attending the annual Southern Baptist Convention, that a Florida delegate, aware of the crime, might have mentioned it to someone and rumors would have spread. Or, our pastor from Miami, preaching a revival in our Nashville church, might have said something. And yet, I doubt that he would have betrayed confidences. Regardless, I have now learned that in some form, my parent’s secret was known and shared in Nashville.
Again, trying to piece together the details simply comes down to speculation. After my book’s release, I learned that a former staff member of our Nashville church had long ago indicated some knowledge of my father’s crime. While upsetting, I have tried not to think too much about it. But now I have also found out that my childhood preacher’s daughter, many years ago, warned a mother in our church to keep her son away from my father. This leads me to believe that the incident in Miami was known in Nashville. But it also makes me wonder if the source spreading the word was our pastor at that time.
Facts that I now know: One) Members of our church, in the early 1960s went to our pastor to alert him about two sexual predators in the congregation – a childhood friend was warned by her parents to stay clear of those men. And yet, at least one of those men stayed a member of our church for several years. The same man that when I was seven years old, molested me and possibly others. Two) Our pastor somehow became aware of my father’s past and understandably notified at least one staff member. But it also appears that he might have shared it with his adult daughter, who in turn, shared it with at least one other.
I am not blind to the fact that if there was a possible threat where a church member might harm a child, then yes, address the situation. I am not aware that there ever was a time my father would have been considered a threat within First Baptist Church. If there had been a problem, then I would find it hard to believe that he would have stayed an active member until his death. And if there had been, the fact that it was handled through rumor and gossip by the preacher’s daughter disappoints and angers me.
In regards to the accusations against my father that took place in Miami, I will never know the entire story, but then again, nor will anyone else.
J. Ronald M. York, author of Kept in the Dark, is also an accomplished musician and founder of York & Friends Fine Art Gallery.
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