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The Secretary cried out whom?  She said my brother Edward Owens.  My father told me he agreed to deliver the nitro-glycerin.  He also said he came to regret that decision.  He said it was the most horrible thing he had ever done. According to him just one baseball size of that nitro-glycerin could have blown the city of Baltimore right off the map.  In his words he was scared to death about what he had been asked to do.  He was never the same afterwards.  The thought of having delivered such a volatile explosive as nitro-glycerin into the city of Baltimore and what could have happened was very disturbing to him.  He went on to relate how his part in delivering the nitro-glycerin, contributed to his suffering of guilt for his role in sending an innocent people to their graves to pay the cost to end a war with their lives.  In spite of my father’s many troubles and short comings I loved the man dearly.

Many years after my father had revealed this story to me a Mr. John Vanier, the associate Warden of custody at the Florence Colorado Alcatraz # 3 Federal Penitentiary, where I was incarcerated at the time issued a standing memorandum to all of his lieutenants. The memorandum was a 24 hour a day permit to allow me inmate James Joseph Owens, son of Mr. Edward Reynolds Owens to make calls any time of day to his dying father up and until he had passed away.  Somehow I can’t escape the thought that my father’s legacy unleashed a cruel storm that has chased me throughout my life.  Edward Reynolds Owens died Dec 25, 1995.

From 1963 to 1964, I was living in the Cherry Hill Homes Project in Baltimore Maryland were I attended public school number 163.  I was 11 years old at the time.  My fourth grade teacher was a Mrs. Russell. Mrs. Russell would often tell me I was a very special and bright student. That made me feel loved and admired whenever she dignified me with such kind words.  Mrs. Russell would remind me on many occasions how I needed to make an earnest effort to stay in school.

One morning I decided to share with her an awful secret, I had.  I told her why I was ditching school so much.  I went on to explain how I was stealing food to feed my brothers and sisters at home.  I told her I was stealing food from A&P and Pressman Brothers super markets.

I went on to share with her how my mother’s emotional breakdown was brought on by my father’s alcoholic abuses, which subsequently prevented her from functioning as a capable mother. I explain how generous my mother was in helping people.  And it didn’t matter who they were.  My mother was just like my grandmother she was good at heart.  And just like my grandmother she would try to help everyone in the community.  This was the case even while my father was sending us a check every week along with the State welfare check we were receiving.  

Yet with money coming in we still found ourselves hungry every week due to the ineffectiveness of my mother’s mental state. My behavior of stealing only added to her pressure.  I would receive some very strong but kind discipline from certain police officers that were friends of my brother- in- law Officer John Paul Harrison.  My brother- in-laws intention was to help me stay in school and keep out of trouble.  He recognized that, I had potential, unfortunately my problem was plain and simple it was hunger.  The names of Officers who tried to help me were Officer Troy Spur, Officer Larry Peg and Officer Oliver Murk.

These officers put sincere effort in trying to keep me out of trouble.  I never held anything against them they were just trying to keep a kid from falling through a gap and becoming a statistic. The Cherry Hills Homes Projects were built between 1944 and 45 as a low income housing district for returning black soldiers and their families from World War II.  The Project’s were built in a swampy area located in South Baltimore near the Baltimore inner harbor.  An old white man lived in the Cherry Hills swamp area.  We called him farmer Brown because of his peach orchard.

We didn’t know his name; we just called him farmer Brown.  He was a contrary old man. He would never speak to us and there were many times he would chase us with his old shotgun.  I don’t think he really intended to hurt any of us.  He was just trying to frighten us away from his peach trees.  After all we were like little grass-hoppers swarming his peach trees just trying to get food.

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