July 24 is special, no doubt about it! It’s the birthday of Matt Tjapkes, and it’s the day that Maurice stepped out of prison as a free man…the first time in 29 years!
On July 24, 2019, I reflect, in awe, on how this indigent black man from Gary, Indiana, and his touching account of a wrongful conviction, changed the career paths of two professional broadcasters.
True, I started working to help free Maurice Carter in the late 1990s while selling church organs. But I was intent on returning to the field of radio broadcasting, a career I loved that began in 1954. It never happened. Instead, in 2001 at the urging of my brother Maurice Carter, I founded a non-profit organization called INNOCENT, later to be known as HUMANITY FOR PRISONERS. And never looked back.
But our story today is about Matthew, another professional broadcaster, whose specialty is sports coverage.
Matt, our youngest son, was still in school when I embarked on the quest to free Maurice, thus the story was very familiar to him. He still boasts of an A that he received in a college speech class for a Maurice Carter presentation.
On this date in 2004, his birthday, Matt was in Jackson to cover the story of Maurice walking out of prison, as a cub-reporter for the Grand Haven Tribune. His photograph of a jubilant Maurice, holding high his freedom papers, appears on the cover of my book SWEET FREEDOM!
Maurice died three months later, but his story lives on.
HUMANITY FOR PRISONERS grew to amazing proportions in its 18-year history. Matt joined the HFP team in 2012 to help with the work load, but radio sports lingered in his mind. He was moonlighting on a regular basis, covering a lot of high school sporting events, and his intent was to go higher. That, too, never materialized.
In April, 2019, the Board of Directors of HUMANITY FOR PRISONERS appointed Matt to the position of President and CEO, to succeed his father.
I lovingly continue to blame it all on Maurice, but of course it was part of a much bigger, broader plan, divine in nature.
I doubt that Matthew has ever seen this quote from my favorite theologian, Frederick Buechner, but I think it applies: The kind of work God usually calls you to is the kind of work (a) that you need most to do and (b) that the world most needs to have done.
Buechner concludes: The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet.
Yep, that’s where we are!
Happy Birthday, Matthew! RIP, Maurice!
Two names still making a difference.