There is a Black man who received a second chance. And there are many others who also deserve a second chance.
Eli and Cora Raiford were the loving, hard-working parents of five sons born and raised on Kedron Street in Homewood. It was and is a neighborhood where the majority of its residents bought into the myth that you only needed a limited education, because you were only going to be able to obtain a job in the steel mill or on a garbage truck. These were honorable jobs nonetheless.
Mr. and Mrs. Raiford defied the odds by encouraging and inspiring all five of their sons to not only finish high school, but to graduate from college.
I did not have a personal relationship with the three younger brothers, but I knew Kenny and Milt well. In fact, I can’t recall too many brothers who lived the closeness of these two brothers. If you ran into Kenny after he greeted you the next words would be, “When is the last time you saw my brother Milt?”
There are millions that can relate to the pride that mom and dad felt when Milt graduated from law school and began his rise in the elite ranks of successful attorneys. Attorney Raiford represented those who paid him, those who paid a partial fee and others he defended pro bono. He became a hero of the Black community, and the major difference was he broke the mold, because he was an intellect and not a sports figure.
Success can be overwhelming and also a stumbling block. Everywhere he went he was showered with accolades. They called him the Black Perry Mason, Big Milt and here comes The Lawyer. It was a heady experience that too few can handle. Milt became a modern day Santa Claus in a three-piece suit. He gave people money, loaned money and females flocked after him to be in his company. The trappings of the world blinded him and he stumbled and fell, and the devastating result was the denial to practice law—he was disbarred.
It is inconceivable to me how crushing this tragedy was to his family and to Milt.
Milt was now a former attorney and those fair weather supporters say he got what he deserved.
The year is 1994 and Milt had worn three hats—family man, Elder and attorney—and negative actions on his part tarnished all three hats. This was the beginning of a disbarment that would last 16 years.
In my mind’s eye I can see Milt on his knees praying to that God his parents had introduced him to as a child—that God of grace and mercy, who forgave David and Moses. God heard Milt prayers and breathed new life into his spirit and made it possible for him in 1995 to become head master of Imani Christian Academy, which was founded under the leadership of Bishop Donald E. Clay. It is now one of the most successful schools in the nation.
I’ve spoken With Milt over the years and am well aware of the number of trials and tribulations as an elder of Petra Ministries and the head master of Imani he experienced, but the Master never promised us a bed of roses. There were many occasions I would ask Milt how much longer and he would generally respond by saying, “My faith is strong and in God’s own time he will send me back.”
Most of you know he was rewarded for his faith. After 16 years, he is once again Attorney Milton Raiford.
The driving factor for this column was when I asked Milt a couple of weeks ago, “How does it feel being back in a position to help folks?” His eyes teared up and he said, “If only Momma and Kenny were here.”
Please remember Kingsley Association.
(Louis “Hop” Kendrick is a weekly contributor to the Forum Page.)