Meet the Resident: Eddie

Fulfilling Childhood Dreams after 36 Years of Incarceration

In a world marked by adversity and uncertainty, some perspectives shine through to remind us of the human spirit’s resilience. Eddie’s story is one such tale of redemption and determination that inspires us to believe in fair chances and the power of a dream.

One year ago, Eddie Williams arrived at Dismas House after 36 years of incarceration. Upon reentering society, he discovered a vastly different world than what he had formerly been a part of — at least at a glance. 

“You can imagine — after being away for over three decades, there’s a lot that looked different. Technology and all sorts of things. But the more things change, the more they also stay the same.” 

At 54 years old, the most drastic difference Eddie noticed upon release was…Eddie. 

Starting Over

Looking in the mirror, he encountered a different person from the adolescent who made regrettable decisions in 1987. He saw an adult who was starting over.

“I wasn’t the same 19-year-old knucklehead anymore. Going through the system is not a joke, and it’s not a game. It’s very dangerous. I did what I did that got me there, and saying I regret it is an understatement. But it’s the past, and I have to focus on building my future. I’m so grateful that I made it out alive, and I’ll do everything in my power to make sure I don’t end up there again.”

Determined not to let this part of his past define him, Eddie rediscovered a dream from further back that would fuel his ambitions moving forward. 

“I grew up in Memphis, and I remember playing with toy trucks as a kid. One of my friends’ dads drove a semi-truck. He would park it in the neighborhood, and we all thought he was so important. That always stuck with me. I knew I wanted to drive a truck back then — all of us kids wanted that.”

Over the years, he witnessed those kids become adults and achieve their goal. “They made it happen. I was behind bars, and I heard about them getting their commercial driver’s licenses and even starting their own businesses. It was amazing to hear that they were doing what we talked about and doing so well for themselves.” 

A Steady Ambition

As Eddie recognized, some facts in life don’t change. One such area is the outcome of hard work. Soon after arriving at Dismas House, Eddie worked with his Case Manager to establish his reentry plan, which outlined a strategy for obtaining his CDL. To reach that point, Eddie would need to enroll in a driver’s training school — a costly, time-intensive endeavor. As Eddie began a part-time job to save funds, a member of the supportive employment team discovered a grant that would cover the cost of Eddie’s classes.

Eddie enrolled in school and continued working while completing his education. For months, studying and practicing driver’s tests consumed any free time. Along the way, he experienced several setbacks but never lost his motivation.

This week, Eddie excitedly shared, “I finally finished — it’s finally a reality. After all these years, I will be able to drive a truck.”

The joy in his voice was palpable as he reached toward his pocket, “I just picked up the license — I can’t believe it. I told my friends that I finally caught up with them. They all told me, ‘We knew you would.’” 

A Meaningful Accomplishment

To Eddie, a CDL is more than what meets the eye. “When I passed that test, I felt the same way I felt walking out of prison. It felt like a new door had opened. The support I’ve received at Dismas House helped a childhood dream come true.”

A CDL means freedom. It means establishing a career that will allow him to purchase his first house and live independently — a milestone decades in the making. It means relocating back to Memphis and being surrounded by his family. It means reconnecting with the friends who never stopped believing in his dream.

“This past Thanksgiving, I got to enjoy my first holiday meal with my Mother since 1987. Sitting around the table with my family, I couldn’t help but think about how good it felt. I don’t take that for granted. I’m taking care of myself and becoming the person I want to be so I can get back home. Everything is falling into place, and it’s time for life to really begin.”