Eddie Warrior - You Gotta Have a Skill
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Show 1707: Eddie Warrior - You Gotta Have a Skill
Air Date: February 12, 2017
Rob McClendon: Well, the Eddie Warrior Correctional Center in Taft, Oklahoma, is named after a gentleman who believed that skills training could be the difference between success and failure in life. I never got to meet Mr. Warrior, but in 2012, I did have the pleasure of sitting down with three generations of Warrior women to tell me about the man who continues to change lives even after death.
Edwynae Warrior-Walker: That’s my all-time favorite, this one right here when he’s standing in his suit and fedora with the Black Angus cows behind him.
Rob: For the women of the Warrior family, Eddie Warrior was a giant among men.
Edwynae: Uh huh, that was natural for him.
Jacqueline Warrior: He was a big man, a tall man, as the men in our family tended to be. And a very deep voice.
Rob: Standing over 6 feet 4, he was known as treetop on the playing field, a stature only equaled by the size of his heart.
Jacqueline: But he was very gentle with us, very good with girls because my mom, his first wife, died when I was 5, and I just remember him getting up because I would start to cry at night, missing my mom, and I just remember that he’d get up at night when I was scared of the dark, and, you know, try as best he could to comfort me.
Rob: And such kindness extended into his professional life. Always a man of the land, Eddie Warrior farmed for a living while also raising a young family and going to college.
Jacqueline: And he was telling me about how, you know, with a young wife, a new wife and a baby at home, that he actually slept in the dairy barn when he was on the campus at Langston because he didn’t have the money for the dorm.
Rob: After graduation, Warrior began teaching in the segregated schools of the 1920s, becoming a principal and a county supervisor.
Jacqueline: He had to sort of talk to them about black history when there was nothing written down in textbooks about it, to sort of like build up kids. And I think, when I think about it, I was like, that was so him, it was always about building up young people.
Rob: Warrior continued to touch young people’s lives throughout his career, teaching skills as much for life as for a degree.
Edwynae: His, his basic philosophy about that is always learn how to do something with your hands. Like, he supported 4-H clubs and things like that because those are the things you could always fall back on. And so he was really all about skills.
Rob: All the while earning the respect of fellow educators and gaining friendships across the state.
Lisa Benjamin: One thing my father pointed out to me was that, I remember my grandfather was inducted into the African-American Educators Hall of Fame probably several months back, and he was trying to explain to me that the importance because he was like, Lisa, your granddad wasn’t just a local educator. He said, he had appointments by the governor, by governors that had kind of colorful pasts, and Alfalfa Bill Murray [laughter]. And he was really a political person, and that’s why I didn’t really, the business part, you know, he just always seemed like he was about business. But what I saw in him was like the, always the politician. I remember talking to Edwynae, and I didn’t know who people were, and it was like George Nigh and all these different people, but I didn’t know who they were, you know, but they would be at our house or at his house, and just we just grew up around ‘em.
Rob: Elected chairman of the first board of trustees of Indian Capital Vo-Tech, Warrior was as at ease in the boardroom as he was the classroom, yet never forgot his roots.
Edwynae: We have a picture here of him in a suit in a pasture with some Black Angus cows, that’s, that was the way he dressed all the time.
Lisa: Checking cows in a fedora, with a tie and a suit.
Edwynae: Even when he was sitting around the house, he’d be in suit pants, like she said, dress shirt buttoned like you have on and with the sleeves cuffed up, and that was casual for him.
Lisa: And dress shoes that would always be clean, very clean and polished.
Edwynae: Always, because he taught me how to shine ‘em.
Jacqueline: Shining shoes [laughter].
Edwynae: And he used to give me a quarter for shining his shoes.
Jacqueline: I remember him telling me when I was away working, it was like when times are the roughest that’s when you put on your best clothes, you pull yourself together, and you don’t look like, you know, you’re having problems.
Rob: Warrior lived a busy professional life, but through it all always made time for family.
Edwynae: And, like, the Director Loyd Rader would come down, and they’d be meeting in my dad’s office, and I just want to jump in here with this part, is that he always found time for us no matter what he was doing. Because if I knocked on the door and Mr. Rader was in there he would say who is it, and I’d open the door, and he’d say, oh, let’s stop, that’s my baby. You know, he always made sure that he recognized us; he was really, really about family.
Rob: Well, Eddie Warrior passed away in 1979, a full life filled with family and friends, yet even today, his legacy still lives on. Right behind me is the Eddie Warrior Correctional Unit, a female prison where inmates have the opportunity to turn around their lives with education and skills training, a fitting tribute to a man who spent his own life helping others help themselves. Inside this classroom at Eddie Warrior Correctional Facility, lives are changing for the better.
Amanda: I have three kids and a husband. I have a 8-year-old son, a 7-year-old daughter and a 19-month-old daughter.
Rob: And a drug conviction that has Amanda serving time, but time she’s taken full advantage of.
Amanda: And I got my GED here [laughs].
Rob: And a certification that will help her get a job upon release. Sheba is Amanda’s tutor.
Sheba: And I enjoy watching other people learn. I think that’s the highlight for me, is that I like seeing women, especially when they’ve been out there on drugs or alcohol or they had their addictions, coming in here and learning something that’s gonna be positive for them when they get out of prison.
Sheba: I fuss at them all the time, just do it, just do the work, just learn it, don’t quit, don’t give up. Because we have good instructors that want to see them succeed.
Rob: Teaching not just technical skills, but success skills for life. Something Eddie Warrior’s family believes he would be proud of.
We don’t see it just as a prison, we see it as a place, like you said, where people are going back, I mean they have debts to pay, but still while they’re there, they’re learning skills so that when they leave prison that they can have something to, you know, make them employable or to, because they had success there, some of ‘em for the first time.
I think he would be very, very proud because he always wanted you to be equipped, no matter what. He wanted you to be equipped with something, something you’ll be able to do to be successful in life, whether you’re a good carpenter or whether you’re a scholar or whether you do cosmetology, but he just wanted you to be equipped. So the skills center to me tells me that they’re training these women so that when they get through being rehabilitated and they go back into society, they will be equipped with something, and I think that would make him very proud.