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  • Doug Tjapkes

Maurice H. Carter, born 3/29/44. Little did his mother know!

It’s funny how the mind works. My brother Maurice’s birthday is here. I’m thinking how much I miss him. My mind is flooded with memories. And I’m also thinking of his mother. I used to visit his elderly mom in her tiny, ramshackle home in a deteriorating Gary, Indiana neighborhood. She loved those visits! She loved her son! And as I’m thinking about a mother’s love for her son, and her hopes and dreams for the lad, a song runs through my mind. It’s one of my favorite Christmas pieces, introduced to the public exactly 20 years ago: Mary, Did You Know? To be clear, I’m NOT attempting to compare Maurice to Jesus, or Mrs. Elizabeth Fowler to the blessed virgin. I love the poignant questions to Mary, penned by Mark Lowry and set to music by Buddy Greene: Did you know that your baby boy would one day walk on water, would save our sons and daughters? Did you know that your baby boy will give sight to a blind man, will calm the storm with his hand? Did you know that your baby boy has walked where angels trod? When you kiss your little baby, you kiss the face of God? I can’t match that kind of stuff when talking about Maurice. But I’ll bet good money that his dear, little mother had no idea that her kind and gentle son---born and raised in poverty, falsely accused and incarcerated for nearly half his life for a crime he did not commit---would make such an incredible impact. She could not have known that his story would appear in book form and in a stage play. She never would have guessed that the little organization, founded on her son’s dream, would grow to become a leading prisoner advocacy agency in our state...that because of Maurice, HFP’s team members are compassionately touching the lives of thousands of Michigan inmates every day! In fact, his wrongful conviction became a rallying cry around the world. Phil Campbell, Toronto attorney, was paying tribute to my efforts at the time of Maurice Carter’s death, but his sentiments are accurate: The official record shows Maurice to be convicted of attempted murder. But in the eyes of the public, and of many more who studied the case, he achieved exoneration. When you met Maurice he was a forgotten man; he died a celebrity. When you met him he was reviled as a dangerous criminal; he died a symbol of wronged innocence. When you met him he had no real friends; he died surrounded by love. I conclude with this statement by Phil: The qualities he displayed during the bleakest years imaginable are answer enough to his accusers. Happy Birthday, my brother Maurice. RIP!

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