This project has been a leap of faith. It has been almost two weeks since I went public with Struggling to Breathe. I had no idea how it would be received, but it has received almost 1000 page views. Your support and positive feedback is very encouraging. For this, I thank you.
For those of you who have not read all my posts, I encourage you to take today to catch up. My blog is different from most; each post builds upon the last. Together they provide an outline of the themes that I hope to flesh out either in future posts or in a book. I look forward to getting to the heart of the matter soon – my journey with five men who were executed. I hope you will stay with me.
If you are not following me through facebook or twitter (at https://twitter.com/cadcocknc), please click on the Follow button on the blog itself so that I can gauge interest. In addition, please pass the word to others who might be interested in the themes of my blog. Thank you so much for your support.
I love the Appalachian mountains. I was born and, for the most part, raised in Rome, Georgia, a small town nestled in the foothills of Appalachia. My Mama, her parents and I would “go riding,” at least once a year, deep into North Georgia mountains, sometimes in the fall to see the leaves and buy apples and sometimes to see Bertie, wife of Granddaddy’s first cousin, in Clarksville. Bertie, as Mama describes her, was “a good ole mountain woman.” There was a lot of gossip, laughter and just hanging out on these trips.
Mama was very close to Bertie’s daughter, Linda. As a teenager, I really admired Linda. As far as I could tell, she could do most anything. She made — among other things — dolls and ceramics. Her and her husband even built a house by hand deep in the woods. Linda also took care of her daughter, B.J.
B.J. and I were born about the same time. There is a cute picture of her and me on a blanket, just a few months old. But while I developed mentally and physically at a “normal” pace, she did not. BJ was a constant reminder to me of how fortunate I was. In 1980, BJ had a stroke and had to be taken care of around the clock. Linda took on this responsibility, and like many a strong mountain woman, Linda found a way to survive in the dark times. As she sat day in and day out by her daughter’s side, Linda discovered a talent for art. A video of Linda and her folk art can be found at http://www.gpb.org/stateofthearts/term/anderson.
The stories have been pent up within me for a long while. I have told many of them, but I struggle to write them. Yes, there is the busyness of life, but there is also the emotional toll the stories take. I hope to put them in a book one day, but “one day” seems to never come. So, this blog is a place for me to record them, at least for now.
For thirteen years, I represented a group of men and women on North Carolina’s death row – all of whom I first met between 1993 and 1995. Over the thirteen years, I had six clients die. The first died in January 1997 of “natural causes.” His death was, strangely, a victory for us both. The other five were executed, with the last being killed in 2005. I witnessed all but one of these executions. For the fifth, I buried him.
Lawyers are our clients’ storytellers. All the while, often unnoticeably, our clients become the shapers of our story and, often, the revealers of our character. My story is intertwined with my clients’ stories in a way that I could have never imagined when I entered the work. Thus, as I record my clients’ stories so that history will not forget, I also record the story of a little girl from the poor side of the tracks of Rome, Georgia who became an advocate for society’s most despised during one of the darkest times of criminal justice in North Carolina.
All our journeys are shaped by those who join us along the way – for ever how short a time. I am keenly aware of the many people who have left a patch — or more — on my life imagined as a quilt. I hope that those whose lives have crossed mine will contribute to the posts here and that those who have never met me will provide feedback. Maybe then, after all is said and done, a book will emerge.