"Best book I have ever read."  "A heart-wrenching and inspiring story."  "Such an awesome read!"  "A heartbreaking and heroic tale."  "Gripping."  "An important book."  "Excellent story...recommended for everyone."  --Sampling of reader comments from Amazon.com

 

"Shelley Stewart's story is astonishing, and Don Keith has told it with grace and honesty."  --Robert Inman, author of The Governor's Lady

 

"Shelley Stewart's biography is nothing short of amazing.  It will surprise you, entertain you, break your heart, and lift you up."  --Susan Swagler, Birmingham Magazine

 

"This book made me want to go hug my children and review my life to see if I have done right by my fellow man. We are but a generation from the protests that brought upon the Civil Rights movement, and Shelley Stewart was at the center of it. I could not stop reading and hoping there was an upside to this man’s story, only to realize he was the upside."  -- Hippocampus Magazine

 

 

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Shelley Stewart was five years old when he and his brothers watched in horror as their father murdered their mother with an ax. Homeless at the age of six, Stewart found what shelter he could, suffering physical and sexual abuse and racism. Despite heartbreaking setbacks and the racial strife that gripped the South in the 1950s and 1960s, Stewart graduated high school and entered the broadcasting profession. There he became a hugely popular radio personality, rubbing shoulders with the top recording artists of the day and becoming one of the nation’s first black radio station owners.

He helped Dr. Martin Luther King mount the historic Children’s March through the streets of Birmingham, Alabama. Later Stewart would use his powerful communication skills to help convict one of the men who bombed the city’s Sixteenth Street Baptist Church. Then this often-honored man turned his business skills to the creation of a foundation named after his mother; the Mattie C. Stewart Foundation works to convince high school students to stay in school and graduate, a topic Stewart speaks on in his many engagements around the country. Stewart, with author Don Keith, tells his story in his memoir Mattie C.'s Boy.

 

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Summary of Mattie C.'s Boy by Don Keith as told by Shelley Stewart

     Shelley Stewart was five years old when he and his brothers watched in horror as their father murdered their mother with an ax. The boy was homeless at the age of six, finding what shelter he could in a horse barn, in a white family’s basement, and in the homes of reluctant and often terribly brutal kinfolk.

     Along the way, he experienced the cruelest physical, sexual and racial abuse.  Even when he eventually enlisted in the Air Force, he was declared insane when he dared object to the discrimination he saw. But he never forgot the words of his first-grade teacher who told him he was special, that he could do great things with his life if he read and learned.

     In the face of overwhelming odds, Stewart did just that. Despite heartbreaking  setbacks and the racial strife that gripped the South in the 1950s and 1960s, he graduated high school and entered the broadcasting profession. There he became a hugely popular radio personality, rubbing shoulders with the top recording artists of the day and becoming one of the nation’s first black radio station owners. Also, at a time when such an arrangement could not be made public, he entered into a silent business partnership with a white friend that  developed into one of the most successful advertising agencies in the country.

     As a child, Stewart had seen a vision in which he used his voice to lead others to accomplish great things and help right wrongs. That revelation came to pass as he helped Dr. Martin Luther King mount the historic Children’s March through the streets of Birmingham, Alabama. There, police dogs and fire hoses were used to try to stop the young marchers. Stewart and other black radio personalities helped keep them going and soon Birmingham’s leaders were negotiating the end of notorious Jim Crow laws in the nation’s most segregated city.

     Later Stewart would use his powerful communication skills to help convict one of the men who bombed the city’s Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, killing four little girls. Then this often-honored man turned his business skills to the creation of a foundation named after his mother; the Mattie C. Stewart Foundation works to convince high school students to stay in school and graduate,  a topic Stewart speaks on in his many engagements around the country.

     All along the way, Shelley Stewart had to rely on his intelligence, tenacity,  and remarkable talent to accomplish wondrous things, even when threatened with injury or death by the Klan, whites, other blacks, the police, and even some in his own family. Through it all, his mother kept her dying promise never to leave him. He continued to feel her encouraging him and convincing him that he could be successful.

     Someone who knows Stewart’s life story once remarked, “Horatio Alger would have given up the first day!” However, the extraordinary Stewart defied the odds, fought through overwhelming adversity, and became a powerful inspiration and a true asset to his city, to his country, and to people of all races.

 


Visit the web site of the Mattie C. Stewart Foundation