On September 2, 2001, Willie Campbell came to the Star Gospel Mission upon release from serving 5 years at Lieber Correctional Institution. Willie was in his mid-50’s when he arrived and had already served over half his lifetime behind bars. Willie’s life story is not unlike that of other men who have resided at the Mission. What follows is Willie’s story, in his own words.

“It all began when I was 11 years old and stole an apple. Then I stole candy bars and cakes and other things from grocery stores. When I was 12 I was locked up as a juvenile. It was ‘ON’ then; I liked the excitement and the adrenaline rush. Even before I went to prison I was referred to as: Willie Monster. I did-n’t take no trash from anyone. I always started trouble and it always ended in trouble. I went from stealing, to strong armed robbery with no weapon, and then I got together with some guys and started doing armed robbery. One guy ratted on me and I got 2 years. I was on a chain gang when I was 15 years old. Six hours after my release I went over to King Street, beat up a guy, stole his watch, and was back in jail the very same day. My step-father paid the bond and bailed me out. I got a job and one year later lost it.

I went back to burglary and got put away for 12 years; that was from 1969-1981. I did what I had to do to survive in prison. In 1975 I got in a riot against some guys from Greenville. I got stabbed in the back. For that incident I got an extra five years. My younger brother got incarcerated in ‘75 and I chilled out. My brother got
out before me, but he messed with drugs and ended up get-ting killed on the streets.”

Willie told me that the name Monster made him do the things he did, he felt that he had to live up to that name. “I asked myself, am I really that bad? Men feared me, especially if there was any trouble. When a guy got in trouble; I took up the challenge. I put a blade in ‘em or took a pipe to ‘em. I lived in fear everyday I was in prison! Six months before I got out in ‘81, workin’ in the storage room of the cafeteria, one man started talk-in’ crazy talk, so I walked off, but the man slapped me. I forgave him. I didn’t retaliate because I wanted to go home. This man wanted me to retaliate be-cause he was serving a life-sentence with no parole. “When I did get out, I got a good job with Rucon Construction. We built the College of Charleston gymnasium and the pier on Morrison Drive. 18 months later I went out one night and started