Felon Turns His Life Around & Inspires Others

It only takes one moment to make a mistake, but it can take a lifetime to make up for it. Those are the words of a Greenville man still trying to right the wrong of his past.

Terrence Lamont Clemons was "B" and "C" student in high school and had aspirations to go to college for political science. But when he was in 11th grade his life would change forever.

On June 28th, 1992, Clemons walked into the Foodland grocery store on Memorial Drive in Greenville where he used to work. After losing money playing cards the night before, he was looking to score some fast cash. He cut the phone lines, pulled out a knife, and robbed the store of nearly $30,000.

Clemons says, "It did get violent. One of the managers ended up getting hurt, getting stabbed. From what I was told, if he would've sneezed, he would've died."

Clemons was arrested the next morning and charged with armed robbery. He says he wrote letters of apology to the man he stabbed. He also spent ten-years behind bars.

Clemons says, "When my world started crashing down right before my eyes, then I realized what a big mistake I made."

Clemons knew he had two options. He could spend his prison sentence mad at the world, or spend it trying to change.

Rev. Dr. William Neely of First Presbyterian Church says Clemons attended two different community colleges while he was behind bars. Neely says that got him ready to have a productive life when he got out of prison.

Reverend Neely met Clemons six years ago. The longtime custodian at the First Presbyterian church was retiring Clemons interviewed for the job.

Neely says, "Five or six people were interviewed and he was by far the best candidate. We were just overwhelmed."

When Neely told Clemons the church would be doing a background check, Clemons came clean. Neely decided to grant him a second chance.

Neely said, "Our feeling was he had paid his debt to society, why would we hold that against him?"

So from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Monday through Friday, Clemons works as the church's janitor, and then does the same thing at nights at the C.M. Eppes rec center.

Travis Clemons at C.M. Eppes says, "It's good to have someone that has been through that fire and can come back and let everybody know, especially the kids that's the wrong way to go, that's the wrong path to take."

Today, Terrence Clemons is 38, and lives on Latham street with his wife Teresa and her three kids. He also has two biological daughters of his own.

Terrence says "I made a mistake, I paid for it, now I'm trying to do what's right so my kids can look at me and have that respect for me."

His kids look, and listen. He wants other kids to do the sam because one mistake is all it takes. Clemons says, "Your whole life can be wiped away just in a matter of a blink of an eye."

While it's not the life he envisioned, Clemons got a second chance. "I had to change old habits, friends, all of that. Because at one time, I didn't have nothing. Nothing."

Clemons wants others who have spent time in jail to know there's always a way to put your life back together. "If it's raking yards, if it's cutting grass. I did it, I did it. Because I didn't want to go back. So if you're determined not to go back, you have to do what it takes."

Now in 2012, he has two jobs, five kids, and a clean slate. For Terrence Clemons, it doesn't get any better than that.