A Tribute to My Father: Trial, Tragedy, and Triumph
Bobby L. Hampton overcame illness and poverty to become a great man and father.
In the African-American community, growing up with a father in the home is considered a fairytale. Over 70% of African-American homes are fatherless. A fatherless home is now the norm in these communities. It’s important that people like me — who had the opportunity to be raised and impacted by a father — share our stories. A father helps children get through trials, tragedy, and triumph.
My father was born to a 14-year-old girl in the red clay hills of Alabama. My grandfather was a 19-year-old teenager and a community activist. In the early 1950s, it was common for older teenagers to date and even marry younger teenage girls. Unlike today, my 14-year-old grandmother never thought about aborting my father. Instead, she desired to be married. On January 9th, 1953, my father, Bobby L. Hampton was born. He would become the oldest of six children born to my grandparents, Mattie Bell Hampton and James Hampton.
Because my grandmother was so young when she gave birth, my father was riddled with sickness and born with several blood disorders. He needed more attentive care. My great-grandmother and great aunties stepped up to the plate and nursed my father back to health. It makes me so proud to know that from birth my father was a survivor. He overcame being born to teenage parents, sickness and disease, and being raised by a grandmother.
My father would grow to become a great young man. He helped pick cotton as a young boy and as he got older he began working to provide for himself. He was scholar-athlete playing football for Butler High School where he met my mother, Patricia Hampton. She was a cheerleader at a rival high school across town. He eventually got accepted into a historically black college, Alabama A&M University. He went on to graduate with a Bachelor’s degree in Business Management and a Masters degree from Vanderbilt. After graduation, he was recruited to Chattanooga, Tennessee, by American National Bank to work in the corporate office. My father, like his father, married my mother and would eventually have four boys and an adopted daughter of his own to provide for.
Growing up with a father in my home who loved my mother and went to work every day brought a level order, authority, and respect in our household. This is what the African-American community is missing today. We all knew who was in charge. We understood who paid the bills. We knew who was the leader. Our behavior was a reflection of him. He raised us in a neighborhood, not a “hood.” In a neighborhood, neighbors value each other. In a “hood,” the neighbor has no value. Neighbors cared for us even though we didn’t belong to them. My father corrected us. He spanked us when we were wrong and disrespectful. He told us NO! He taught us the Scriptures. More than anything, he showed us how to live out the Scriptures. He was a true father.
In September of 1997, near-tragedy struck our family. My father matriculated through the ranks of what had become SunTrust Bank until he became the vice president and manager of his own branch in the inner city of Chattanooga. He helped entrepreneurs start so many businesses and approved many loans for people in the community to purchase their first home or car. One day, a man entered into his branch holding a gun to my father’s head and threatened to kill him if he didn’t open the safe and give him all of the money. My father did what the man asked and gave him all the money in the safe. The man proceeded to leave the bank but realized the bank was already surrounded by police. The robber grabbed my father and, with money in a bag, placed a gun to my father’s head and dragged him out into the middle of the street, threatening to kill him if the police didn’t let him go. After a standoff, a dye bomb that my father placed in the bag went off. The dye bomb startled the robber and he dropped the gun and my father was able to escape to safety.
At 17 years old, this was the day when I realized the value of a father. I thought about what life would be like without his authority in my life. The robber grew up without a father and almost took mine away. I pondered how my mom would survive raising four boys without a father. I thank God every day for that dye bomb going off. My life could be radically different if I had grown up as a teenager losing my father at the hands of another fatherless man.
My father eventually retired from SunTrust and became a full-time pastor. He has been pastoring and preaching for 35 years. Today, all of my siblings are married. Three of the four boys are preachers and one of those boys writes for The Patriot Post.
Thank you, Dad, for surviving. Thank you for overcoming the odds; being born to a teenage mother. Thank you, Dad, for battling through sickness as a child. Thank you for going to college and educating yourself. Thank you for marrying our mother. Thank you for moving to an unknown place to raise us in a loving neighborhood. Thank you for being smart enough to place a dye bomb in that bag. Thank you for sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ and forgiveness with us. Most of all, thank you for fathering us. You have paved the way for your children and your grandchildren to value life and family.