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Up from Troubled Waters

I was conceived in Monroe, Louisiana, in the depths of the Great Depression, the reign of Jim Crow, and the “Flood of the Century” on the Ouachita River. My mother, a laundress who earned four dollars a week, was only fourteen years old.

Apparently if I was going to be lucky in life, I would have to be patient.

No doubt I would never have been born if my mother, Florene, had known how to resist the charms of John Melton. My father was a handsome, savvy but volatile man who swaggered his way through life, despite never having finished grammar school.

In 1932, Monroe was in dire straits, inundated when the Ouachita River crested fifty feet above flood level and gushed over the millions of sandbags futilely attempting ...

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