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The Meanest Man in Texas

by Don Umphrey, Quarry Press, PO Box 181738, Dallas TX 75218, ©2007,
286 pages, $14.95 (paperback), ISBN-13: 978-0-9714958-6-9

Picture of Book Those of us who work in prison ministry are familiar with a book written by a young news reporter named Don Umphrey and published in 1984 by Thomas Nelson Publishers telling the life story of Clyde Thompson. It has been used for years to help prisoners realize that no matter how heinous their crime, and no matter how hopeless they feel things are, there is always the possibility of starting life over and finding forgiveness and a good relationship with God. Clyde Thompson was a convicted murderer with a long list of crimes of which he had been found guilty, including jail breaks. The book graphically described conditions in the prisons where Thompson was housed. It was also graphic in its description of the brutality of murders that Thompson was involved in.

Gradually Clyde Thompson found faith. This happened in part as he tried to prove the Bible was full of contradictions. Thompson began to clean up his life. He began to talk to and work with other prisoners enabling them to change their lives. He eventually became a jail chaplain.

A woman named Julia Perryman, who was a victim of scoliosis and felt imprisoned in her own body, became aware of Thompson's story and in spite of her parent's objections began to correspond with Thompson. Eventually love blossomed and they were married. Thompson was pardoned in 1963 and rebuilt his life with Perryman’s help. Thompson died in July 1979.

This is an amazing story that brings together so many issues and needs of our day. Don Umphrey, who is now a professor emeritus at Southern Methodist University, through Quarry Press has brought the book back into print. Umphrey has been working with Buck Griffith, who has a long history of great work in the prisons of Texas and operates New Life Behavior Ministries in Corpus Christi.

This book is brutal and disturbing, “a love story that defies logic,” and amazing but true. It can be very useful in reaching out to people who have made a mess of their lives and are on the verge of giving up hope. God did not give up on Clyde Thompson and he is not willing that any should perish — if they will only surrender to him.