We've all made mistakes. I know I've made more than my share.
When I was in my mid twenties I decided to try my hand at operating my own home repair and remodeling business. I managed to get a few jobs but things were slow at first so I decided some kind of advertising was in order.
I had a couple thousand fliers printed up and drug my then wife to what was then Carolina Circle Mall to place flyers under windshield wipers all over the mall parking lot until we'd covered the entire lot and about half of the flyers were gone. Then we jumped in my pick-up and headed to 4 Seasons Mall to repeat the process.
It was up in the afternoon when we got home to find a message from a Greensboro Police Office on the answering machine instructing me to call him ASAP. I did, having no idea what I had done. He explained to me that placing flyers on cars without permission from Mall management was illegal but that the kind folks at Carolina Circle had agreed that if I would return ASAP and remove the flyers they would not prosecute.
Back to the mall we went, my wife bitching the whole time.
When we got back from Carolina Circle Mall there was another message on the answering machine from yet another Greensboro Police Officer. I didn't need to call him to know what that was about but called anyway. Yep, same story at 4 Seasons Mall.
Back to the mall we went, my wife bitching the whole time.
That said, the effort wasn't a complete failure. About half of the cars left before we got back, meaning about half of their owners saw my flier and over the course of the next few weeks a number of calls came in leading to work.
Now I'm going to be completely honest. I wasn't a licensed contractor. I wasn't bonded or insured. I didn't have a business license nor did I have any of the other required permits necessary to operate a business. I was just a struggling young man trying to make an honest living and willing to put my name and reputation to my hard work in which I took great pride.
One of the people who found my flier was a nice black Catholic woman and her husband living in East Greensboro with their 13 children in a 2 bedroom house in dire need of a huge room addition. When she called I wasted no time coming over to see what it was she and her husband wanted.
I quickly got my bid together and submitted copies to her and the savings and loan company that held the mortgage on the house and was arranging the financing for the job. I was surprised at how quickly they approved me to take on the job but then contractors were in short supply back in those days.
The job was set up in 4 draws. The first draw got me materials to start working. At 25% completion I asked for the second draw but I already knew I was in trouble. When I took the 3rd draw I was nowhere near 75% complete but I had run out of materials and had to keep working. I had grossly underbid the job. I let my helper go and decided to work alone but even that wasn't going to make up the difference.
I took on a part time job working to buy materials to keep the job going but couldn't get in enough hours. Finally, I knew something had to be done.
My wife and several friends suggested I file bankruptcy and simply walk away from the job leaving it unfinished but to me my name was worth something more. You can find a lot of people who will tell you they dislike Billy Jones for any number of reasons but anyone who tells you Billy Jones is a thief is an out and out liar.
I found a full time job driving a truck and 3 licensed and bonded contractors willing to bid on the job then went to see the branch manager at the savings and loan. The conversation went something like this:
"How can I help you?" he asked.
"That job I've been doing," I said, "I bid it too low, I'm not going to be able to finish it."
"Well we can probably get you a little bit more money," he said.
"Not $10,000 more," I said.
"Oh no," he said, "the home owners can't afford that much. What do you plan to do?"
"I want you to loan me the money," I answered. "I've lined up contractors and already found myself a full time job so I can pay it off."
"Do you have any collateral?" he asked.
"Just my old pick-up and tools," I pointed out the window to the parking lot.
"That truck's ancient," he said, "there's no way there's $10,000 there. How do we know you won't skip town on us?"
"You don't," I said.
"So why would we loan you the money?" he asked.
"Well," I answered, "For starters, I came to you. Secondly your choices are one, file charges against me now and run up a bunch of legal bills that will force me to skip town because I can't pay them or loan me the money, hope I pay it back, then hire lawyers if I don't. Either way you take a chance that you don't get paid."
It took a few days but he savings and loan arranged a 5 year $10,000 loan which I paid off in 3 years by doing without a lot of things most people would have never done without. But unlike Thomas Carruthers I didn't file Chapter 7 bankruptcy while running out on my clients. I did what had to be done to keep my name whole. I kept up my end of the bargain and saw to it the job was done.
Now that's not to say I don't owe money. Like many in America today I have medical bills I haven't the means to pay. For years I avoided going to doctors for anything only making matters worse simply because I didn't want to run up bills I couldn't pay but I never intentionally ran out on anyone and as you know I've never accumulated any wealth. When I was audited by the IRS a couple of years ago the IRS gave me money back because I had overpaid my entire life.
So what would the late Senator Joseph T Carruthers, honored in a 2014 ceremony attended by Greensboro Mayor Nancy Barakat Vaughan, Greensboro Councilwoman Sharon Hightower, and Thomas Carruthers himself think of Thomas' actions?
What would Senator Gladys A. Robinson, N.C.
Representative Jon Hardister, Deputy Secretary, N.C. Dept of Public
Safety, Mr. Ellis Boyle, Maj. Gen. Greg Lusk, adjutant general of North
Carolina, Brig. Gen. Kenneth Beard, and Col.
David L. Jones 113th Sustainment Brigade Commander think of the man who received the award in the name of Joseph T Carruthers for which Greensboro's National Guard Armory is named?
My late uncle James Elmo Jones fought in North Africa, Italy and jumped in the first night jump over in the history of war over Normandy France as part of the US Army Pathfinders on June 5, 1944, the eve of the D-Day invasion, was awarded a Purple Heart. And my aunt Dorothy, Elmo's widow, paid Thomas Carruthers to represent her as her lawyer in a civil matter only to be let down and ripped off like all the others Thomas Carruthers never paid back while going on to continue to accumulate hundreds of thousands of dollars in wealth.
So the next time someone says something about Billy Jones not having anything, you can remind them that Billy Jones and his family, like most working class families, paid our due while Greensboro's politically connected continue to steal from the working class while using the law to allow them to do it.
Will there be a Thomas Carruthers Attacked By Rabid Dogs, Part 8? That depends on Thomas Carruthers, the media and you, Dear Readers. Thomas.Carruthers@greensboro-nc.gov