Life of crime changed to life of community dedication

Memphian Terrell Johnson lived both sides of the drug dealer life: The lucrative crack business lined his pockets with cash... while it destroyed people he loved.

"My mother died of being a crack user. My brother also started using crack when he was 13-14 years old. My brother was killed in gang violence due to actually a cocaine robbery, so he died," said Johnson.

And Johnson' best friend passed away in his arms after a crack deal crumbled and erupted into gunfire. But none of those loses could overpower the seduction of a dealer's lavish lifestyle.

"I had accumulated thousands of dollars at the age of 15 years old. I had all kinds of fine cars, luxury cars, luxury apartments. Homes. But by the time I was 19 years old, I was finally caught drug trafficking," Johnson said.

Johnson went to the penitentiary faced with 35 years for cocaine possession.

"The prosecutor made a statement to me. He said if I could charge you with attempted murder, I would because all I've done was kill people because I sold cocaine but I sold it to other dealers which killed people," Johnson said.

In prison, Johnson changed: "I asked God to give me some kind of vision, help me to help other men, other people if I got out," Johnson said.

Just as Johnson was given that second chance, a shoot-out between drug dealers on June 12th, 2002, killed 3 year old Jessica Borner. The shooting on Rosamond shocked Memphis and led police to create JVAP: Juvenile Violence Abatement Project. Terrell's prayers were answered; he was hired to tell Memphis school children the hard cold truth about the drug life.

"I teach education and incarceration. I tell the kids either they get a chance to walk across the stage one day and get their diploma or they're going to be rolled down the aisle for a funeral. That's the bottom line with their drugs," Johnson said.

You can contact Terrell Johnson at 327-5827 or go to his office at 3100 Walnut Grove, Suite 103 (across from Pier 1).