When hurt by someone all of us find it hard to forgive, forget and move forward. The thought of making a positive change in the life of the person who has hurt you would be the farthest from our minds. The story of Reverend Wade Watts is one that shows us the power of forgiveness and how the results of forgiveness cannot only change your attacker but the entire world. Below is the account given from the person who was transformed from his attacker to his best friend.
Wade was very prominent in community affairs, shaping the destiny of Oklahoma from 1968 to 1984 serving as both the Oklahoma State President of the N.A.A.C.P and Executive Director.
During his many years of community service he was appointed to the Civil Rights Commission under President Lyndon B. Johnson where he served five years. He served four years on the Oklahoma Crime Commission, five years as Chaplain at the Okla. State Penitentiary and Human Rights Commission. Throughout his career, he received numerous awards and commendations. He retired as Labor Inspector from the Oklahoma State Labor Commission in 1982. Although retired from an 8-5 job, he never gave up his desire for active public service. He continued to Pastor the Jerusalem Baptist Church in McAlester, Ok. until his health failed him.
Rev. Watts was a close friend of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and in 1965 participated with Dr. King in the march for freedom, justice, and equality in Selma, Alabama.
As a civil rights leader, Reverend Watts had his share of trouble with the Ku Klux Klan. The Klan marched around his house and burned a cross on his lawn. The Klan burned one of his churches down and tried to burn another one a few years later. Wade had taken the Klan on in court and won by getting an injunction against the Klan that stopped them from burning a 45 foot cross on the outskirts of McAlester. Wade was surrounded by the Klan in a roadside diner where he was told by the Imperial Wizard at that time “whatever you do to the chicken on your plate, the Klan will do to you.’
Wade looked at the KKK members standing about him wearing their signature K.K.K. t-shirts and calmly picked up the chicken and kissed it! Needless to say, the men did not keep their promise. Even members of the KKK broke out in laughter over Wade’s response to their threats. On another occasion, he went into a cafe in Ada, Oklahoma with his friend, Oklahoma State Senator Gene Stipe, where he was stopped at the door by the waitress. She proceeded to tell them they did not serve Negroes there! Wade told the woman, “Ma’am, I don’t eat Negroes anyway, just give me some ham and some eggs!”
Wade told Senator Stipe that he had one wish…..to meet face to face with the leader of the Ku Klux Klan. He got his wish in the form of a nationwide radio debate with the Imperial Wizard. It was the meeting that ultimately, and over some time, would change the heart of Johnny Lee Clary, Imperial Wizard of the KKK. Wade and Johnny became best friends and Johnny is even Godfather of Wade’s daughter, Tia.
Rev. Wade Watts passed away, Dec. 13th, 1998. The night he passed away, two of his daughters heard him talking as he laid in bed. They heard Wade say “Thank You, Sir!” They asked him, ” Dad, who are you talking to?”, since they were the only ones in the room with him. Wade replied, ” I am talking to Jesus. He said He is coming to take me home.” The nurse came into the room, and asked Wade what he would like for breakfast in the morning. Wade replied, “It don’t matter, hon. I’m not going to be here for breakfast because Jesus told me He is coming for me.” That night, Wade died in his sleep.
Rev. Watts was like a father to me. I am grateful for all the years I had with him, and for all the wisdom and knowledge he passed on to me. He told me that he was passing me his mantle. I do not feel worthy to take it up; however, if he thought that much of me to invest all those years of time and wisdom into me, then I owe it to the memory of him to fight racism and continue his works. Wade and I always called one another “Old Partner”. I will miss him for the rest of my life, and will never forget him.