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But Hilda Weeks believed that God had a purpose for everyone, and that children with disabilities were His special gift. “My mother believed that they were more important than the rest of us,” said Steve. “She believed God made them and sent them here to find out what kind of people we would be.” Hilda’s belief not only differed from that of her husband, but also from the culture as a whole. “People were ashamed and shunned the disabled at that time, but my mother was sort of a crusader,” said Steve. “We didn’t have a car, so we walked a lot. My mother would find children hidden between the sheets and rugs hanging on clotheslines, and she would go up to the house and introduce herself. ‘Let’s bring these children out,’ she would tell their parents.” Through the years, many brought their children to Steve’s house for his mother to potty train or teach to ride a bike. When Steve was 19, his father died of a heart attack while in a sanitarium for tuberculosis. From a young age, his mother had told him, “You are your brother’s keeper.” He often wondered why his mother chose him, but even at a young age, he worked to provide for his family. When he was 12, he shined shoes in a barbershop. With the money he made, he bought his family food. In junior high school, he bought Tootsie Roll Pops for 2ç apiece and sold them to his classmates for 10ç apiece. In 1951, Steve’s mother joined Mrs. Lilla Mae Kicklighter, who also had a child with disabilities, and started a school for children with disabilities in Savannah. In 2005, the name of the school was changed to Kicklighter Academy in honor of Mrs. Kicklighter. Although Steve’s mother is not named, she is there in its history: “People were ashamed and shunned the disabled at that time, but my mother was sort of a crusader.” In 1951, five parents whose children were not receiving school services joined together to start a one room school at Forsyth Park. In 1955, the Chatham Chapter of Georgia ARC was chartered. The purpose was to provide education to children with developmental disabilities while advocating for them in the community. (from the Kicklighter Academy website) When Steve was in middle school, Bob began having six and seven seizures a day. “They were literally going to kill him,” said Steve. “He had to go Milledgeville Georgia’s state asylum because they could treat him with Phenobarbital there. The physician told us when he started taking it that he wouldn’t live to be 30 because of the amount he had to take.” By the time Steve was in high school, he was throwing the Savannah Morning Newspaper and working 40 hours a week at Winn-Dixie all while going to school. All the money he made at Winn-Dixie was set aside for college. With the 88 Toombs County Magazine rest he bought a car. Steve took his mother to see Bob as often as he could. “Every time we went, it broke my heart. It was a terrible place.” The year he was a senior, Steve decided it was time for his brother to come home. “I told my mother, ‘It’s not a good place,’ and she agreed. Steve helped his brother get a job at Maurice’s Café in downtown Savannah. “He rode the bus to work everyday, and he poured water and made salads. He worked there for 10 years, and was a very good employee.” Steve’s sister was extremely intelligent. “She completely skipped middle school and went straight to high school,” said Steve, “but then she married young. My twin sister got pregnant when we were seniors, and they wouldn’t let you finish high school if you were pregnant back then.” Steve was the only one of his siblings to graduate from high school. An important part of his survival plan was college. There were 653 students in the Savannah High School’s 1966 graduating class. Just before graduation, the high school counselor called him into her office. “She said, ‘Are you planning on going to college?’ I said, ‘Yes ma’am. I’m going to graduate from the University of Georgia.’ She told me, ‘The only reason you will ever go to UGA will be to visit a friend. You’ve got the lowest SAT score in this entire school.’” When Steve was young, he struggled with pronunciations. “I couldn’t hear the difference in the sounds, but my mother taught me just like she did the other children she helped. But no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t pass a spelling test.” He was in the 11th grade before he finally taught himself to read and write. Even so, Steve determined to do whatever it took to get into college. He would have a bachelor’s degree before finally being diagnosed at the University of Georgia with dyslexia. The solution to college came after driving a friend to Birdwood Junior College, a small Primitive Baptist Junior College at the time, in Thomasville, Georgia (now Thomas College). “I was sitting out there waiting on my friend to take the entrance exam and the president of the college came out. He said, ‘Sir, are you interested in going to college?’ I said, ‘Yes sir, but my counselor in high school said my SAT score was too low.’ He said, ‘Why don’t you come in here and take the test, and we’ll see. It won’t cost you anything.’ So I went in and took the test. After a time, he came out and told me, ‘Your counselor was correct. You didn’t do very well.’ But Birdwood was made up of a bunch of retired teachers who lived in Thomasville. He said he talked to some of the faculty, and they agreed to let me try.” Even with two quarters of remedial classes, Steve graduated from Birdwood in only five quarters. “When I left there, I’d taken 120 hours. I went to Southwestern State University in Americus and told them I wanted to finish up my degree there. They asked what junior college I’d


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