Rev. Reggie Longcrier – Speaker
Rev. Reggie Longcrier has been the Chaplain of Catawba Correctional Center in Newton, N.C. For 22 years, and it’s hard to believe that one of the most respected community leaders in this area spent 25 years going in and out of prison while addicted to heroin and cocaine. In “From Disgrace to Dignity” his journey begins on the street corners of Atlantic City, N.J. where he began his life of crime as a young boy with purse snatching, shoplifting, and breaking and entering. He began serving time in reformatories at age eleven and graduated as an adult to some of the roughest prisons in the country including Rahway and Rikers Island.
His adventures take readers back in time to the 60’s and 70’s in Atlantic City to places like Bruce’s Pool Room, Stanley’s Restaurant, Club Harlem, the Boardwalk, Carver Hotel, New Orleans and Bala Bars to name just a few. When things got too hot he left for New York, or played Three Card Monte up and down the East coast while selling fake jewelry, playing craps, hustling pool, and perpetrating other ingenious schemes to make fast money.
After being crowned Atlantic City King of the Nightlife in 1980, he winds up down south, in and out of N.C. prisons. He describes spending time in Hickory honky tonks like Talk of the Town where colorful characters with names like Snow Ball and Big Rosie were his friends. He even describes opening his own after-hours night spot in Hickory to earn a legal living while on probation for a five year suspended sentence.
Despite all his dedication to “the game”, his addiction continues to rob him of success, and takes him back to prison again and again. The story turns when he reaches the crossroads of his life in a N.C. prison after facing a 14 year to life sentence for the Habitual Felon Act. His remarkable spiritual transformation is inspiring, and a powerful testimony to the great work of dedicated prison ministry volunteers who mentored him and helped him get back on his feet the last time he left prison.
In the book’s dramatic conclusion, against all odds Longcrier beats out many other pastoral candidates with degrees and experience to win the job of Chaplain at Catawba Correctional Center in 1985. He is pictured on the book cover smiling in front of the prison with the keys to the gate where he was once an inmate.
Longcrier explains why he wrote the book, saying, “The intent of this book is not to glorify the lifestyle of crime and drugs, but to pull back the curtain to reveal the slippery slopes and tender traps that lead to a life of incarceration and addiction. I want to give the reader a bird’s eye view of the criminal subculture. It is a baffling, cunning, seductive, tangled web of deceit, greed and drugs. The citizens of this subculture are driven like cattle to be slaughtered mentally, spiritually, and emotionally in prisons throughout the country. I wanted to show that God provides a way out. There can be hope after dope. There can be salvation after incarceration. People can go from disgrace to dignity.
I had never dreamed I would be a prison Chaplain. Only God could take a crooked road and make it straight. Only God could take a convict, and transform him into a prison chaplain. God took my failure and gave me amazing grace. I had a new life with a loving God who made it possible for me to hold my foot in the door for so many others who need another chance to live again.” To learn more about the book, you can visit http://www.fromdisgracetodignity.com.