My Dad – November 18, 1938

dad-and-mom-marriage.jpgdad-and-kids-2006-christmas.JPGBilly Wayne Riley was born Lucius Wayne Riley on November 18th sixty-nine years ago in Georgia. He was the seventh of seven children, but only four of them survived infancy. His mother, always rumored to be half Native American but never proven, would die just a few years later of pneumonia. Upon her death, his dad, Halbin Laverne Riley, had a nervous breakdown and dad’s brother and two sisters were sent to live with aunts and uncles. Dad, however, stayed with his dad and they became what was then known as hobos. They traveled around the southern United States working on jobs and sleeping wherever they could find shelter. He remembers the time when no matter how poor they were, wherever they lived, any “negro” couldn’t come in their house; they would generally have to come around to the back porch.

A few years later Dad and my Grandad Riley settled in Ybor City, Florida, where Dad would work in a fish shop. This was no ordinary fish shop. Dad learned such amazing things as “running numbers” and even pushed a significant someone in a car after he had been shot. All of these kinds of things happned before my dad ever even turned 15 years old.

Having grown up in such difficult circumstances, he was wise beyond his years and he knew that if he continued living the life he was it would be a short one. He was able to obtain paperwork showing that he was older and he enlisted in the United States Army with an 8th grade education. Twenty years later he retired honorably as a Captain, having served most of his career as an enlisted man but becoming an officer during the Vietnam conflict. He had obtained his GED and a great number of college credits. He and Mom are still married today, after almost fifty years, and they raised three boys to become men.

A few memories?

Everytime I ever left the house he would say, “Be careful.” Security.

“It’s always better to be 30 minutes early than one minute late.” Punctuality.

When I was nearly seven we moved from Lawton, Oklahoma, and away from a good career for my dad, to Prairie Grove, Arkansas, because my mom’s dad had been diagnosed with cancer. He lived with us and became my best friend before he died. Similarly, after Grandad Sharp died we moved to Lakeland, Florida to be near my dad’s dad and to care for him before he died. All of those moves involved great sacrifice. Dad taught me about sacrificing for others. Giving. Working hard through difficult circumstances.

Christmas always meant unbelievable amounts of presents even when it seemed we had no money. Dad would often work extra and put back extra just for that time of year. He loved to give and kept on doing it even when we weren’t as gracious at receiving as we should have been. Giving. Sacrifice. Work Hard.

He used to make sure I would return any pens I borrowed from him at home that had come from his work. He often would carry a pen or two in his shirt pocket. If it was one that his employer had purchased he made sure that it remained with him for his employer’s use. He was very intentional about his duty to his employer and never did anything that would take advantage of his employer. Integrity. Honor. Responsibility.

dad-and-mom-young.jpgdad-mom-geo-bob-me-florida.jpgI just couldn’t get over me wearing the Morris shirt in this one. That’s my mom, me, brothers George and Bobby, and Dad in Lakeland, Florida. I was probably 9 years old and likely a brand new believer.


Happy Birthday, Dad. I love you. I pray that you will finish strong, running the race of faith (and not numbers). Hebrews 12:1-11.

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