Laverne McDaniel...

I (Jimmy Meeks) will never forget my encounter with Laverne McDaniel. Ms. McDaniel is the wife of James "Red" McDaniel, the man who took on Alvin King when he entered the First Baptist Church on June 22, 1980, and began to shoot the gathered worshipers. 

It was November of 2010. I was driving along Highway 259 in Longview, Texas, praying earnestly that the Lord would show me where Ms. McDaniel was. I had heard that she was living in a retirement center, and I was determined to find her. I wanted to learn about her husband. I had also read that she had been named resident of the year. I also knew that Ms. McDaniel had been shot on the day of the tragedy...

I called a friend and he suggested that I check a certain retirement center, one that I happen to be a few blocks from. I went to the front desk and was told I had found the right place.

I was led upstairs where Ms. McDaniel was gathered with about 30 of her friends, engaged in a fun-loving game of Bingo. My escort whispered to Ms. McDaniel that she had a guest. There was something about Ms. McDaniel that radiated. Forgive me if I sound a bit "corny," but I was somewhat in awe...

I leaned over and explained to Ms. McDaniel why I was there; that I wanted to talk about June 22, 1980; that I wanted to learn about her husband. She gave me a solemn look, and then nodded her head. She reached down, picked up her purse, placed it on her walker and instructed me to follow her. I obeyed...

We walked down the hall about 20 feet and she sat on a bench. My friend Alan was with me: he sat beside her. There was nowhere for me to sit, so I sat in the most appropriate place available; at her feet...

                            James "Red" McDaniel

                          James "Red" McDaniel


I explained to her again why I had such an interest in the church tragedy of 1980. I told her I wanted to learn about her husband.


Conversation between Jimmy Meeks and Laverne McDaniel:

"Ms. McDaniel, you never remarried. Why is that?" She gazed up and spoke toward the ceiling. Her response was blunt: "I had been married to the very best. Anyone else would have been a downward spiral..."

My eyes teared-up. I was anxious to get home to my wife and immediately start being a better husband. Ms. McDaniel continued...

"My husband was attending First Baptist when we met. I was a Methodist. You see, he was married in that church, he was baptized in that church. He died in that church..."

"My husband was in two wars," she went on to say. "He was in the Navy during World War 2, and they protected him..."

Puzzled, I interrupted her. 

"Two wars? Did he also serve in Viet Nam?," I asked ...

"No. The second war was at the church on June 22, 1980. He had no protection that day..."

There was a question burning inside me I just had to ask. 

"Ms. McDaniel, after you lost your husband, what was your secret? I mean, you moved on with your life and you've obviously made something of it. Not everyone moved on like you did. What was your secret?"

It was her reply to this question that hit me like a ton of bricks. It was what she said in response to my probing that shot through me like a bolt of lightning...

"How did I move on? I'll tell you how I moved on. My husband gave his life for me. My husband died for me. I wasn't about to waste my life..."

Outside in the parking lot, making my way toward my car, I called my wife. "Honey, I wanna be a better husband..."