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  • Writer's pictureSarah Carter

This will inspire you!

The number of truly inspiring people I've had the priviledge of meeting along my life's path is a blessing I wish on everyone reading this. Ty Pinkins is absolutely counted amongst that number. As soon as I got word that he was writing a book, I told him to sign me up for one of the first copies! I knew a tiny bit about his story, having worked with him at the White House, but that tiny bit was barely even a scratch on the surface. 23 Miles & Running is the rest of Ty's life story that I never knew. It's deeply inspiring and has left me looking at experiences - past and present - with different perspective and renewed energy.


Ty is the dirt poor, often-shoeless, practically blind son of a sharecropper from the impoverished Mississippi Delta. The men in Ty's family, Ty included, worked cotton fields most of the year for just barely enough money to survive and, once the cotton was harvested, they did any odd job they could find or create to keep their families fed the rest of the year: pick up cans along the road to sell-back, gather pecans in stranger's yards to then sell for next to nothing a bag, fix the cotton field tractors of the land owner who already all but owned them. Upbringings like Ty's broke people and entrenched them in a ruthless, inhumane system.

But not Ty. His family's mantra was "Poor is a state of mind" (pg. 27) and they didn't think like that. He credits his vibrant, huge family and surrounding community with a lot of his drive and character.

" 'Back then, people gave things to each other. Everyone understood that their neighbor was struggling too," according to Uncle Vell...As a community, we took care of each other' " (pgs. 35-36). Ty knew money wasn't there but love, lessons, and support always were.

Ty's dad, and later his basketball coach (Coach Miller), instilled the value of hard work and consistent determination, day-in and day-out, and encouraged him to better himself in every area of life. Lesson like "Don't ever quit. In life, you're gonna get knocked down. Don't ever give up." (pg. 72) and "If you really want something you can't be afraid to go after it, and you can't be scared to hang in there when you get tired, when it hurts, and when things get tough" (pg. 119) became handholds he clung to as he began to find his life path out of the Mississippi Delta.


Ty was determined to honor the sacrifices his parents made for him by thriving beyond the delta cotton fields. At one point, Ty shares a story about a day when his dad asked him if he wanted to learn to drive the big work tractor. He jokes that he didn't want to wreck it but shares that he'd decided he never wanted to learn to drive a tractor for fear that he'd be stuck in the fields forever (pg. 148). His escape chance came in the form of an Army recruiter. The promise of traveling the world, housing, food, and a steady paycheck was too good to pass up. So off Ty went, on a 20 year adventure through multiple countries with many diverse units allowing him to meet life long friends and have a family of his own.

"Like a microcosm of black history up until that point, I'd made it from the cotton fields of Mississippi all the way to inside the White House" pg. 286.

The best part about Ty's story is his humility. There's not an egotistical boastful bone in the man's body. His proudest moments in the Army were when he took care of his soldiers and kept his promises to them: "I'd kept my promise to them. I'd watched them all leave [Afghanistan] alive, and I was the last" (pg. 223). He shares his rise from the cotton fields of the Mississippi Delta to serving in the White House in order to light the fire of hope in anyone who'll listen.