Calvin Sims is an overachiever. He has made a science
of it. He can teach it to others.
Calvin was born the illegitimate son of a young domestic worker.
When he was four years old, his mother left him with a baby sitter
and went to work, she took sick, was hospitalized and died. Calvin
was never picked-up from the baby sitter by any member of his mother’s
large family. “I didn’t leave the babysitter
until I dropped out of school (in the tenth grade) and joined the
The babysitter, the only mother he would remember,
was a wonderful woman, but she had four adult children who could hardly
keep a job or maintain a separate residence for very long. While his
foster mother worked several jobs in order to take care of her adult
children, young Calvin was left alone most of the time and often, unfortunately,
with one of these foster siblings.
These foster siblings were cruel and dishonest. Calvin was abused,
molested and generally neglected. He was afraid to report his treatment,
to anyone less there be retaliation so he just learned to live with
it. This treatment turned the young boy hard.
At age nine; growing up in Vine City Bottom, Calvin
learned to hustle, to steal and to survive on his own. “My
childhood ended abruptly at about nine years old”.
Calvin got his first gun at that time. Adopted by neighborhood criminals,
because the smart, spunky, tough little boy entertained them, Calvin
became a sort of mascot for the neighborhood kingpin.
Calvin was truly on the path to destruction, but there was another
set of dynamics working in his life, he loved school. In the third
grade a teacher helped him to develop a love for reading. He had
to sneak and read because the gangsters that he hung out with frowned
upon such an activity. Calvin would hide and read for hours. He also
watched a lot of TV. He was impressed by the family values of such
shows as Father Knows Best and Leave it to Beaver. “I
wanted to grow up and become Ward Cleaver”.
Having never laid eyes on his father, he was overly
interested in these TV Dads and how different they were from the so-called
men that he grew up around.
"Two major factors Saved my life."
Mrs. Moore. Calvin's life was transform when "the meanest teacher in the school," gave him a book. It was the first thing he remembered owning, and no one at home would take a book away from him. He learned to love to read. He found that he could escape a horrible, terrifying world through reading. He discovered role models, he learned about the power of character and integrity.
And then there were the cowboys. They got his attention because
they were tough and carried guns and rode horses. But he noticed
that these men also tipped their hats to ladies and didn’t
abide in bullies. Their handshake was as good as a signed contract and they
took pride in their ability to work hard. While living a life of
crime, Calvin was torn by the realization that there was another
way to live that was more rewarding and more noble than what was his
At age 16, Calvin became a father. That was also the year that the
drug trade hit his neighborhood. “My friends were
dying every day and I saw my own life flash before my eyes. I had
to get out of there”. Calvin felt that he had
a better chance of surviving in Viet Nam than in Atlanta. He walked
into a recruiting office and insisted on leaving for boot camp that
same day, his wish was granted. “If
I had not left that day, I am sure that I would be dead by now”.
After a short stint in the military, Calvin took various jobs that
were available to a young black man with a ninth grade education.
He was puzzled because, whatever job he took, he always ended up
in some sort of leadership position. He always worked hard and took
pride in his work. He was usually recognized and respected by his
One day, while riding the bus, he overheard two women talking about
the C.E.T.A. program. He heard that they would test/evaluate you
and recommend a career, provide training and pay you while you were
being trained. He heard that when you completed the program, they
would help you get a job. He got off the bus and went straight there.
"My love for reading and all the things I read, propelled me towards success."
Calvin was enrolled in a computer operations and programming training
program. His friends laughed at him and called him a fool. His girlfriend
left him; his car was repo'ed, yet he stuck to it. He met a counselor
named Frank Holloway who often quoted great men and suggested that
he read certain books. One of these books, “Success
Through a Positive Mental Attitude”, convinced
him that he could make a major change in his life. Words first quoted
to him by Frank still echo in his mind today, “Whatever
the mind can conceive and believe, it will achieve”. These words became a battle cry for Calvin.
Armed with this newly acquired motivation and fortified by the work
ethic and nobility of his childhood heroes, the cowboys, Calvin began
to come into his own. After completing his three month computer training
program, Calvin parlayed a token, affirmative action position into
an international computer consultancy in an amazingly short time.
He worked hard and delivered more than was required. He made his
employers dependent on him. He was able to write his own paycheck.
At the pinnacle of his career, earning a six-figure income, he found
himself in Zurich, Switzerland. In a chauffeur driven limousine with
his interpreter on the way to address an International Banking Assembly
he was struck by the startling realization that he was still the
little boy from Vine City Bottom that nobody wanted who had just
a ninth grade education. “I asked God, why and
how I could arrive at this summit”.
The revelation that Calvin got back was that “when
you talk to people and tell them what they are capable of, they
will believe you, you are the proof”. From
that moment on, Calvin has dedicated his life to motivating and
inspiring people from all walks of life, especially young people
who are at risk. “Give me the boy or girl that
all of the teachers say is unreachable and I will show you a
young person who can achieve far and above what we would call
a normal person, I was that child and I know how to change”.
In December 1997, Calvin founded StoryTellers of the American
Frontier. A non-profit organization that was designed
to take full advantage of the methodology of change that is at
the heart of Calvin’s life story. Yes, Calvin has made a
science of reaching people who would otherwise fall through the
cracks, but he doesn’t stop there. “The
story of the American cowboy and cowgirl when told with the proper
emphasis on the character and integrity of these true American
heroes has an irresistible ability to inspire and motivate people
from all walks of life”.
Today, Calvin operates a Teaching Farm in Newborn, Georgia where
many schools, Juvenile Court Groups, churches and families gather
for the inspirational programs and to eat great food, usually cooked
over an open fire just as our ancestors did. They even get treated
with a story or lecture delivered by Calvin with an inescapable sincerity
that often causes emotional response from everyone in attendance. “No
matter how many times I tell these stories, including my own story,
I still get emotional because they are such powerful stories, and
they are such important stories”.
Calvin travels all over the country taking their programs wherever
there is an audience. Wherever there are people who can be inspired
by learning of the greatness that lies dormant in each of us. His
life, after all, is the true story that serves as the best example.
Calvin has served in the Dekalb County Georgia Juvenile Court, as a
Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA), representing neglected and
deprived, and often abused, children. He has also been nominated
by the Curator and Board of Directors of the Fulton-Atlanta Teaching
Museum for President Bush’s “Coming Up Taller
Award” for his service to American youth and families.
Rapidly become know as a prolific author, Calvin has written 6 children's book in what is called "The Little Legends Series." In addition, a book has been written about him and is due to be published soon. Calvin also collaborated on the groundbreaking new book from Townsend Press, "Brother to Brother."
Most recently, Calvin is co-author of the book "Brother to Brother: Black men speak to young Black men," and he has started his own publishing company: China Berry Tree Books. Through his publishing company, he plans to publish books written by, as well as for, young readers. Their first publication, "The Calvin Sims Story," by veteran educator, Gwyn Smith is currently in production. Look for it soon in bookstores everywhere.
A StoryTeller is Born
A Film by Calvin G. Sims, Sr.
Date last updated:
Wednesday, May 19, 2010 10:31 AM