NewsFormerly Incarcerated Elder Earns Bachelors Degree At Age 79

Formerly Incarcerated Elder Earns Bachelors Degree At Age 79

Reverend Willie Ryals of Tallahassee, Florida, had every reason to let his educational pursuits die after serving nearly two decades in federal prison, but the 79-year-old kept a promise to himself by completing his bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from American Intercontinental University.

According to BlackNews, after a brief stint at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU)‘s Developmental Research school, Ryals decided to pursue a singing career but found himself in the Army after he grew tired of life on the road.l

While serving his time, Ryals completed high school and began taking college courses. He was released from prison in 1971. The time he spent incarcerated would help him to find his true passion.

“While I was in prison, I saw a need for criminal justice reform. There are too many young Blacks going to jail for crimes that they didn’t commit, and there needs to be some changes,” Ryals said.
Life would continue to take Ryals in new directions, but he never lost sight of his purpose.

“I’m happy for myself, because my father always wanted me to go after a degree,” he said.

“He’s passed and gone, but I’m keeping this promise.”
To his own family, wife Mandy and daughter Marionette, Ryals is a source of pride.
“He works all night and sometimes would have to prop his legs up for the swelling, but he would still go after it. I’m proud of him and very, very happy,” his wife said.
RELATED CONTENT: Pell Grants for Prisoners

Source: Black Enterprise

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