Through the Storm: Walter Tucker
Every day brings a world of possibilities, but one day brings a moment that changes your life forever."
Those, the words from former U.S. Congressman turned pastor Walter R. Tucker, III, from his recently published autobiography, From Compton to Congress.
No words could have rang more true for the once rising political star with three former seats in public office—U.S. Congressman, Mayor of Compton, and LA County Deputy District Attorney—hailing from a prominent and politically connected family, who became abruptly acquainted with the profound changes a day can bring.
In one day, April 17, 1996, Tucker went from lobbying the highest echelons of U.S. government as a Congressman in Washington D.C, to being a convicted criminal and scrubbing down the baseboards of Chow Hall on his knees—in Federal Prison Camp at Lompoc.
“From that moment on, the number one thing you hear is that you’ve got nothing coming,” Tucker said. “They take you in and demonize you.”
The Georgetown Law School graduate who’d once been celebrated as Compton’s youngest mayor; who’d secured $5.9 million in extra police funds for Southern California; who worked hard at alleviating unemployment and poverty in the 37th District; and who’d introduced legislation to promote a week of Random Acts of Kindness; had been found guilty of bribery, extortion and tax evasion.
“I received a 27-month sentence but I served 18 months of it. When you’re in prison, one day feels like one month.”
The pain of imprisonment was further exacerbated when he’d go to bed at nights hearing grown men cry. Or the intimidating gangster inmates who would threaten him with, “Tucker, you gonna deal with a lot of things in here. But one thing you’ve got to remember, this is the house of pain.”
“I never forgot those words,” he said. “Even though I was hurting too, [others] had it much worse.
Tucker has characterized being incarcerated as the “best and worst thing” that ever happened in his life. Not that he would have signed up for the experience or the actions that landed him there, but it was in those dark days that Tucker turned his life over to the Lord and what has happened since has made him the man he is today. A man who has found his mission.
“Before I went to prison I was a Christian, but I had one foot in the world and one foot in the church. I was chasing fame and fortune. I was chasing politics,” admits the now ordained pastor of the Carson-based, Truth and Love Christian Church.
“[Prison] caused me to grow extremely closer to God. It was tough suffering public humiliation and losing everything—most importantly my freedom, but in the end, it made me stronger.”
“Before I left for Lompoc, I vowed to the Lord to do prison ministry while I was there,” continues Tucker. “Though it took some time to overcome the early skeptics and resistance from both inmates and officers, I made good on my vow [and] started a Wednesday night Bible Study, helped found a chapel, and encouraged other inmates to start independent Bible studies.”
Upon his release from Lompoc in September 1998, Tucker’s response to God’s call was accelerated as he began serving and working in a number of ministerial capacities. He became the Southern California director of Prison Fellowship, a national organization headed by Charles Colson, the former aide to President Richard Nixon. Tucker also served as the Head Usher and Helps Ministry Manager at Crenshaw Christian Center under Dr. Frederick K.C. Price and was a minister and manager of Helps Ministry at Bread of Life Christian Center under Pastor Major Johnson.
In 2003, Tucker was ordained a pastor. His ministerial trajectory began to soar even more when he relocated his family to Chicago to pastor From the Heart Church Ministries. Over a nine-year-period. he grew the church membership from 32 to 650 members, with his wife Robin and their two children.
In 2012, Tucker returned with his family to Los Angeles to plant Truth and Love Christian Church, in Carson. The ministry currently has over 200 members, and 40 ministries in operation, while also overseeing congregations in Uganda and Tanzania.
“One of the key things I preach about today is something called true prosperity. That’s like the cornerstone of my teaching,” says Tucker. “The point is that as the Bible tells you, a man who has money has a lot of friends. When you are rich everybody loves you. When you are on top everybody loves you. But it helps me to see the values of your true friendship; it helps me to see the importance of family. It helped me to understand that it’s not about being prideful, it’s not about being concerned so much what everybody thinks.
“Instead, it’s about pleasing God and being a good husband, being a good father to my family, and understanding that people are people. They can disappoint you, they can depart from you and then the real key is not what happens to you, but how you respond to what happens to you.”
Tucker began writing his book—which bears the subtitle, His Grace for My Race, 17 years ago. He fully discloses his personal story, and includes deep research exposing the climate and culture of the FBI and their built-in policies rooted in a belief that black people are not worthy of holding a public office. The book also makes a case for how he was targeted before he was in office, and how deeply-seated racism is alive and well in this country today.
A tell-all three-part series co-authored by his mother - focuses on his final term in Congress leading up to his indictment. The second book uncovers what happed to him while in prison. The final book of the series deals with his spiritual journey and restoration process.
“At the end of the first book you will see what happened to me,” he says. “I had an out-of-body experience with God and at that point God just really zeroes in on me and tells me, ‘Okay, are you ready now to give me your whole life?’”
“I would not be a pastor had I not gone through what I went through,” he said. “The things that happened to me in prison have made me the man of God I am today.”
The first book in this series was published last month.