Cover image for Inner city miracle
Inner city miracle
Mathis, Greg.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Ballantine Books, [2002]

Physical Description:
x, 197 pages, 8 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations ; 25 cm
Personal Subject:
Added Author:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
KF373.M345 A3 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
KF373.M345 A3 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Black History Non-Circ
KF373.M345 A3 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Biography

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Millions have seen him on his nationwide TV show, dispensing justice in his own charismatic style. But Judge Greg Mathis's own rise to success has been a trial by fire. In this truly candid memoir, his harrowing life on both sides of the law is revealed for the first time. It starts in Detroit--but far from the court where Greg would one day preside. Raised in the hell of the Herman Garden Projects, he grows to become a "bad-ass, cool-dressing, do-anything gangsta." His father gone, his mother juggling two jobs, he falls in with the Errol Flynns--"funkified English gentlemen" in three-piece suits and Borsalino hats, urban Robin Hoods who are truly stylish as they steal from everyone and give to themselves. Considered bright but incorrigible, Greg is sent to stay in his middle-class cousin's mixed neighborhood, where he enlists the local white youth in wrongdoing. Even jail can't keep him from going bad again once he gets out. Then a threat to his beloved mother causes a shaken Greg to make a promise in a prayer to God: save my mother and I will straighten up. To his and everyone else's surprise, he keeps his side of the bargain. Inspired byThe Autobiography of Malcolm X, working at McDonald's by day and attending classes by night, Greg pulls himself through high school and college and then law school, using in positive ways the innate intelligence that made him a master at crime. Soon he becomes the youngest judge in Michigan history, a District Court judge and, at last, undaunted by the odds and propelled by his personal story, a sought-after and highly paid TV star. In its blunt, bold, and sometimes hair-raising honesty,Inner City Miracleis both a cautionary and an inspiring story, one sure to stun all those who come to Judge Mathis's TV courtroom every day.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Mathis, star of the syndicated television show Judge Mathis, recounts his transformation from an inner-city Detroit youth to a nationally recognized figure. Mathis grew up in the projects with three brothers, raised by a hardworking, religious mother. Despite a steady diet of the Seventh Day Adventist religion, Mathis hung out with thugs, thieves, and drug dealers, escalating his own criminal exploits to gain street respect. Rage and resentment against whites and middle-class blacks fed Mathis' violent behavior. Facing conviction for gun possession in high school, Mathis took a chance offered by a judge: jail time or completing his education. Mathis pushed on past his mother's death through college and law school to a budding career in local politics, including working with Detroit Mayor Coleman Young and heading the Michigan office for Jesse Jackson's presidential campaign. On the bench as Detroit's district court judge, the youngest judge in the state's history, Mathis attracted the attention of Hollywood and went on to a career in television and radio. An inspirational memoir. --Vanessa Bush

Publisher's Weekly Review

Underprivileged black boys desperate to rise above their circumstances can benefit greatly from such institutions as school, the army, government social programs and the judicial system as well as a knowledge of options, according to Mathis, himself a kid criminal and gangland thug growing up in Detroit's devastated projects. His turnaround came in 1977, when he heard Jesse Jackson speak. Mathis was 17 years old, and Jackson's advice struck a chord. "Your heart is in the right place, but to win young people's minds and souls, you've got to have ammunition," Jackson told him privately, after his speech. "A year from now, I want to hear what you've done to improve yourself.... We got a deal?" With the help of his single mother's Seventh Day Adventist discipline, his wife-to-be's book-hitting habits and many mentors, Mathis eventually studied his way into law school, passed the bar, toiled in Michigan politics, was elected a judge and landed a syndicated TV show, Judge Mathis. His membership in multiple social classes has helped him forge his practical insight into human nature into an organized story about a hero's trajectory. Mathis and coauthor Walker poetically render the rhythms of street language, at least to those who don't speak it, and fairly present Mathis's sometimes testosterone-driven male attitude, making this an honest feel-good story. Mathis's parable from the projects explores a world that will be crucially familiar to many and offers a way to reach poor teens who rightly feel misunderstood and underrepresented in the mainstream. Photos not seen by PW. (On sale Oct. 1) Forecast: Advertising in African-American newspapers in major markets, an author tour and probable media plugs by Mathis will target educators and parents, but whether they'll be able to persuade their teens to read it is questionable. Mathis is working on an HBO movie based on his life, which might be a more direct way for him to reach young people. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Mathis, a former Detroit district court judge, shares stories of his upbringing in a strict household with a mother who worked several jobs to support her four sons. He also reveals that he lived on both sides of the law, eventually escaping to become Michigan's youngest judge ever. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Dangling from a cold metal railing on the second level of Cobo Hall Auditorium in downtown Detroit, I gaze down on thousands of unsuspecting concertgoers who actually think that a performance by the Average White Band is going to be the night's main event. I say to myself, "It ain't about no damn band, you fools! If you don't believe it, check this shit out." Grinning, I plummet to the concrete nine feet below, which is fairly difficult to accomplish wearing platform shoes with four-inch clear plastic heels. The impact sends a jolt crunching through my thin body and I stumble forward a few steps. I'd nearly dropped on the head of a young black male usher who is now frantically sprinting toward an exit. He's probably trying to alert the police, but it's a little late for that. The boldest mass robbery in Detroit's history is under way, and ain't nothin' he or anyone else can do to stop it! The Errol Flynn gang is in the house and everybody at this concert had better give up some jewelry or a wallet. Either that or get cracked upside the head. The year is 1977 and I'm in my element--lawlessness, chaos, and bold action. The same holds true for two hundred or so of my fellow Errol Flynn gang members presently terrorizing the Cobo Hall Auditorium all around me during a brief intermission between musical acts. Some have actually vaulted onto the main stage while frightened and bewildered concertgoers look on. "Errol Flynn, Errol Flynn!" I gleefully holler at the top of my lungs, matching the cadence of a handful of my homeboys who've commandeered the microphone onstage and are rhythmically waving their hands as they perform a popular 1970s dance called the Errol Flynn. Like our movie star namesake, we Flynns fancy ourselves to be suave, swashbuckling, and rakish. And like the matinee idol whose name we carry, if we're trying to bust a move and you get in our way, we'll go upside your damn head. Scanning a row full of Average White Band fans to my left, I see what I've really come to Cobo Hall for. As I look down the row, everyone on it is scowling mightily and shooting me expressions that leave no doubt about their fear and disgust. They have no way of knowing it, but the looks on their faces only heighten my tremendous sense of exhilaration. I lock eyes with a young, muscular brother who has his hands protectively interlocked around his girlfriend's. His demeanor is defiant, as though he's feeling his oats and primed to do something heroic and macho. I instinctually understand that if I break him down and force him to bend to my will, the entire row will meekly follow his lead. "Your wallet, please," I bellow, giving my victim the hardest, meanest look I can muster. He shoots me a hard look right back, releases his girlfriend's hands and turns in my direction, preparing for battle. I expected that and slowly pull back the black pinstriped jacket of my double-breasted suit so he can see my ace in the hole--a .38-caliber revolver tucked in my waist. Then with my eyes I silently dare him to continue his foolhardy challenge. Some concertgoers have already been punched and kicked for resisting, but things can get much, much worse. Reluctantly ceding defeat, my muscular victim sullenly digs into his back pocket, pulls out a brown leather wallet, and angrily flips it into the concrete aisle near my feet. As I quickly bend over to retrieve my booty, the air inside Cobo Hall is filled with the noise of frantically chattering voices, the amplified racket from my partners onstage and screams of fear and pain. The sounds of bedlam and anarchy, sweet music to my ears. "Thank you, sir. Gimme that watch, too." The still-warm, expensive-looking silver timepiece is obediently passed down the row. Once the tough guy has been broken, my other victims quietly turn over their wallets, pocketbooks, bracelets, and rings, glaring at me the entire time. Like I could give a damn. I barely have time to shake down half of another row before I need to make a hurried escape. Running as quickly as I can in my four-inch heels, I become part of a mass exodus of youthful thugs wearing platform-heeled shoes, double-breasted suits, Borsalino hats, wide-framed white glasses with no lens. Many of us also are toting expensive-looking umbrellas and walking canes, which come in handy when looking dapper or when scything through hordes of frenzied concertgoers. As soon as I get outside Cobo Hall with the other Errol Flynns I spy black-suited, helmeted riot police standing shoulder-to-shoulder as they anxiously scan the exiting throng for lawbreakers. They look stupid standing in the middle of the street with the streetlights glinting off their dark helmets. What do they expect me to do--walk up to them and surrender? Slowing down so that I'm moving at the same pace as the escaping concertgoers, I place a look of consternation and fear that matches theirs on my face. A wolf flowing to freedom among the panicked sheep. I gradually ease my way past the cops, who are nervously tapping their gloved hands with thick black billyclubs, looking for heads to lay siege to. Battling a towering urge to run, I walk briskly down the sidewalk, each step taking me a little farther away from the scene of our crime. My crime! But it's not until all the commotion and noise around Cobo Hall fade into the distance that I slow into a swaggering pimp walk, the stolen rings and watches in my jacket pockets jingling melodiously. The warm night air feels fantastic, thanks to a slight breeze fanning in off the Detroit River. Only after I've walked a few yards does it dawn on me that I'm breathing pretty hard, not so much from exertion as from excitement. Even though the palms of my hands are moist and my stomach feels like a freight train is rumbling through it, I feel ecstatic. A few blocks ahead a sea of dark Borsolino fedoras is bobbing down the street and I jog to catch up. The cops were so worried about the safety of the concertgoers that they've left the rest of downtown unguarded, leaving the door open for a frenzied Errol Flynn gang looting spree. Soon store alarms are going off like crazy, punctuated by the brittle sound of storefront windows disintegrating. In no time the sidewalk is littered with glass shards that twinkle like diamonds under the streetlights and crunch underfoot. Smiling, I saunter into Cousins, one of the premier clothing stores in downtown Detroit, and head straight for a hat rack at the far end of the darkened store. The store is filled with the fantastic odor of leather that emanates from expensive jackets and shoes neatly lined up on display. It's a smell I've always equated with wealth. The leather looks tantalizing and I shoot an admiring glance as I hurriedly pass, headed toward my primary targets. I have them in view now--two authentic Borsalino Como felt fur fedoras, painstakingly handcrafted in Alessandra, Italy. Taking off my fake fur Borsalino knockoff, I fling it into a corner, then slip the genuine article onto my Jeri-curled head. As soon as the baby soft felt fur caresses my shoulder-length locks, I immediately understand why Comos are priced at $100 apiece. Not to mention why they're the favored headgear of the top Detroit pimps and hustlers that I look up to. With one Borsalino on my head and another in my hand, I bolt out of Cousins and back onto the street, before the pigs start responding to all the jangling store alarms. Feeling like a kid on Christmas morning, I eagerly make my way back to the 1968 Camaro that my five-man crew and I parked several blocks from Cobo Hall. I can't wait to divvy up the booty we've lifted from the Average White Band crowd and I'm looking forward to seeing how the eleven o'clock news covers our audacious heist. My boys and I have just ripped off several thousand Detroit concertgoers inside a major auditorium located mere blocks from police headquarters. Excerpted from Inner City Miracle by Greg Mathis, Blair S. Walker All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.