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By Laurie Pearson, Staff writer
“Every Life is a Story that Deserves to be Told” is a true story of life’s ups and downs, written by Harold Isbell, a Franklin County resident.
In the book, Harold chronicles his journey from childhood to adulthood, describing his struggles and victories.
“It’ll make you laugh and sometimes make you cry,” said Mary, Harold’s wife.
Disadvantaged by a lack of education and a speech impediment, he fought hard nearly every day to make a success of his life.
Through hard work and determination, Harold rose from abject poverty to being worth nearly a million dollars.
He was born a few years after The Great Depression ended, growing up in Franklin County, the son of a poor sharecropper. He was one of 14 children and nearly died as a baby from an allergic reaction to cow’s milk.
All of the children were expected to work on the farm. Because of the time- consuming labor, Isbell garnered a total of nine months education from the first through third grades. Not only was he unable to keep up with the school work, he was continually bullied by other kids because of the way he talked. He quit school in the third grade.
Isbell and his siblings were expected to pick cotton every day during the season. One of his sisters, Shirley Reed, lives in Fayetteville.
“My dad would put watermelons at the edges of the fields, and when we got to the end of the row, we would eat some,” he recalled with a smile.
When he found that he could earn money by picking cotton for another farmer, he completed his chores at home first, then picked cotton late into the day for another farmer down the road, earning three-cents a pound. Isbell beamed when he talked about the day he earned $1.03 for picking cotton.
As a young man, Harold left home with $18 in his pocket and a broken down car. He worked whatever jobs he could to survive.
Harold and Mary got married when he was 19 and she was just 16-years-old. Her parents had bought the farm across the road from where he lived when Mary was a child. They are still happily married after 50 years.
Harold found a job working at a pipe plant in Tullahoma, then in 1973 got a job as a machine mechanic at Shaw Carpet Mill.
“The supervisors sometimes wanted me to take a lower job because I couldn’t read or write,” he explained.
But, after hearing a radio advertisement about an Adult Education Class through the Winchester Board of Education, he signed up for classes and learned to read and write. He was 44 when he began the class.
“I had to get an education – I had to keep up,” he said.
His education allowed him to earn a higher wage, and twenty-five years after completing the program, write his first book. Now retired, he and his wife live on his cattle farm near their children’s farm.
“I put in some rough times …. but it shows if you got a will, you got a way,” says Harold.
After a heart attack in 2010, Isbell felt compelled to write his story, not only as a legacy for his children and grandchildren, but so that others who are disadvantaged would be inspired to succeed, as well.