Written by William Bryant Rozier
Tyrone George Warfield’s last grade received before graduating from Indiana Tech was an A (94%), in a class he had to retake. He had an answer when I asked who are you.
“I’m a black man, a working man, full-time, father, and grandfather,” Warfield said, who now can boast a psychology degree. “I’m also armor bearer to Prophet Walker at Joshua’s Temple.” He’s proud to be part of a church that is involved in the community and helping to change lives. “But I’m also proud to be a product of what they are teaching at the church.”
Prophet Cedric Walker, Warfield’s pastor back when Joshua’s Temple was called New Joshua and located at the Lafayette Blvd. and Baxter St. corner. Walker’s lesson that propelled and propels Warfield: learning to have a significant life.
Warfield is a four-daughter dad, but his “behaviors” kept him away from his children. He was expelled from Snider High School because of fights. Then he became a Vice Lord gang member.
In the 1980s, Fort Wayne gangs “had guns but we didn’t care to use them,” Warfield said, “we used fists, sticks, or knives.” He had a young man’s body that was being molded and hardened to play football for a lifetime and by basic training for the national guard, a life in the military he walked away from. Warfield later became a crack-addicted gang member, with multiple prison stints.
None of this led to a good life or reputation. So the four-daughter dad stayed clear of his children, until one of his own wanted to reconcile. They met at New Joshua; Prophet Walker spoke. He got saved that day and found his tribe.
“I grew up blessed, fortunate, and strange,” Warfield said of the feeling of missing he felt as the adopted son to two loving parents who, he said, “provided me a wonderful life, but something inside of me was rebelling. I was always in trouble.”
The family attended Concordia Lutheran Church, as one of only two black families, said Warfield, who naturally attended the grade school, where he was one of three black students out of 20 in his class.
“As we grew older we could tell that the parents [of my white classmates] let them know we were different,” Warfield said. Once, when he acted up on School Bus #6, the white driver made him sit on the stairwell, during the winter for maybe a couple of days. “It seemed like a long time.” He was cold, isolated again. His mother, Dorothy Warfield, who worked in local politics and was active in the NAACP, one day came out in her house-robe to “address the situation,” he said.
Warfield persuaded his parents to transfer to Lane Middle School, where he could play full-contact football. Going to school around black folks for the first time, he felt more self-assured. After school, because Lane didn’t have that kind of element, a more confident Warfield fell in with the bad boys. Bad decisions and wrong turns continued in high school, when, during his freshman year, he was kicked off the football squad for smoking a joint; he shared the same locker room with senior (and future Hall of Famer) Rod Woodson, for like a week.
Warfield broke bad faster; his parents were living with a child they couldn’t recognize. After being expelled, Warfield’s stint in the Work Core program didn’t take. After walking away from his next attempt at normalcy, the National Guard, gang life awaited. “By then, I got smoother,” he said with his activities, as his rep proceeded him.
His first prison stint was for robbing a gas station without a weapon; his and his partner were subdued by the people pumping gas.
Dorothy Walker suffered a stroke while driving to her hometown of Memphis; she was behind the wheel and her husband of 41 years was the passenger. The car sped off into the embankment when she slumped at the wheel. Her son, out on bail, helped his father, Tyrone, decide to remove her from life support after two weeks.
Warfield, violent, rebellious, angry at everything, served four and a half years out of the six he was assigned. He became a father for the first time and became addicted to crack before returning to prison. Along way, he converted to Islam. In 2001, after 10 years in and out of prison, he became one of the success stories of the state correctional program called Re-Entry. He would suffer relapses with drug use – bad relationships – but has full-stopped, finally surrendering to his purpose.
“It’s amazing,” Warfield said. “I can’t believe where I was, where I’m at now, It’s unbelievable.” From a GED to a bachelor’s degree, “I was headed to graveyard, but the jail cell saved me,” he said. Prophet Walker and his church kept loving Warfield, “until I loved myself,” he said.
Warfield became a college student worried about impressing his teacher with his tighter sentences and direct arguments. Good grades at the undergrad level means passage into a graduate school, where his dual focus will include organizational leadership and, again, psychology. He wants to use his accreditation at Joshua’s Temple, to bring those resources to the church.
“A lot of our people don’t want to go to counseling,” Warfield said, as it’s difficult sometimes to disclose an arduous march.