Life’s Amazing Moments

Life has some amazing moments.  Today I witnessed one of them.

During the summer of 1976 I met a guy in Santa Cruz who was working for my future in-laws. He was among the scariest looking guys I ever met, until he smiled. Sam Huddleston was a year or so older than me, and had just been released from prison for 2nd Degree Manslaughter (sentenced at age 17).

While incarcerated he surrendered his life to Messiah Jesus and my wife’s parents were employing him in his first job as an ex-felon (he was doing construction for them).

Sam’s spiritual conversion was hardly a case of “jailhouse religion.” He went on to seminary, earned a Ph.D., became a pastor, and developed a very successful prison ministry built on racial reconciliation.

I interviewed Sam several months ago for one of my Another Chance Podcast episodes. While speaking he told me the family of the victim from his crime had reached out through a third party to let him know that they had been observing his life for many years and, realizing he faith was sincere, had forgiven him.

As I was editing the podcast, Sam called me, asking if I knew Governor Jerry Brown. I told him I’d met the Governor several times and even had him on as a guest on my radio show back when he was Mayor of Oakland, but I didn’t really know him on a personal level. I asked Sam, “What’s up?” He replied he wanted to see if, after all these years, he could be pardoned by the State of California.

Then it hit me. I am actually a good friend of a guy who knows Governor Brown quite well. I called my friend (an older man, well into his eighties, who I have lunch with every couple months) and he said, “Write a Ietter, mention my name–let’s see what happens.”

So, I wrote the letter describing why I felt Sam was a good candidate for an official pardon. I also mentioned the story of forgiveness by the victim’s family. I highlighted our mutual friend’s name on the outside of the envelope and sent it on a Friday. Sam received a call from the Governors office on Monday with instructions on a host of forms he needed to fill out!

Nothing was guaranteed, but he was in the pipeline for a pardon.

That was over two months ago. I figured Governor Brown was likely to do one last set of pardons before Christmas, as his final term is about to expire.

Well, today (Saturday) I received a call from Sam. He was in San Francisco taking Christmas photos with his wife, three kids, their spouses, and something like 12 grandkids. He had just received the call from the Governor’s office.

He was pardoned! Sam put the guy on speaker and asked him to repeat it for the family. Pandemonium ensued.


I’ll be re-interviewing Sam for the upcoming Another Chance Podcast (hosted at my personal website) very soon. It should be a good one!

The first photo  is Sam with President Reagan in the 80s, receiving an award for his work with felons and ex-felons, the second his the family getting the news, the third, his wife, Linda (middle) reacting, and the fourth, Sam (far right), grandson, son, and grandson. 

Brian Sussman

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