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My Idol, My Father, Big Daddy

By Tanya Murphy

Sitting in a large recliner that leans back slightly with his feet up watching TV, he is a 5’11”, cocky, well-built, 78-year-old man we call ‘Big Daddy’: My father, my mentor, my best friend. Born here in Toledo, Ohio on

March 31, 1939, he is known as a ‘pk kid’ (preacher's kid). James Edward Murphy now attends Ararat Missionary Baptist Church where he plays the organ, but he had been a musician as a child playing for his father's church up until his father passing in the late ‘60s. Because of his church upbringing, he pursued his passion by joining another church, and playing the piano every single Sunday while also holding down a job at Toledo Edison.

Big Daddy’s values of serving a higher power are enormous. Why, you ask? Because of his upbringing. My father's favorite quote is “It’s a real God out there.” This quote came when he was six-years-old and very sick, not being able to eat, drink nor keep anything down and also bed-ridden with no idea what was wrong with him. It was the scariest time in his life. He was attending 1st grade at Washington Elementary School located on Palmwood and Detroit Avenue. (now torn down). He was out of school, losing weight day-by-day until his mother called on a “prayer warrior,” that is, a neighbor whom they trusted and who believed that prayer works. They prayed over my father along with other church-goers. The next day my father was up eating and drinking.  He is still a true believer, and says, “If you wake up praying and pray when you go to bed, everything will be all right.”

My father met my mother at his father’s church while playing the piano. He was a junior at Scott High School, but he dropped out because my mother became pregnant; however, later he attended night school to obtain his high school diploma. My father did get into a lot of trouble at Scott due to hanging with his buddies. But, he was taught to be responsible and to “take care of your business”: thus my dad was forced to get a job at a gas station named ‘Johnson Ohio,’ where he fixed on cars and pumped gas instead of staying in school.

My parents married at a young age and starting a family was challenging. My older sister Selese was born. This forced my father to step his game up. When my sister turned one, my dad purchased his first home at 1017 Broer located near Dorr and Secor Road.  Being a dad meant more bills and responsibilities, so my father had a couple of more jobs including driving an ambulance for Shirell Funeral Home. In addition my dad was working with a guy fixing refrigerators, completing side jobs working on cars and appliances, along with being self-taught to complete plumbing jobs on the side. My father and my mother had more children, ”girls that is,” and he needed to get a better paying job. My dad went to an electrician trading school for a better chance to get hired, and he was hired at Toledo Edison starting in 1966.  My father, at this young age of 21, loved his job. He was so proud to be able to get a decent salary and provide for his family. He continued his profession by attending a school in Springfield, Ohio, and received his management certification.

He became a manager for Toledo Edison beginning in 1989. The only downfall with this job was that he was concerned about not getting promoted to a higher position as his colleagues.  My dad tried going back to school to earn a degree so he could get promoted, but his boss put him on a schedule that kept him from continuing his education. This is one thing that hurts my father. He feels he was held back to succeed, and to move up the corporate ladder. My father says “education was the only way he could make more money” as his colleagues had done. He pushed for this goal for my three sisters and me, with the motto, “Be a man: be successful in all you do.”

My father’s biggest accomplishment was working for Toledo Edison, this providing my mother, my sisters and me a beautiful home located at 866 Independence Street near Dorr and Richards Road. We moved into this new beautiful neighborhood where only a few houses were on the block. We had a huge back yard overlooking a forest which as a child I thought was full of wildlife including snakes. Our family was well-off. My sisters and I had our own cars, a family boat, and we stayed in a neighborhood that provided great schools: Ryder Elementary, McTigue Junior High and Rogers High School.

While working at Toledo Edison he suffered the biggest loss ever.  In the late ‘70s my father had his little brother Charles Terry Murphy hired as a lineman.  I cannot even imagine getting that call, as my father did, from his supervisor to identify his 21-year-old brother hanging from a pole, electrocuted to death. His brother had not been on the job for more than a month. My father said, “This was the saddest day of my life,” and he felt guilty of his brother’s death, because he got him hired as an unexperienced lineman. Again this brings to mind education: if Terry had been educated and trained on how to be a lineman, this would have never happened.

My father told me he was angry, so he turned his anger and depression into remodeling our three bedroom house into a five bedroom home with an extra bathroom, den and a step-down living room that was converted from a garage. His last project was building a 2 ½-car garage and making a circle driveway in front of our home. He added a little hill and added some beautiful landscaping. My dad says he planted a “stick” in the ground which was given to him by his mother from down South. We as kids couldn’t understand why he planted a stick. Now that stick is a huge tree that blooms with pink flower buds every spring. This also taught us girls “to be patient and to have faith.”

My father was so proud of my sisters and me, and he still is. My eldest sister passed in her sleep of heart failure This devastated my father: he felt the parents are supposed to die first not their children. My middle sister drove a TARTA bus, retiring last year. My little sister, Jamesetta (she was supposed to be a boy), works at Buckeye Cable System. My dad tells me he is very proud of me for owning my own business, fostering trouble teens, and returning back to school to get an Associate degree and then my Bachelor Degree in Education.

In writing this profile, I asked my dad questions, I listened to him, and I understood his accomplishments and disappointments. What I did not hear him speak about is how he almost died three times of heart attacks, the latest being this past May. I asked him, “Why didn’t you mention this, Dad?” He explained, “I asked God was he finished with me in this here life.” Then my father said, he told God, “If you want me to leave, I’m ready.” My father stressed to me, “If you have faith, ‘real faith’ and you trust in the Lord, you have nothing to worry about.”  This brought tears to my eyes because I knew this interview had taught me a little more about my dad and the unknown troubles he has had. This man has taught us girls how to change a tire and change our oil in our cars. My dad’s main goal was to teach us to “trust only in God, not man.”

I love my father. God put him here and is keeping him here for a reason. What reason? His gift to gab, his strength never to give up despite the circumstances, and his ability to touch so many lives. If you call my father to ask him about plumbing, he’ll know what to do; electricity, he’ll know exactly how to troubleshoot; mechanics, yes, he can help; construction, yep! Politics, very active. And of course he knows about family, living for the Lord and for a purpose. If you want any consultation about the Bible? Hands down, he has that covered, too. I do not want to brag about how bright my father is, or how gifted this man has been, but I must! He is awesome!

I always tell my dad, “I LOVE YOU, BIG DADDY”!

His reply, “I LOVE YOU, TOO, BABY,” and then we hug.

Tanya Murphy is a 10-year paraprofessional most recently working at Toledo Public School’s Martin Luther King Academy. She is a 30+ year foster parent through Lucas County Children Services and SAFY of Findlay, Ohio. She is currently in her first year as a University of Toledo student, pursuing a Bachelor of Education degree through the Teach Toledo program, whose vision is “helping Toledo’s citizens become tomorrow’s teachers.” The profile “Big Daddy” was originally written for her ENG1110 Composition I course.


Copyright © 2017 by [The Sojourner's Truth]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 08/16/18 14:12:39 -0700.

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