Autobiography of Calvin G. Sims, Sr. - SAF-14

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Autobiography of Calvin G. Sims, Sr.

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  Calvin Sims is an overachiever. He has made a science of it. He can teach it to others.

   Calvin was born the illegitimate son of a young domestic worker. When he was four years old, his mother left him with a baby sitter and went to work, she took sick, was hospitalized and died. Calvin was never picked-up from the baby sitter by any member of his mother’s large family.
“I didn’t leave the babysitter until I dropped out of school (in the tenth grade) and joined the Marine Corps.”

   The babysitter, the only mother he would remember, was a wonderful woman, but she had four adult children who could hardly keep a job or maintain a separate residence for very long. While his foster mother worked several jobs in order to take care of her adult children, young Calvin was left alone most of the time and often, unfortunately, with one of these foster siblings.

Vine City Bottom, Atlanta, Georgia
Calvin grew up in the 3rd house from the left


Calvin Sims mounted on Pocahontas
In the mountains near Pidgeon Forge, Tennessee
March 1997

   These foster siblings were cruel and dishonest. Calvin was abused, molested and generally neglected. He was afraid to report his treatment, to anyone less there be retribution so he just learned to live with it. This treatment turned the young boy hard.

   At age nine; growing up in Vine City Bottom, Calvin learned to hustle, to steal and to survive on his own.
“My childhood ended abruptly at about age nine.”  Calvin got his first gun at that time. He was adopted by the neighborhood crime kingpin, because the smart, spunky, tough little boy entertained him, Calvin became a sort of mascot for the reining "mayor" of Vine City.

   Calvin was truly on the path to destruction, but there was another set of dynamics working in his life, he loved school. In the third grade a teacher helped him to develop a love for reading. He had to sneak and read because the gangsters that he hung out with frowned upon such an activity. Calvin would often flee to his favorite hidding place; the large Chinaberry tree that grew in his front yard.  He would hide in the heavy foilage of that tree on a large limb and read for hours. He also watched a lot of TV. He was impressed by the family values of such shows as "Father Knows Best" and "Leave it to Beaver."
“I wanted to grow up and become  a cross between The Lone Ranger and Ward Cleaver.”


   Having never laid eyes on his father, he was overly interested in these TV Dads and how different they were from the so-called men that he grew up around.

 "Two major factors Saved my life."

Mrs. Moore. Calvin's life was transform when "the meanest teacher in the world," gave him a book, "Ivanhoe."  It was the first thing he remembered owning, and still her feared someone would take the book away from him. He concealed the book under his clothes until he got it home, wrapped it in plastic from a dry cleaner's bag and hid it in a fork , high in his Chinaberry tree.  He learned to love to read. He found that he could escape a horrible, terrifying world through reading. He discovered role models, he learned about the power of character and integrity.

And then there were the cowboys. They got his attention because they were tough and carried guns and rode horses. But he noticed that these men also tipped their hats to ladies and didn’t abide in bullies. Their handshake was as solid as a signed contract and they took pride in their ability to work hard. While living a life of crime, Calvin was torn by the realization that there was another way to live that was more rewarding and more noble than which was his reality.

My Love for reading and the Cowboys saved my life. Of course, Ward Cleaver was a great influence, as well.


"I was more willing to take my chances in the jungles of Viet Nam
than the gang violence on the streets of Atlanta"

   At age 16, Calvin became a father. That was also the year that the drug trade hit his neighborhood. “My friends were dying every day and I saw my own life flash before my eyes. I had to get out of there.”   Calvin felt that he had a better chance of surviving in the jungles of Viet Nam than in his Atlanta neighborhood. He walked into a United States Marine Corp recruiting office and insisted on leaving for boot camp that same day, his wish was granted. “If I had not left that day, I am sure that I would be dead by now.”

"Sudenly, I found that the character and integrity that I had grown to admire in my heores - but could not emulate or even talk about because I lived in an environment surrounded by gansters and criminals - was not only acceptable, it was demanded."

Strong male role models were everywhere.  Many of the NCO's and officers were Viet Nam veterans who embodied what Calvin considerered more than just the fabric of a great nation, but the true essence of being a man made in God's image.

   After a short stint in the military, Calvin took various jobs that were available to a young black man with a ninth grade education. He was puzzled because, whatever job he took, he always ended up in some sort of leadership position. He always worked hard and took pride in his work. He was usually recognized and respected by his employers.


   One day, while riding the bus, he overheard two women talking about the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act or the CETA program. He heard that they would test/evaluate an applicant and recommend a career, provide training and pay you while you were being trained. He heard that when you completed the program, they would help you get a job. He got off the bus and went straight there.

  "My love for reading and all the things I read, propelled me towards success."

   Calvin was enrolled in a computer operations and programming training program. His friends laughed at him and called him a fool. His girlfriend left him; his car was repo'ed, yet he stuck to it. He met a counselor named Frank Holloway who often quoted great men and suggested that he read certain books. One of these books,
“Success Through a Positive Mental Attitude,” affirmed to him that just as he had aspired, he had what it takes to make a major change in his life, to make his dreams come true. Words first quoted to him by Frank still echo in his mind today, “Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, it will achieve.” These words became more than a mantra, they became a battle cry.

Calvin Sims
International Computer Consultant


   Armed with this newly acquired motivation and fortified by the examples of a fierce work ethic and high nobility of his childhood heroes, the cowboys, Calvin began to come into his own. After completing a three month computer training program, Calvin parlayed a token, affirmative action position into an international computer consultancy in an amazingly short time. He worked hard and delivered more than was required. He made his employers dependent on him. He was able to write his own paycheck.


Zurich, Switzerland
The International Financial & Banking Center of the World

   At the pinnacle of his career, earning a six-figure income, he found himself in Zurich, Switzerland. In a chauffeur driven limousine with his interpreter on the way to address an International Banking Assembly.  He was struck by the startling realization that he was still the little boy from Vine City Bottom that nobody wanted, who had just a ninth grade education. “I asked God, why and how I could arrive at this summit.”

   The revelation that Calvin received was that
“when you talk to people and tell them what they are capable of - what they can overcome, they will believe you, because you are living proof.”

From that moment on, Calvin has dedicated his life to motivating and inspiring people from all walks of life, especially young people who are often  at risk.
“Give me the boy or girl that all of the teachers say is unreachable and I will show you a young person who can achieve far and above what we would call a normal person, I was that child and I know how to change and I know how to teach it.”


   In September 1996 Calvin founded StoryTellers of the American Frontier, a non-profit - 501 (c)(3) organization that was designed to take full advantage of the methodology of change that is at the heart of Calvin’s life story.

Yes, Calvin has made a science of reaching people who would otherwise fall through the cracks, but he doesn’t stop there.
“The true stories of the American cowboy and cowgirl when told with the proper emphasis on the character and integrity of these American heroes has an irresistible ability to inspire and motivate people from all walks of life.”


  For several years, Calvin operated a Teaching Farm in Newborn, Georgia where many schools, Juvenile Court Groups, churches and families gathered for the inspirational programs and to eat great food, usually cooked over an open fire just as our frontier ancestors did. They even got treated to a story or lecture delivered by Calvin with an inescapable sincerity that often causes emotional responses from everyone in attendance. “No matter how many times I tell these stories, including my own story, I get emotional because they are such powerful stories, and they are such important stories.” Currently Calvin is in the process of esablishing a Teaching Farm in Central Virginia.


   Calvin traveled all over the country taking his programs wherever there is an audience. Wherever there are people who can be inspired by learning of the greatness that lies dormant in each of us. His life, after all, is the true story that serves as the best example.

   Calvin has served in the Dekalb County Georgia Juvenile Court, as a
Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA), representing neglected and deprived, and often abused, children. He has also been nominated by the Curator and Board of Directors of the Fulton-Atlanta Teaching Museum for President Bush’s “Coming Up Taller Award” for his service to American youth and families.


China Berry Tree Books

Rapidly becoming known as a prolific author, Calvin has written 5 children's book in what is called "The Little Legends Series." In addition, a second book has been written about him and is due to be published soon. Calvin also collaborated on the groundbreaking new book from Townsend Press, "Brother to Brother."

In 2006, Calvin authored the book
"When the Student is Ready, the Teacher Will Appear," which has become a popular attraction at colleges and universities where his message of leadership, motivation and self-empowerment is finding an ever increasing audience.

Most recently, Calvin is co-author of the book
"Brother to Brother: Black men speak to young Black men," and he has started his own publishing company: China Berry Tree Books. named in remembrance of the tree that provided the young reader rufuge.  Through his publishing company, he plans to publish books written by, as well as for, young readers. Their first publication, "The Calvin Sims Story," by veteran educator, Gwyn Smith is currently in print.

"When the Student is ready, the Teacher Will Appear"
by Calvin G. Sims, Sr.


Calvin Sims at the Woodruff Arts Center, High Museum of Art
Atlanta, Georgia


Golden Isles (Georgia) Elementary School
1st and 2nd Graders Fascinated by "Sacred Indian Coup Stick"
February, 2014

The Little Legends Series

China Berry Tree Books is also proud to present The Little Legends Series, featuring "LAWMAN: The Bass Reeves Story," an Acellerated Reader Book; "Johnny Clem: 9 Year Old Hero of the Civil War;" "A Tale of Two Heroes: America's Abraham Lincoln and Mexico's Benito Juarez" - in English and Spanish; "The Legeng of Cathay Williams: Female Buffalo Soldier;" and "Voyage of Discovery: The Lewis and Clark Expedition."


a film by Calvin G. Sims, Sr.


Stay Tuned

Though paralyzed from the waist down, Calvin Sims continues to write, publish and look forward to future lectures and workshops

Though paralyzed from the waist down, Calvin Sims continues to write, publish and look forward to conducting powerful and compelling lectures and workshops in the future.

Date Last Modified: 3/14/2020
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