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Tommie Lindsey

Inspired By Caring Teacher

One of nine children of an ironworker and a homemaker, Lindsey grew up in Oakland, California, and was raised by his grandmother after his parents died. From her he learned about the importance of family bonds, a value which he considers central to his decision to enter the teaching profession. Indeed, he was particularly inspired by the generosity of his sixth grade teacher who, noticing his torn shirt and jeans, bought him new clothes. "That made me want to be a teacher," he told Parade writer Tom Seligson. "I wanted to care for other people the way she cared for me."

Lindsey's first experience with public speaking occurred when he was in ninth grade and was asked to participate in graduation events for his class. Not only did his English teacher doubt his ability to prepare and deliver a successful speech; his topic, he told NPR interviewer Dick Gordon on an episode of The Connection, was a difficult one: "investing in learning to cultivate the intellect." He didn't know where to start at first, but his landlord, Josephine Dukes, helped him to break the topic down into smaller parts and organize his thoughts. He received a standing ovation for his performance, and the experience gave him the confidence to continue in the field. "I knew that I was destined to do something with speech," Lindsey told Bay Area Parent writer Lisa Lewis.

Though he lacked formal training in public speaking, Lindsey had grown up listening to the powerful rhetoric of Baptist ministers and civil rights leaders. Church sermons, he told Gordon, helped him to develop a feeling for the power of words. The stirring speeches of such leaders as Martin Luther King, Jr., and Malcolm X were also central influences.

Lindsey went on to compete in Rotary and Lion's Club contests during high school, and then enrolled at the University of San Francisco. He earned a degree in Communications Arts and Social Science in 1973, becoming the first African-American valedictorian at the university.

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Brief BiographiesBiographies: C(hristopher) J(ohn) Koch Biography - C.J. Koch comments: to Sir (Alfred Charles) Bernard Lovell (1913– ) BiographyTommie Lindsey Biography - Inspired By Caring Teacher, Drew Diverse Students To Debate, Remained Dedicated