Monday, May 14, 2018

Cups Up book signing tomorrow.

The article written by Jana Hoops posted below appeared in the Clarion-Ledger Friday.

George Malvaney was a high-spirited child whose teenage years (like so many) often found him engaging in reckless behavior — fighting, drinking, and once even taking a snake to school.

While he always knew his greatest love was for the outdoors — hunting, fishing, exploring and adventure-seeking — he was certain of one thing in his life: he hated school. He dropped out during his junior year at Murrah High School and predicted he was on a “a wild and reckless stretch that would end badly.” He was right — except that it wasn’t the end.

The unlikely story of this Jackson native lives up to the title of his debut book, “Cups Up: How I Organized a Klavern, Plotted a Coup, Survived Prison, Graduated College, Fought Polluters and Started a Business.”

For a man who literally wrote the book on what not to do — and ended up not only surviving, but succeeding — he pulls off a truly hopeful tale of what it took to come out on the other side. He wrote the book, he says, to encourage and inspire others who may need a spark of hope to overcome their own challenges.

After you dropped out of Murrah High School your junior year, you joined the Navy and wound up being honorably discharged for organizing and leading a Ku Klux Klan unit on your ship. How and why were you drawn to the Klan?

That’s a good question. I get asked that a lot. I was 19 years old. At this point, 40 years later, it just doesn’t make sense to me. What would have made me do that? I don’t see why I did it. Apparently, it must have been an emotional decision. It certainly couldn’t have been logic. It was a bizarre, crazy thing. It was probably the influence of (Klan leader) Bill Wilkinson, (a friend of a friend). I did it, I own it, and I’m not proud of it.

In 1980, after your Navy experience, you fell in with Dannie Hawkins, a man you described as your “new friend and mentor,” who convinced you to join his group plotting to invade the Caribbean island of Dominica and replace the government with a right-wing, anti-Soviet regime. What was this group’s ultimate goal, and why did you decide to join their cause?

There was a lot of debate as to the real reasons behind it that I was not aware of at the time. One was that they wanted to use it as a point for a cocaine smuggling ring. I never heard any of that. There must have been some ulterior motive. I was just out of the military, very patriotic, and naïve. To me it was more of an anti-Communist move to replace a government with Castro leanings to one that was more in line with American values. In hindsight, adventure and an emotional influence definitely played into it.

When the Dominican invasion plan was averted by the FBI before it ever started, you were arrested and sentenced to four years in prison, which was reduced to 18 months. Tell me about how your time in prison changed your beliefs about racial differences.

It didn’t actually change my beliefs at the time — that took years, but it started me thinking about it. When a prisoner named Leon asked me to write letters for him at the Atlanta Penitentiary, it kind of intrigued me. He was in for murder. He wanted me to write to his mother, but he didn’t want anyone to know, so he would whisper to me. He would tell me what he wanted to say, and I could feel the emotion in his voice. I couldn’t write it down the way he was saying it because he had a very limited vocabulary, but I knew what he was trying to say, so I put it in my own words.

I realized that, here’s this black guy — in for murder — and what he wanted to say was the same thing as my letters to my own family. I could see that there was good in this guy, too — lots of bad things, but, good things, too.

There were two fellow prisoners I wrote several letters for, and another I think I only wrote one letter for. The letters were very similar. Leon got a letter back from his mother and asked me to read it to him. It was clear that she was functionally illiterate herself, but I paraphrased it for him because what I knew she was trying to say.

I was in a unique situation. Here I was with black convicts opening up to me with their personal feelings. These were hard case convicts, trying to get their feelings out. It gave me a different perspective.

Tell me about how the decisions you made while in prison would change the path of your future forever.

I tell people that my time in prison was a wonderfully terrible experience that I would not ever want to repeat under any circumstances but would not trade for anything. It was one of the most valuable experiences of my life.

I was in prison because I made irrational and reckless decisions that were going to end badly. It wasn’t until my first day in federal prison in Tallahassee, Florida, that it struck me. I had a four-year sentence. I asked myself a lot of questions. How was I going to spend the next four years? Do you want to spend the rest of your life in prison? How are you going to improve? I made a very concerted decision my first day in prison: I was going to keep my head held high and get through this.

I had been making bad decisions to get to the point I was in. I didn’t how and where this would lead, but I decided my life as a convict would be done when I got out. I did not want to be involved with criminal activity, ever, when I was released.

I was in prison with murderers, bank robbers, drug dealers, kidnappers. They would become my friends, the people I was hanging out with, my peers, but I did not want to be influenced by them. It was a mental challenge. I really focused on keeping a positive mental attitude that I was going to be a better person.

When I was in the penitentiary in Atlanta, I spent months in my cell all day with almost nothing to read. I was self-examining myself. I had literally hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of hours to think about it. I looked at where I had gone wrong. I knew the Klan had been a bad decision. I knew I had to get away from those people. I decided I was going to go to college and get an education because I really wanted to become something — I didn’t know what, but it would be anything but a criminal.

After your release from prison, you went on to graduate from college and build a career based on your degree in environmental studies. Why did you choose this field?

I had thought about law school. I had seen what I thought were real injustices in prison. I wanted to try and address that, to seek some prison reform. But I came to the realization that even if I got accepted to law school, the fact that I was a convicted felon meant that I may not be able to practice law.

I had another passion, and that was the outdoors. I remembered one time, as a boy, standing on the banks of the Pearl River that went through my grandfather’s land in Hopewell, south of Jackson. An industrial plant had discharged large amounts of sulfuric acid and killed thousands of fish. I recall standing there with my father and watching dead fish float down the river for hours. It made me very sympathetic to environmental causes.

Briefly explain your role in the cleanup efforts of the BP oil spill along the Gulf coast in 2010.

I was the chief operating officer for a company that was BP’s prime contractor in Mississippi. Early on in the response effort (April 2010), I was called into some meetings with Gov. (Haley) Barbour to examine initial information pertaining to the oil spill. Mississippi didn’t have a lot of expertise in large oil spills, and I kind of became the go-to guy for Gov. Barbour and his staff. There was a big push politically to use Mississippi companies and Mississippi laborers, and I was managing 4,000 people from all over, and a $400 million budget.

The well was plugged on July 15. We saw very little oil on the mainland after that, but the barrier islands had really taken the brunt of the oil, so there was a long-term cleanup. I was able to help local mayors, supervisors and local officials, and I know I made a positive difference for Mississippi.

Tell me about your support of Big House Books, and how you found out about it.

I was at the 2016 Mississippi Book Festival and was coming out of the Authors’ Alley tent and noticed a booth that had a logo with a prisoner behind bars looking out. I saw the sign that said, “Big House Books.” They wanted to show me a loose-leaf binder filled with letters from convicts asking for book donations, but I told her I already knew what they said. I had once been locked in a hole starving for something to read. It really brought me back in time — it was an odd feeling. I dropped a $100 bill in their jar that day, and I’ve continued to support them ever since.

Please explain the title of your book.

That phrase, “cups up,” made a huge impact on me. I remember my first day in the Federal Correctional Institute in Tallahassee in July 1981. It was stifling hot. I could hear voices. They kept getting closer and closer. There was a rattling noise. I was thinking, “Why in the hell am I here? How did I get here?” They were getting closer and I was asking myself “What have I done? How am I gonna get out of here?” Then all of a sudden, a prison orderly was in front of me with a cart, and I realized I was supposed to hold my cup up for coffee. I remember having this dialogue with myself. It was a really powerful, life-changing moment.

Why did you decide to write this book, and what do you hope it will accomplish?

The Sun-Herald newspaper (in Biloxi) called me during the BP crisis. They had heard about my story and wanted to write an article about me. I did not want to do that article. I didn’t have anything to hide but it was terrible timing. I was afraid it would all blow up in my face and distract from the BP effort.

It came out on the front page and I was just waiting for the worst — but I heard nothing but positive comments. What I heard over and over and over was “How did you go from that to leading and coordinating this massive response and dealing with the highest officials in the state?” I also heard “You need to write a book,” and I would just say that it would take a long time. But it got me thinking about it.

Part of what I wanted to do was recognize that a lot of people are having a difficult time in life, and it’s good to hear about others who have had tough times and pulled through it. I wanted to say, “Be positive, keep focused, learn what you can from it.” I wanted to give them inspiration and hope.

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The article was reprinted with the permission of the Clarion-Ledger. 

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Trollfest '09

Trollfest '07 was such a success that Jackson Jambalaya will once again host Trollfest '09. Catch this great event which will leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Othor Cain and his band, The Black Power Structure headline the night while Sonjay Poontang returns for an encore performance. Former Frank Melton bodyguard Marcus Wright makes his premier appearance at Trollfest singing "I'm a Sweet Transvestite" from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." Kamikaze will sing his new hit, “How I sold out to da Man.” Robbie Bell again performs: “Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be Bells” and “Any friend of Ed Peters is a friend of mine”. After the show, Ms. Bell will autograph copies of her mug shot photos. In a salute to “Dancing with the Stars”, Ms. Bell and Hinds County District Attorney Robert Smith will dance the Wango Tango.

Wrestling returns, except this time it will be a Battle Royal with Othor Cain, Ben Allen, Kim Wade, Haley Fisackerly, Alan Lange, and “Big Cat” Donna Ladd all in the ring at the same time. The Battle Royal will be in a steel cage, no time limit, no referee, and the losers must leave town. Marshand Crisler will be the honorary referee (as it gives him a title without actually having to do anything).

Meet KIM Waaaaaade at the Entergy Tent. For five pesos, Kim will sell you a chance to win a deed to a crack house on Ridgeway Street stuffed in the Howard Industries pinata. Don't worry if the pinata is beaten to shreds, as Mr. Wade has Jose, Emmanuel, and Carlos, all illegal immigrants, available as replacements for the it. Upon leaving the Entergy tent, fig leaves will be available in case Entergy literally takes everything you have as part of its Trollfest ticket price adjustment charge.

Donna Ladd of The Jackson Free Press will give several classes on learning how to write. Smearing, writing without factchecking, and reporting only one side of a story will be covered. A donation to pay their taxes will be accepted and she will be signing copies of their former federal tax liens. Ms. Ladd will give a dramatic reading of her two award-winning essays (They received The Jackson Free Press "Best Of" awards.) "Why everything is always about me" and "Why I cover murders better than anyone else in Jackson".

In the spirit of helping those who are less fortunate, Trollfest '09 adopts a cause for which a portion of the proceeds and donations will be donated: Keeping Frank Melton in his home. The “Keep Frank Melton From Being Homeless” booth will sell chances for five dollars to pin the tail on the jackass. John Reeves has graciously volunteered to be the jackass for this honorable excursion into saving Frank's ass. What's an ass between two friends after all? If Mr. Reeves is unable to um, perform, Speaker Billy McCoy has also volunteered as when the word “jackass” was mentioned he immediately ran as fast as he could to sign up.

In order to help clean up the legal profession, Adam Kilgore of the Mississippi Bar will be giving away free, round-trip plane tickets to the North Pole where they keep their bar complaint forms (which are NOT available online). If you don't want to go to the North Pole, you can enjoy Brant Brantley's (of the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance) free guided tours of the quicksand field over by High Street where all complaints against judges disappear. If for some reason you are unable to control yourself, never fear; Judge Houston Patton will operate his jail where no lawyers are needed or allowed as you just sit there for minutes... hours.... months...years until he decides he is tired of you sitting in his jail. Do not think Judge Patton is a bad judge however as he plans to serve free Mad Dog 20/20 to all inmates.

Trollfest '09 is a pet-friendly event as well. Feel free to bring your dog with you and do not worry if your pet gets hungry, as employees of the Jackson Zoo will be on hand to provide some of their animals as food when it gets to be feeding time for your little loved one.

Relax at the Fox News Tent. Since there are only three blonde reporters in Jackson (being blonde is a requirement for working at Fox News), Megan and Kathryn from WAPT and Wendy from WLBT will be on loan to Fox. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both and a torn-up Obama yard sign will entitle you to free drinks served by Megan, Wendy, and Kathryn. Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required. Just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '09 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

Note: Security provided by INS.

Trollfest '07

Jackson Jambalaya is the home of Trollfest '07. Catch this great event which promises to leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Sonjay Poontang and his band headline the night with a special steel cage, no time limit "loser must leave town" bout between Alan Lange and "Big Cat"Donna Ladd following afterwards. Kamikaze will perform his new song F*** Bush, he's still a _____. Did I mention there was no referee? Dr. Heddy Matthias and Lori Gregory will face off in the undercard dueling with dangling participles and other um, devices. Robbie Bell will perform Her two latest songs: My Best Friends are in the Media and Mama's, Don't Let Your Babies Grow up to be George Bell. Sid Salter of The Clarion-Ledger will host "Pin the Tail on the Trial Lawyer", sponsored by State Farm.

There will be a hugging booth where in exchange for your young son, Frank Melton will give you a loooong hug. Trollfest will have a dunking booth where Muhammed the terrorist will curse you to Allah as you try to hit a target that will drop him into a vat of pig grease. However, in the true spirit of Separate But Equal, Don Imus and someone from NE Jackson will also sit in the dunking booth for an equal amount of time. Tom Head will give a reading for two hours on why he can't figure out who the hell he is. Cliff Cargill will give lessons with his .80 caliber desert eagle, using Frank Melton photos as targets. Tackleberry will be on hand for an autograph session. KIM Waaaaaade will be passing out free titles and deeds to crackhouses formerly owned by The Wood Street Players.

If you get tired come relax at the Fox News Tent. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both will entitle you to free drinks.Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required, just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '07 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

Note: Security provided by INS