Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Military Service

BOND: A short while ago, you described your motivation for going in the Army. You said you were angry and you were poor.

RUSH: Right.

BOND: And the Army would take care of one of those things. They'd pay you money. It wasn't a whole lot, but it was money. What did it do for being angry?

RUSH: It didn't. What it did was give me an opportunity to step back from my anger to a certain extent, okay, at least part of the Army did. You know, and I'd say this was in Fort Sill, Oklahoma. Fort Sill, Oklahoma was a kind of — it was an island that kind of gave me a little relief from my anger, you know, and helped me to realize some other parts of my life, my spirituality — I really found my spirituality in Fort Sill, Oklahoma.

BOND: Really? How'd that come about?

RUSH: Well, because there was nothing to do a lot, so you spent a lot of time reflecting inwardly, you know, and I just — it was on a Saturday afternoon. I was a battery clerk so I had my own room. I was in my room and all of a sudden I just saw this very, very bright light and it was the light of Jesus just coming into the room. And I was changed. I couldn't stop crying. I was just constantly crying and from that point on, although I didn't realize it, although I put it aside, but I keep referring back to that moment because that's really what changed my life. Fort Sill gave me some quiet time —

BOND: Really?

RUSH: — you know, from the streets of Chicago, you know, music and I picked up drawing. I started to draw somewhat in Oklahoma. You know, I was able to eat on a regular basis in the service, send some money back home, so it gave me some real quiet time and I matured. My maturation process took a qualitative leap.

BOND: In spite of the bad experience you had with your commander?

RUSH: Yes, this was after I left Oklahoma and came back to —

BOND: The earlier part of your military service was good for you, this was a good time for you?

RUSH: It was good for me. Yeah, it helped me mature and get my thoughts together.