Coach Willie Spears

Smart People Read

January 23, 2019

“The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who can’t read.” Mark Twain

Years ago, I was blessed to speak to 3,000 eighth graders in Montgomery, Alabama on the campus of Alabama State University in the famous Acadome. After my speech, I decided to change out of my sweaty shirt and visit Dexter Avenue Baptist Church for a tour of the historic landmark. I changed into a black shirt that says “Smart People Read.” This was a promotional shirt we sold to promote the first book I wrote, Keisha’s Dilemma. As I changed clothes, I beamed with excitement because I was going to visit the church where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. served as pastor. I ended up having my own personal tour because I was the only person there for that particular time slot.

In 1954, at the age of 25, Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. followed in the footsteps of his father and grandfather and became a pastor. He helped organize the Montgomery Bus Boycott in the basement of the church. The Boycott lasted more than a year and sparked the Civil Rights Movement. I am a history buff, especially African-American history. I was so excited about the opportunity to visit the church and sit in the actual basement where meetings occurred that changed America. At the end of the tour, they showed us a video, I cried like a baby as I realized the magnitude of the moment.

When I walked down the stairs into the basement, I noticed a mural, so I took out my phone and immediately started taking pictures. The painting was beautiful and so were the items they had for display.

While I continued to capture the moment, I heard a group of people coming down to the basement from the sanctuary. It was a group of senior citizens from Atlanta walking into the church basement as part of the tour. I really didn’t want anyone else there while I was there, because I didn’t want to be bothered. I was trying to unwind and relax before my trip back to Florida.

There were approximately forty people in this group. One lady, in particular, started asking me questions. She was all in my business. "I like your shirt young man,” she said.

“Thank you,” I said.

“So you like to read?”

“Yes ma’am,” was my reply as I tried to walk around her and get away.

She followed me and said, "Your shirt says 'Smart People Read.'"

"Yes, ma'am, it does," I replied as I continued taking pictures of the mural.

She kept pressing, “Are you smart?”

"Ma'am, I don't know," I sighed in frustration. "I like this shirt."

She considered this, “So can you not read, or are you not smart? Which one is it?”

“I can read, lady," I retorted in the loudest whisper I could muster.

“Well, what does that sign say?” She asked as she pointed to the sign directly above my head.

I replied with great intensity as I emphasize every word, "'PLEASE DO NOT TAKE PICTURES!' There are you satisfied. I read it; I can read. It says…oh. Oh. I see your point. I shouldn't be taking pictures."

She laughed, and we actually made a positive connection; however, I was a little embarrassed.

According to the Statistics Brain Research Institute, people don't read books very often, and most young people only read when they have to.

When I was in middle school, my neighbor bought me a book. She wrote a note on the inside cover and signed her name. I don't remember her name or what she looks like, but her gift made an impression on me and changed my life.

Whose life are you willing to change by giving them a book? It doesn't have to be a young person or your neighbor. If we can read Facebook posts, we can read books. I encourage you to encourage someone to read more.

Smart People Read.

Willie Spears is a teacher, coach, author, minister, and motivational speaker. He has been awarded teacher and coach of the year. He speaks to thousands each year through his business The Willie Spears Experience. Willie may be reached at

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