In his new memoir, Arkansas: A Journey Through a Culture Changing State, Judge Joseph Wood recounts how he was raised in a Dutch-American orphanage and later adopted by an Arkansas couple and was raised in the state’s quaint rural Delta.
Mr. Wood, who was appointed as judge in April 2017, made national headlines earlier this year by calling the attorney general, Leslie Rutledge, a “moron.” The judge claimed that Ms. Rutledge’s predecessor, Democrat Dustin McDaniel, had conspired with Mr. Trump to sue Mississippi over the state’s university’s use of a Confederate statue. Mr. Wood’s comments sparked outrage from Missourian colleagues and state politicians. The state’s Republican governor, Asa Hutchinson, called the remark “stupid.”
In his book, Mr. Wood recounts coming to Arkansas for college, spending time in the Delta, and as the hours of sun turned to “tar and wind.”
The book opens by recounting Mr. Wood’s childhood in a Dutch-American orphanage, a retreat for abused children based in the Netherlands and run by nuns. It described the uncomfortable silence of the orphanage as Mr. Wood and his peers were abused by staff members. As he recalled, children being abused was par for the course at the orphanage — boys were routinely sodomized with pool cues, and girls were raped by cousins. Mr. Wood told the New York Times last year that his “gut reaction” was to step aside from the group after witnessing the abuse himself.
Babysitting was Mr. Wood’s alternative at the orphanage. He said at the time, he often nursed his own age-mates back to health with tea, hot chocolate, and a sausage link steak.
Riding around in his mother’s GMC truck, Mr. Wood joined a co-worker on a nighttime trip to a local grocery. Mr. Wood said the co-worker stopped at a red light and Mr. Wood looked back with horror when a car pulled alongside the truck. Mr. Wood said he heard the passenger of the car shout a curse word that his mother heard through another car window. Soon after, Mr. Wood said, he got into the truck and his friend, Greg Beg, ran to his aid. Mr. Beg said in Mr. Wood’s book that he had heard Mr. Wood say in no uncertain terms, “I am the son of a slave.”
From then on, Mr. Wood said he was terrified, fearing he would be humiliated if he didn’t honor the curse.
Mr. Wood later became an ordained Baptist minister and recounted his life as a social worker and private investigator in Arkansas before returning to family in Fayetteville. In May, Mr. Wood announced his candidacy for the state’s lieutenant governor’s seat. After the endorsement of Gov. Hutchinson, he formally joined the ticket.
The New York Times
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