MARTIN, Tenn. – Anthony Radcliffe was playing organized sports in the fourth grade. He loved soccer, and he played basketball to get through the winter and get ready for the next soccer season. In the fall of 2000, he went from running up and down the pitch and the basketball court to using a walker and a wheelchair.
The interim youth minister at Pleasant Hill Baptist Church in Martin and the son of Cynthia Radcliffe, a teacher, and Ronald Radcliffe, a music minister, was diagnosed with a form of muscular dystrophy, congenitial myopathia.
“I didn’t go anywhere without my walker or my wheel chair,” Anthony said. “By fifth grade, it looked like the doctors were right.”
That was then. Now, about 11 years later, Anthony never leaves home without his wheelchair and will graduate Saturday, Dec. 14, from the University of Tennessee at Martin with a Bachelor of Science degree in elementary education.
“Now we, (his wife, Shirah included) are thinking about the next phase of our life,” Anthony said. “My whole life is based on prayer.”
A devout Christian, who was “saved” when he was 12-years-old, and surrendered to the ministry when he was a junior in high school, Anthony still decided to major in education.
“I was thinking practical, and besides, I come from a family of three teachers.” Anthony’s mother is a teacher, as is his sister, Victoria. His dad is also a certified music teacher. “I have seen the joy my mother comes home with every day after school.”
Life was not always a joy for Anthony. At the end of the ninth grade, the Radcliffe family decided to move from Panama City, Fla., back to Munford. “I made it known I didn’t want to be back in Tennessee,” Anthony said.
“I wore black jeans, long sleeve black tee shirts, and I had a chain hanging from my belt to my pocket.”
Despite, his muscular dystrophy, Anthony was involved in BMX Bike racing and being a rebel. He managed to finish junior high and his freshman year of high school.
Enough was enough. Anthony finished high school as a home schooler. He was involved in church, but that was it.
Then he got an invitation from Steve Douglas, who was the music minister at the time of Central Baptist Church, to play the drums. The two knew each other from summer camps. Douglas, now a Martin Middle School teacher and a youth minister at Central Baptist, extended another invitation to Anthony when he finished high school.
“I told him to come to school here, and we could use him at the church,” Douglas said.
“He also had a room in his house for me to rent,” Anthony said.
So, Anthony came to Weakley County and has been here since his freshman year.
He married his sweetheart after his sophomore year, and the couple has settled down and bought a house in Martin. “This is where our feet are planted,” he said.
In addition to going to school, playing the drums and serving as the interim youth minister at Pleasant Hill, Anthony has worked as a chef’s administrative assistant for Sodexo at UT Martin.
“He doesn’t let anything slow him down,” Douglas said. “He is not bashful or embarrassed by it (his muscular dystrophy).”
“It has been a big challenge for me getting across campus, it’s not hilly, but it is enough,” Anthony said.
For Anthony, who finished his college career as a student teacher for Stacie Hawks at Martin Elementary School, the challenge of getting around the UT Martin campus is over, but commencement brings about new challenges for him.
“My life is God’s life,” he said. And if you don’t believe him, Anthony can quote Luke 9:29 and Galatians 2:20.