Johnnie Tyson (JT) and Sandra Fleming (SF)
JT: I was a 13-pound baby at birth. By the time I was 6 years old I was weighing over 100 pounds. When I was 9, I weighed 250 pounds. When I was 15, I weighed 329 pounds. And he only place I could weigh would be to go to the old Baptist hospital and weigh on those freight scales, and I didn’t know how to work the scales, I always had to get someone to help me and they’d go and rush to tell everyone to come and look, you know. It was a sight, when you see a 300-pound teenager in particular when I came along, because I’m a child of the Great Depression.
SF: How do you think your size affected your personality too?
JT: Oh yes, it’s hard to describe how you feel. You feel so insecure, and everyone for the most part is laughing at you. And I tried to grin and bear it. But it was just such a painful experience. In the elementary grades, I don’t think I think I had a single teacher that I can truthfully say was just unkind but you could tell how they felt when there were little things to be done, like maybe going to another teacher’s room and getting a glass of water. You were just kind of left alone. And you have to be extremely heavy before you understand what a painful situation it is. And I really believe it helped me to establish an empathy to most any problem that people have that keeps them from being to accept themselves as they’d like to.
SF: Well, can I ask you what are you most proud of in your life?
JT: Let me put it like this: If you’re wise, you accept life for whatever it presents and make the best of it unless you want to go nuts. I accepted whatever came. Some of it was pleasant, some of it was not. But I think the fact that I was able to accept it and move on and do as well as I did is the thing that I’m proudest of.