It was a traditional college graduation ceremony, where women in spring dresses fanned themselves with commencement programs and the college band played “Pomp and Circumstance.” Parents cheered for their babies, now so grown up.
And Eddie Bolden was crying before his son ever reached the stage.
“I never got to see my son take a step. I looked forward to walking him to school on his first day of school. I didn’t get to do that. But I got to see him on his last day of school,” Bolden said Sunday after his son received his diploma at Goshen College, a small school in Indiana founded by the Mennonite Church.
“It feels just like I thought it would feel.”
Bolden, 46, was released from prison Tuesday after serving 22 years for murders he fought to prove he did not commit. In 1996, a Cook County jury convicted Bolden of killing two men and trying to kill a third in a Woodlawn neighborhood shooting. Dominique Bolden, 21, was only a baby when his father was sentenced to life in prison. All these years, Eddie Bolden fathered by telephone and through prison visits, watching Dom Bolden grow from a boy into a tall, bearded man. A basketball star.
A judge threw out Eddie Bolden’s conviction for the killings a few months ago, and the county prosecutor announced the day of his release that he wouldn’t be retried. Sunday, Eddie Bolden stood with his son in the sunshine and shook the hand of the college’s president. He beamed as family and friends snapped photos underneath the trees and faculty stopped by to tell him what a fine young man Dom Bolden is.
Dom Bolden earned his undergraduate degree in physical education. A standout on the basketball team —his coach said he’s his No. 1 player and helped the team win more conference games during the past two years — Dom Bolden hopes to play basketball professionally overseas. If that doesn’t pan out, he’d like to become a physical education teacher in Chicago.
“He’s a guy who’s not afraid of anything. He will challenge you,” said Goshen’s head basketball coach, Neal Young, who grew close to Dom Bolden as he settled in at Goshen. Dom Bolden was a transfer student from Parkland College, a community college in Champaign, and had played basketball at Whitney Young Magnet High School in Chicago.
Not everyone who knew Dom Bolden knew his father’s story. Dom Bolden said he preferred to just keep his head up and keep walking. He knew his dad would be free some day.
“I kept it pretty private. I just handled my business,” Dom Bolden said. Now there is time to sit down with his father and show him videos of his basketball games.
Now, there is time to think about the future.
Eddie Bolden has been free for less than a week. He carried a crisp white handkerchief Sunday and said he struggled to stop crying. He said he is grateful to have his sons beside him and is grateful for family who shaped them into the good men they’ve grown to be. Antonio Johnson, his elder son, is 24. Eddie Bolden missed his graduation.
The adjustment to an unscheduled life — being able to walk through a door that isn’t locked to keep you in — is coming slowly.
“The first two days I didn’t sleep. I just sat in the dark and stared at the wall. I was afraid they were going to come back and get me,” Eddie Bolden said.
In prison, he said he lost hope that the truth would ever really be heard. He said his boys, and the thought that he might one day get to see Dom Bolden graduate, pushed him on.
It was a bookend to something the commencement speaker, Indiana-based folk singer and Goshen graduate Carrie Newcomer, said as she implored the new graduates to be true to themselves, always.
She said her father stood as an example to her: “He would not stay silent if the truth needed to be spoken.”
Source: Chicago Tribune