Down on Sherman Street

In the old neighborhood, Joe Lee Calloway played dominoes and hung out with his buddies. Until a Grand Prairie cop killed him right there

Charles Calloway says his father's mental illness made its first appearance in 1976, in the form of a nervous breakdown. He can't recall many details about the breakdown, but says his father never let his illness steal his lust for life.

In the mid-'80s, Calloway was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. As part of his treatment, he was often pumped full of Thorazine, a drug that quells the frightening delusions brought on by the illness. The medication eased Calloway's mind, but it also put him in a constant state of grogginess. He could sleep for two days straight.

Calloway likened the treatment to being locked in a soundproof room with glass walls.

"One day he said, 'You know, when I'm on that medication I can see ya'll talking to me, but I can't hear what's going on,'" his son recalls.

Rather than living in a muted world, Calloway frequently avoided medication and chose to face the demons. At those times, Charles and his wife, Elizabeth, helped Calloway overcome the seizures and anxiety. For the most part, they say, Calloway could take care of himself.

"He was a very stubborn person," Elizabeth says. "This was the kind of man who had to work for what he was getting. He didn't want to live off of anyone."

When Calloway slid off his medication, the schizophrenia spawned invisible antagonists who lured Calloway into a state of paranoia. Even then, family and friends say that Calloway didn't frighten them and that he never tried to harm anyone. Dallas and Tarrant County court files show no record that Calloway has ever been convicted of a crime.

In the late '80s, Calloway worked for the city's park and recreation board and for the school district. He lived alone in several Dalworth-area apartments, but eventually moved into a duplex which faced his parents' first home on Sherman Street. He lived the life of a bachelor.

"He was a ladies' man. He had women everywhere," says his son, Charles, rolling his eyes.

Chandra Calloway says that her father, like many mentally ill people, would spiral downward if he stayed off his medication for too long. Although he never acted aggressively when he slipped into a delusional state, Chandra says her father presented a danger to himself.

"Once he told me, 'You might find it hard to believe, but this piece of paper was following me and it was doing tricks.' It went out in the street, so he went out in the street," Chandra Calloway says.

In 1990, Calloway's right knee was shattered after he wandered into a street and was struck by a car. Doctors tried to reconstruct the knee with metal pins, but Calloway was left disabled. Unable to work, he began to spend more time playing dominoes and wandering about Dalworth.

Over the years, friends say, Calloway learned to live with his illness--just as he insisted on walking everywhere, despite his shattered knee.

Capable of quoting Scriptures, Calloway was a devout Christian who read his Bible daily and went to church every Sunday. In the mornings, Calloway rose before sunup and walked to the Truevine Miracle Tabernacle, where he voluntarily took out the trash. By afternoon, Calloway was bound to show up at the dominoes table. Right there on Sherman Street.

"He'd tell you, 'In two plays, I'm going to send you to the pack and the game is going to be over.' He played dominoes like most people play chess," says friend Ed Hemphill, who served on the Grand Prairie city council from 1990 through 1994.

Last year, the city razed Calloway's duplex as part of an effort to combat the neighborhood's growing drug problem. Hemphill gave Calloway a key to his house, a gesture Hemphill says fit with Calloway's philosophy on life.

"He used to tell me to share whatever I could because what I had belonged to God, and he believed that. He lived by that," Hemphill says.

Although he has been called a homeless man, Calloway lived periodically in Hemphill's Dalworth home. There he kept a tidy room, which is still occupied by a king-sized waterbed and a mound of secondhand shirts which Calloway fastidiously ironed.

Calloway liked to sing the lyrics from an old song, "King of the Road." Hemphill calls his dead friend "a man of means, by no means."

Ruby Calloway presses her palms on her cheeks as she recalls meeting Joe Lee Calloway at their senior prom in 1963. Calloway abandoned his date, and he and Ruby left the dance together, igniting a romance that would lead to marriage a year later.

"I wasn't too quick to talk to boys. I had no idea that he had any interest in me. Oh," she says, pausing for a moment to let the memory of her husband return. "He was so fine."

Chandra Calloway looks over at her mother and cocks an eyebrow. "She thought the sun rose and set on Joe Lee Calloway," she says, the two breaking out in girlish giggles.

The mother and daughter are seated at the glass dining table inside Chandra's modest apartment on Grand Prairie's north side.

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