Former “American Gangster” Earl Lloyd’s journey from a life of crime to finding God and ultimately experiencing redemption
It has been 19 years since Earl Lloyd, one of South Florida’s most notorious gangsters, was released from prison after spending most of his adult life behind bars. The fact that he is alive today can only be explained by these four words,” The Grace of God.”
By Charles Moseley
Earl Lloyd by all accounts should have been dead and buried many years ago, but at 75, he has lived to repeatedly share his testimony of how God’s grace can redeem someone who by all accounts would never turn away from a life of crime.
As like most criminal mindsets, Lloyd thought he would never have to pay for the crimes he committed – no matter how heinous – he thought he could outsmart and outrun the law. In the final analysis he fought the law but the law ultimately would win his cat and mouse game. He finally was captured in upstate New York.
He spent two years in an up-state Elmira, N.Y. prison be-fore being returned to Florida based on a governor’s warrant agreement between New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller and Florida Governor Claude Kirk. While in Elmira State Prison he went from a seventh grade drop out to a college sophomore.
Lloyd’s story of redemption becomes even more unfathomable given the fact that he’d cheated death on numerous occasions. After all, he’d been a gang leader for some of the most notorious gangs in Florida and New York and spent 30 years from 1967-1997 in some of the state’s most dangerous penal institutions. Then there were the numerous gunshot wounds, the countless stabbings, and the most unlikely event of all: dodging the death penalty in a Florida prison electric chair on a first degree murder conviction. The fact that Lloyd was released from prison at all defies all logic from a human perspective but after what he admittedly says had to be “divine intervention,’’ the man who had cheated death on so many occasions has spent the last 19 years of his life telling anyone who will listen of how God can make a way where seemingly no way existed.
Lloyd recently shared his insights on the path of crime he’d chosen, beginning as a juvenile delinquent bef0ore graduating to one of the most powerful gang leaders that this country has seen, before making a complete reversal after accepting God in his life.
Westside Gazette (Q):-
When did you finally fully understand the magnitude of what leading a life of crime and being a menace to society had boiled down to?
Lloyd (A): It was when I was on the run in New York and was wanted. There were times when I had access to lots of money. I would tell my brothe. “Get you some money.” Because I couldn’t think from a future sense. I was living with these guns I think that if a showdown comes I’m going out in a blaze. There was no way I could back track. I lived on the edge. At the time I was walking that tightrope.
In modern days it was a life and death thing. The FBI had promised that they were going to burn me if I didn’t sign the extradition papers to return me back to Florida.
I told them ‘well then burn me,’ alluding to the electric chair. The only thing that saved me was a recommendation of mercy by the jury. “
Q: Trace if you will the best and worst part of being locked up for 30 years?
A: I think the worst experience was that of not being able to attend my mother’s grave to talk to family at home on the phone, they allowed me to do that.
I know the best thing that came out of it was that I found God. He’s everything. He gave me structure. He gave me true measurement that I could see and measure myself by.
Q: How did you deal with being denied parole year after year after year?
A: When I would get denied by the parole committee I would open up my Bible to the passages where it says, God releases the prisoners, And I’d stand on that. I learned the importance of perspectives, how you see things. How you see things dictates your response. And it dictates your creative ability. Just like in fighting I’ve never seen nothing that I couldn’t whoop if I had to. I turned all that energy into the mental and spiritual and the apostle. People had been telling me I was an apostle but I wouldn’t accept it.
Q: Can you recall the moment when you finally would be released after 30 years of incarceration?
A: I remember year after year the psychologist would come in and give me an interview for release consideration. He would always ask me, why were you so violent? And I would speak honestly. I would say you know that’s the way I thought then.
He said why were you so violent in the past? I said I didn’t know the difference be-tween positive recognition and notoriety. And he jumped and said you’re ready to get out.
Q: What did you decide to do with your life after you were released from prison?
A: My whole life now is dealing with ministry. That’s my passion I’m always trying to help.
Today you will find Apostle Lloyd counseling people all over the nation through my non-profit organization ‘Convicts for Christ’. It took acceptance be-cause I knew I had to be convinced beyond what my mind could just attain. There had to be a greater experience. Because at a young age I’d experienced some things that as I became more conscious of God. And I found even when I’d do wrong I would pray-that was dependence. I’ve been shot in the head, in my chest and have escaped, I’ve defied the odds.