Like a number of other children who live in East End Newport News, Virginia, SIMON HEDGPETH is raised in an overcrowded Apartment Complex that is a haven for drugs and crime. His mother, a drug addict herself, is no help to Simon and his siblings Holly, age 7 and LeRoy, age 8. The three of them live together in the drug and crime infested MACON SHORES apartment complex, along with the mother's boyfriend, also a drug addict.
It is Simon's determination to look after his sister and brother that force him to attend school rarely. Most of his time is spent in trying to raise money to feed his two siblings, Holly and LeRoy, as well as himself, and to protect them from the constant threats of violence that pervades their lives daily.
Simon is constantly aware of the danger of drugs that takes the lives of young Black children on a daily basis. He is the leader of a very small band of young boys from his apartment complex, and though they commit felony crimes in order to survive, Simon will not permit them to "do drugs." Because of his strength and his leadership, they refer to him as MR. GOVERNOR, a title they give to him because the leader in the State of Virginia at the time is none other than Governor L. Douglas Wilder.
As so frequently happens in real life East End Newport News, Virginia, tragedy strikes the life of Simon Hedgpeth. The mother's boyfriend rapes Simon's sister, Holly. Out of rage, Simon's younger brother, LeRoy, murders the mother's boyfriend. The magnitude of this horrible incident brings about an emotional catastrophe in the lives of the two siblings. Both are mute following the rape and murder, and they have to be committed to the PSYCHIATRIC HOSPITAL FOR CHILDREN.