Wayne Thornton was six years old in 1953 when a shocking case of medical incompetence during a routine office visit left him a paraplegic for life. From that day forward—in an era long before the Americans with Disabilities Act, access ramps to public buildings, or a national culture that even recognized the potential of the handicapped to participate in civic life—Wayne became an involuntary but willing pioneer in changing our expectations and perceptions of the physically disabled.
The youngest of four children, in 2011 Wayne became the first to pass away as a result of the serious medical complications and surgeries resulting from a lifetime spent in a wheelchair. His eldest sister, Evelyn Thornton, long known as second-in-command in the Thornton’s rural Mississippi household, has collaborated with accomplished author Michael F. Bisceglia Jr. in capturing Wayne’s remarkable story in the memoir To Walk With My Brother.
In addition to telling Wayne’s story, Thornton’s family saga captures the best of small town charity, support and religious faith that imbued lifelong strength to the Thorntons and their community. The story of family patriarch Melvin Thornton being laid to rest with his shirt sleeves rolled up and ready for work is just one of many touching recollections in this remarkable memoir that will leave readers with a new understanding of the rural south.