“From Crip to Christ. From the Dope House to the Church House.”
This is what Pastor Charles Banks is quick to tell you about his life. Banks was born and raised in Stuttgart, graduated from high school in 1984 and went on to college at Arkansas State University in Jonesboro.
“When I was in 7th grade, my parents had divorced, and our family was struggling. I saw Billy Crosby and Troy House working at the Holman school. I approached them about getting a job. Crosby gave me a chance,” said Banks. “Crosby and House taught him how to lay carpet and flooring. At the end of the day, I had learned something.”
Later Banks would start his own carpet-laying company. At times over the next 25 years, House would work for Banks, other times Banks would work for House.
Working with Crosby and House Banks remembers that as a young black kid, there were some houses he could not walk in the front door. There were also times when the homeowner would ask for his social security number, in case something came up missing.
“My mother was the best,” says Banks. “She used to tell me things and I didn’t listen. You only have one mama. I had a great family, five brothers and my mama taught us respect.”
After high school graduation, Banks went to ASU-Jonesboro.
“I didn’t make it in college,” says Banks. He made a choice to be a drug dealer.
He got connected with Leifel Jackson, a leader of the Crips gang. Jackson was his provider, his supplier of drugs. He sold drugs from Little Rock to Compton, California to Aberdeen, Mississippi.
In 1992 he was shot down in a drug deal gone bad. He was shot in the leg. He got caught up in Arcola, Illinois with two kilos of cocaine, a gun and a stolen credit card. He did not steal the credit card but was given it. That card belonged to Billy Simpson, who was present to hear Banks testimony at Celebrate Recovery held at the North Hills campus of First Baptist Church. He was able to escape from the police and hitchhiked to Arkansas. At one point he was hiding in a corn field with officers all around looking for him.
“I was hiding in the weeds,” said Banks. “One thing about the police is they will not chase you in the weeds. They are scared of snakes being in there.”
Banks went to jail on July 6, 1993 on a 10-year sentence on a Y felony which meant he would have to serve half of his time. “In prison you have a number for your name,” said Banks. “Mine was 101574 or they called me Banks. You lose your first name in prison.”
Charlie Holbert put up his store to get Banks out of prison after six months and let him go to work in his store. “He was a white man, and I am a black man,” said Banks. “He loved me. He put up his business for me.”
At this time, Banks was selling cocaine, crack, then he was introduced to crystal methamphetamine.
” Now, meth is a white man’s drug, had been for decades. Black men did cocaine, crack,” said Banks. “When I was introduced to meth, I liked it. I learned to cook it. I would rent people’s houses for the weekend for $10,000, so I could cook meth.”
Banks said he didn’t love anything or nobody and that he had no life to live. “I thought with them (gang members), I had a family, a great family,” said Banks. “I had 12 children with 10 baby’s mamas. They are mine, let me make that clear.”
In 1998 Banks was going to see his Probation Officer who told him we got to lock you up. Banks ran and escaped. On March 23, 1998 he was caught close to the Varner prison, he broke and ran again. He jumped in some water, but Marshalls caught up to him. When he went to court, they offered him 66 years in prison at Leavenworth.
Around 2004 Banks was stopped in Bryant. He had a half ounce of dope on him. Frank Gonzalez, a former police officer in Stuttgart, was chief of police in Bryant at the time. When Gonzalez heard Bank’s name come over the scanner he told the officers to keep Banks there, he was on his way. Gonzalez knew Bank’s mother and had for years. Gonzalez told him to hand over the dope and said, “Today is your day.”
“I told the Lord if you get me out of this, I will do right,” said Banks. Gonzalez gave him a ticket for driving on a suspended license.
On March 23, 2004 Banks was traveling between Pine Bluff and Redfield in a van that Lynn Dickson and his wife had given to Banks trying to help him get his life together. “Dickson has been a true friend,” said Banks.
Suddenly, the van stopped. He thought he was out of gas. He heard God say, this day you are mine.
“I was at the worst place in my life, my mama had just died. My mother was the best,” said Banks. “When God has an assignment for you, He will get your attention. I could not open my driver’s door, so I went to the double doors in the back. When I got out of the van the Holy Ghost got me.”
Banks said he didn’t go to rehab to get off drugs and that God is my rehab. He had prayed that God would take the desire for drugs away, and He did. Banks stepped out in faith, moved to Lafayette, Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina and went to work for the Red Cross as Emergency Services Director.
Banks went on to found and Pastor Full Gospel Ministry and DGAPP (Drugs, Gangs, Awareness Prevention Program) to impact lives of youth and individuals who have been through dealers, addicts, gang members.
He is now connected to the Scout Director for the Dallas Cowboys and with the Canadian Football League with the British Columbia Lions.
“If God can change me, He can change anyone,” said Banks.