Mr. Richard Townsend lives in a small house that was once where slaves called home in the Delta of the Mississippi. The home is approximately 15 feet long and 8 feet wide. It consists of two small rooms with a toilet and kitchenette that was added years and years after slaves, then sharecroppers made the house their residence.
Mr. Townsend who was born in Mississippi, later moved to California. While on the west coast and in his early twenties, he was known for running trackfrom 1976 to 1979. He ran for the Santa Monica Track Club. The track club in California received worldwide recognition in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s after setting numerous world and national records.
I was able to track down information that showed his name on an April 1977 schedule to run in event #33 during the Drake Relays. Townsend ran the 440 yard relay in heat number one. His relay team made the run in 41.34 seconds, placing second in their event.
Today, Richard Townsend pays $125 per month to rent the small home that he has lived in for about 15 years. The area in which he lives is surrounded by drug dealers who harass him on a daily basis and even throw bricks at his house. He told me that people make and sell meth and crack in the neighborhood and drink non-stop. Townsend told me, “As for me, I only drink coffee and juice.”
While talking to Townsend, I witnessed the harassment first hand. Mr. Townsend told the subject who walked up to his house to leave and said to him, “He’s interviewing me, you need to get outta’ here.” The man continued to harass Mr. Townsend until we were finished talking.
Townsend has numerous “No Trespassing” signs posted on nearly every side of the small house. He even has a gate across his front steps so people cannot enter his home. The two do little to keep people away.
As for why he moved back to Mississippi… It was to be with his mother who was near death. She passed away shortly after his arrival and is buried in a cemetery about a mile from his home.
As I left I could see that he was tearing up. I think he enjoyed reminiscing about his mother and his track days. He seemed to be a very kind, open and thankful man.