TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) - February is Black History Month and our first 2017 edition of African-American Icons is a story of redemption.
An ex-felon, now dedicated to merging the gap between corrections and community.
Pastor Gregory James is an example of how one man has turned his life around and is now giving back.
"It was like a breath of fresh air, like I could breathe again," said Pastor James.
Sentenced to life plus 40 years in federal prison for being part of a drug conspiracy scandal, Pastor Gregory James was released in 2008 after more then a decade behind bars.
He said, "The thing that was so amazing is that I was excited and I have a chance now to mend or correct some of ills that I had partaken in."
Since his release Pastor James has reclaimed his role in the church, launching the ex-offenders national summons, which helps bridge the gap between the department of corrections and community members.
"I had family support -- a lot of community support," said Pastor James. "So one of my goals was that I am going to work hard so that the men who were coming out have what I had."
Pastor James also serves as a support system for his congregation in times of recovery, including helping residents who are affected by disaster, most recently lending a hand to victims of Hurricane Hermine.
"I opened up the church and in doing so the community at large came in and started giving support," he said. "We fed meals 3 times a day, we had people spending the night in the church."
Pastor James not only ministers in the church but over the radio as well.
"It's a show that empowers our community," said Pastor James. "It gives me the opportunity to keep the community aware and abreast of what's going on. It gives me the chance to talk to officials from a state, local, and even national level."
Now almost a decade after being released, Pastor James has made an immeasurable impact on his church and local community and says his past is what motivates him to make his future brighter.
"The motivating factor is that no one is telling me what time to get to the chow hall, no one is telling me to state my number to go into an office," said Pastor James. "The motivating factor is that I've got live to make a difference in someones life and that's what I'm going to do."
Going the extra mile to help others; that's what makes Pastor Greg James an African-American Icon.
Pastor James continues to advocate for those incarcerated and the families affected.
One of his most notable projects include "Champion", a group that supports children of parents behind bars.
James has also led several empowerment marches and job fairs to help ex-felons re-enter society.
Be sure to tune into WTXL ABC 27 every Tuesday evening during the month of February, for our African-American Icon series.