Quadriplegic west Kentucky native and attorney releases memoir detailing life after coal mine accident
Union County native and attorney Ron Adams became quadriplegic after a coal mining accident in 1977 left him with a broken neck and limited body function. His new book, Coal Mine to Courtroom, was released this month and recounts his journey to law school and beyond after his accident. WKU Public Radio Reporter Dalton York spoke with Ron about the new book and his reflections on his life so far.
Adams: I was injured in the underground coal mines. I was 300 feet down and two miles out. I got my neck broken and couldn't move my arms. And unfortunately, doctors didn't want to give me false hope so they basically said, I was getting ready to turn 20, that I would never be any better than I was at that moment, which I couldn’t even feed myself. And I was faced with, what do you do with that? As I've moved forward in life and got the education, I felt like God really put it on my heart a few years ago that I should write a book, which is nothing that I really wanted to do, but for encouragement, and for hope, because when you go through some of the things I've gone through, if you don't have hope, you haven’t got much.
York: The early part of the book deals a lot with Western Kentucky and your upbringing. And you're a graduate of Murray State. So could you talk a little bit about the significance that Western Kentucky has held for you?
Adams: Oh, absolutely. Growing up, I was in a poor area in Union County, in Uniontown specifically. And there just wasn't a lot of opportunities there. And then I moved to Dawson [Dawson Springs] and had basketball scholarships and loved playing that, but I was still trying to get away from the usual coal mining jobs because that was the main thing at that point. And then after I got injured, I didn't have a choice of what I was gonna do career-wise then. Murray State gave me a good foundation. So, I love Kentucky. I'm not a fan of winter, but I love the weather otherwise. Spring and fall are great.
York: In the book, you talk heavily about some of the personal details of your condition after the accident. So could you describe some of what you talked about in the book and how you learned to cope with it?
Adams: Basically, I guess the worst thing was, in the first 30 days after I was injured, I'd lost 55 pounds. And not being able to feed yourself because even something as simple as that, when somebody’s feeding you, they don’t give you the bite of food you would’ve picked. It’s funny just the little things like that.
York: What sort of impact do you think you've had on Kentucky's legal community throughout your career?
Adams: Well, I think where I'm coming from. I deal with a lot of the average folks who have all the normal issues. I never talk down to them or act like I 'm more important than I am. What I always tell clients is, ‘I'm good at what I do. But I'm sure you have skill sets and you can do things that I can’t do.’ So if you just treat people good, that usually comes back around.