Wilbert Rideau

Wilbert Rideau spent 44 years in Louisiana’s infamous Angola penitentiary. While there, he served for 25 years as editor of The Angolite, the nation’s only uncensored prisoner-produced publication. He is author of In the Place of Justice: A Story of Punishment and Deliverance. Below, Rideau tells us a bit more about himself.

Q. What do you consider to be the greatest simple pleasure?

A. Enjoying nature.

Q. Where would we find you at 10 a.m. on a typical Saturday?

A. Make it 11 a.m. and I’m on my patio eating lunch and listening to birds and watching squirrels.

Q. What do you do to clear your mind?

A. Jog with my next-door neighbor.

Q. What do you wish you had the nerve to do?

A. I wish I could network. It’s socializing but it’s socializing with a purpose. I’m good with socializing, but that purposefulness, I’m resistant to it and I don’t know why.

Q. What music have you listened to today?

A. None. I’m in a hotel. They don’t play music, at least not the kind I listen to.

Q. When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

A. A space man, like Buck Rogers. Back then we called them space men instead of astronauts. The world I lived in didn’t encourage those kinds of dreams. They were pretty hostile to them.

Q. If you could take only one more journey, where would you go?

A. If I don’t say Rome, my wife is going to kill me. But I’d want to go see the Grand Canyon. I just imagine it to be an awesome and powerful display of creation. I’m drawn to it. I want to stand up on the edge of it and just suck it up, just feel it.

Q. What is your most prized material possession?

A. A cheap lapel pin that Johnnie Cochran gave me when he visited me in prison about a decade ago. He took the pin off his lapel and placed it on my prison uniform. The pin says “Expect a Miracle.” Several months later, the federal court threw out my conviction, which is responsible for my being here today. That’s the only lapel pin I own. It’s the only one I will ever own.

Q. What is your favorite thing about Los Angeles?

A. I’ve never been here before. So far everything I see is beautiful. I’m at the Beverly Hilton. I’ve driven through Bel Air, and now I’m here at the Skirball. I wish I could live in some of these homes I see. I think I’ll need a few bestsellers just to get through the gates.

Q. Who is the one person living or dead you would most like to meet for dinner?

A. I really want to meet my wife for dinner. I’ve been away for a week.

To read about Rideau’s talk, click here.

*Photo by Aaron Salcido.