Gene went to grammar school in Bay City, Texas. He was, unknown to him, labeled with a “learning problem”, handicapped with a severe case of dyslexia. He was also colorblind. And, no one – including himself – could read his handwriting. Further, even until this day, he cannot spell. What he did know was that he was incredibly shy. To say the least, he was very forgettable.
“I was very forgettable. I always sat on the back row, never uttered a word, and hoped no one asked me a question.”
At the age of thirteen, his mother and dad divorced. Each went their separate ways. Gene requested that he be allowed to go to a military academy. His freshman year was spent at San Marcus Baptist Military Academy in San Marcus, Texas.
“I did not know that the school was basically a reformatory. Most of the boys there had a police record and had been given the choice of either going to a military academy or to reform school. It was a rough year to say the least, but it was one more of those sovereign acts of God in molding my life.”
The next two years Gene lived alone in Cleveland, Texas. Those were hard years because there was an extrovert down inside him trying to get out.
What he did not know about himself was that he had a prodigious memory and had a passion for history and literature. On July 17, 1949, the day before his seventeenth birthday, Gene had, as he describes it, “a head on collision with Jesus Christ.” He was converted to Christ in the backseat floorboard of a 1934 Chevrolet, parked out in a cemetery where he had gone to be alone. Among many, many other things that his conversion wrought, he began soon to tear away from the moorings of shyness.
At that time he planned on being a lawyer. His plans included graduating from law school at Baylor University. He planned on going into politics! In the summer of 1950, just one semester from graduating, Gene met Helen Rogers. He was still 17, she was 19. She was planning to go to the mission field.