By Amy Silverman
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Monica Alonzo and Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Michael Lacey
By Weston Phippen
"How is that for irony?"
"Someone threatened to stomp on her face, forever, with a boot."-- the Prescott FreePress, June 1997
Until last year, Vince Sanders didn't know much about the First Amendment. He was more an expert in fisticuffs, contraband, prison food, x-rays and coma-inducing 190-proof hooch.Sanders grew up in Independence, Missouri. His grandfather, a junkyard owner and hunting guide for Harry S Truman, was Sanders' best pal and father figure because his father, a traveling musician, was rarely around.
Sanders' grandfather, who lived outside of town, was also a bootlegger. At age 12, Sanders began learning the art of turning corn into moonshine.
That same year, 1970, some Hells Angels moved in down the street from Sanders. He noticed the Hells Angels smoked a lot of a plant that he had seen growing in abundance at his grandfather's farm.
So he and his grandfather began harvesting "ditchweed."
"I showed my grandpa the wad of cash, and he was just amazed," Sanders says. "He told me that, for our efforts, he never made as much money on the moonshine as he did baling that ditchweed."
But the war ended before he finished basic training, and he quickly became bored with noncombat base assignments. So he drank, did whatever drug he could find and started fights. He kept ending up behind bars. He narrowly escaped a dishonorable discharge.
After the Marines, Sanders bounced around the country doing odd jobs and getting thrown into more jails. In Hollywood, he worked as an usher in a porno theater. He worked for printing companies in Missouri and Texas. He was in Vegas for awhile.
Then he showed up in Prescott in 1991 because it had a V.A. hospital. He needed "to dry out."
In April of 1995, Sanders had his girlfriend drive him to the V.A. hospital again to dry out. There he assaulted a nurse, a doctor and two V.A. police officers. Prescott police were called and Sanders was subdued with four shots from a taser gun. He woke up sore and strapped to a gurney in a rubber room. He decided he may in fact have problems.
Sanders says before his first AA meeting at the hospital, he began cursing God and, between f-words, asked God for a sign that there was some point to his life. Sanders knew there was going to be a drawing at the meeting to win an AA book. He told God that if He let him win the book, he would take that as a sign, stop drinking and start making some good of himself.
Sanders didn't win the book. Frustrated and threatening benders and atheism, he returned to his bed. There, on the pillow, was the book.
"The guy who won the book, he said as soon as he touched it, he heard God's voice as clear as day saying, "Put it on Vince's pillow,'" Sanders says. "That did it for me."
"I've been sober for five years now," Sanders says. "I never thought I could do it. But after that, boom, I've done it. And I'm damn proud and damn thankful."
But he wasn't certain about his calling. He continued working part-time at a livestock sale barn. Then three years ago, while sorting cattle in an alley behind the barn, he was knocked down and trampled. He broke his back and pelvis. He couldn't do manual labor anymore. So he decided he'd start taking classes at Yavapai Community College.
He took a shine to journalism. He devoured books. He attended several journalism seminars, taking special interest in legal issues ("My life had been a damn courtroom drama, after all"). He became an honors student and earned a trip to Rome.
Last spring, he became co-editor of the student newspaper. And within the first month, he was beginning to help all hell break loose.
He had found his calling, he says. He was not born to defend America with the sword. He was born to defend America with the pen.
"In two articles, "Faculty and staff express distrust of Dailey Administration' and "College may be involved in felony,' Sanders is guilty of the penultimate journalistic sin -- misuse of a public forum for personal ego enhancement."
-- Art Dykhuis, letter to the editor, Rough Writer, April 2000
In the early 1970s, Yavapai Community College's president was accused of ignoring and oppressing the faculty. The board replaced that president with Joe Russo, who, according to several retired faculty members, created an environment in which administration and faculty worked together to solve problems and build programs.Even Russo's supporters admit he wasn't much of a visionary or leader or administrator. But he cared about people, he was a good listener and he was as committed as any teacher to offering a nurturing environment for learning -- for both teachers and students.
When Russo retired, Paul Walker was brought in as president. The board told him to make the college more efficient and to create a more professional model of governance at the college. Yavapai Community College was growing. It couldn't be run like a one-room school any longer.