February 28

Episode 1408: Interview with Michael Tate Barkley about his Book Sunday Dinners, Moonshine, and Men

Inspired Stewardship Podcast, Interview


Join us today for the Interview with Tate Barkley, author of Sunday Dinners, Moonshine, and Men...

This is the interview I had with speaker, lawyer, and author Tate Barkley.  

In today’s podcast episode I interview Tate Barkley.  I ask Tate about how growing up in the south as a closeted gay man affected his life.  I also ask Tate about how his faith evolved and affected his journey. I also ask Tate about his relationship with his father and alcohol.

Join in on the Chat below.

Episode 1408: Interview with Michael Tate Barkley about his Book Sunday Dinners, Moonshine, and Men

[00:00:00] Scott Maderer: Thanks for joining us on Episode 1, 408 of the Inspired Stewardship Podcast.

[00:00:07] Tate Barkley: I'm Tate Barkley. I challenge you to invest in yourself. Invest in others. Develop your influence and impact the world by using your time, your talent, and your treasure to live out your calling. Having the ability to find a place of rigorous honesty and rigorous service to others is key.

[00:00:28] And one way to be inspired to do that is to listen to this, the Inspired Stewardship Podcast, with my friend, Scott Maderer.

[00:00:44] It's 300. And I've saved 125 and Ms. Copeland and Ms. Moreau, those teachers, they're pitching in the rust for you to go. So there's, there's a lot of people trying here, [00:01:00] Bub. So you go and do your best. And it changed my life. Welcome

[00:01:06] Scott Maderer: and thank you for joining us on the Inspired Stewardship Podcast. If you truly desire to become the person who God wants you to be, then you must learn to use your time, your talent, and your treasures for your true calling.

[00:01:20] In the Inspired Stewardship Podcast, you will learn to invest in yourself, invest in others, and develop your influence so that you can impact the world.

[00:01:39] In today's podcast episode, I interviewed Tate Barkley. I asked Tate about how growing up in the South as a closeted gay man affected his life. I also asked Tate about how his faith evolved and affected his journey. And I asked Tate about his relationship with his father and alcohol and how that changed his life.

[00:01:58] I've got a new book [00:02:00] coming out called Inspired Living, assembling the puzzle of your call by mastering your time, your talent, and your treasures. You can find out more about it and sign up for getting more information over at InspiredStewardship. com Inspired Living. That's InspiredStewardship. com Inspired Living.

[00:02:22] Tate Barclay carried the burden of shame for years, stemming from poverty, addiction, and the struggle of being a closeted gay man. Through seeks to inspire others by sharing his transformative journey. His memoir, released in 2023, unveils his troubled relationship with his father and his path to overcoming shame and a scarcity mindset.

[00:02:47] Tate reflects on his challenging childhood from rural North Carolina to poverty in Central Florida, and then their move in the 1970s to Houston. He details his battle with repressed sexuality and escalating drinking, [00:03:00] leading to him finding rock bottom. Tate's story resonates as he pursues self acceptance and inner peace.

[00:03:06] He's now a Houston based attorney, a speaker, an author, an educator, and Tate lives in Houston with his husband, Anson, and their dog, Emerson. Welcome to the show, Tate.

[00:03:17] Tate Barkley: Thank you. Thank you for having me, Scott. I'm glad

[00:03:19] Scott Maderer: to be here. Absolutely. I'm, I'm looking forward to us talking today and I shared a lot in the intro about you, you've had.

[00:03:29] Journey through alcoholism, you found sobriety, you grew up in the South, being gay, but being in the closet and dealing with that, a lot of things that happened to you throughout your life. Can you talk a little bit more about that journey and why it brought you to the point of wanting to put out this book Sunday dinners, moonshine and men what brought you to put this out into the world?

[00:03:58] Tate Barkley: Thanks, Scott. And [00:04:00] thank you for having me here. And at this point in my life, I am a recent author as you shared with everybody already. So what brought me here? I got it. I have to tell you, it was a little bit of circuitous route. I did. I was born in North Carolina. I was born in rural North Carolina.

[00:04:19] And the dynamic was whenever in those days, at least it was for me, but with respect to the book, what got me to this point is my dad was a classic, flimflam man, as I call it. He was charismatic, he was fun, he could talk to anybody, but he was always chasing some get rich quick scheme.

[00:04:46] And sadly, I have to confess to everybody, he never got rich but that was just who he was. And he was that flimflam man doused in toxic masculinity. And I came from a place [00:05:00] the world's south that expected boys to be men and you had to behave a certain way and you had to act a certain way.

[00:05:07] And my dad was that way. I had to play football. I had to be tough. And if you needed to whoop somebody, you go whoop somebody. And that's the way that it was. And over the years, particularly because I was You know, inside I, I knew probably by the time I was about in sixth grade that, that I was attracted to other guys and I remember vividly in watching the CBS evening news.

[00:05:35] I'll never forget it. We were living out on a trailer out on Barkley Farm Road, a mobile home, as some folks call it. And there was this. News clip about the Gay Freedom Pride Parade in San Francisco. And I remember my dad just reached over with his foot and he kicked me and he said, Bob, I better never.

[00:05:59] [00:06:00] And so I was already in the pattern of repressing who I was and how I felt because both sides of the family came from very religious. They were very religious and they had a very You know, their views on things such as being gay is, of course, it's an abomination. It's right there in the Old Testament, for God's sake.

[00:06:22] And the way they looked at the world was as a person, you are your sin not you have sinned, but you are your sin. And that's the message I got early now to how this book came out to where we are today. I think as a result of that repression, I did drink and I was a practicing alcoholic and I am grateful that I eventually found recovery and part of that recovery experience for me.

[00:06:57] Was you do a lot of writing in the 12 step program [00:07:00] for a lot of different reasons and my dad died in 2012 and so it was habit for me to write and I still had so many unreconciled issues with him. So I remember I was down on Galveston on the beach and I just pulled out a notepad and started writing about it.

[00:07:17] And I wrote, I don't know, 10, 12 pages really about my dad and I, and my handwriting is horrible, so I dictated it, and I gave it to the transcriptionist at work, and she gave it back, and I said, if you could transcribe this, I'll try to edit it, and I did that. And then I got busy at work.

[00:07:39] And about four months later the lady that was the transcriptionist knocked on my door and she said, do you have any transcription for me? And I said yeah, I just gave you the, the motion to compel and da this morning. And she said, no, about your book. And I said, book?

[00:07:59] Yeah, the [00:08:00] book you're writing, I want to know how it ends. So I wish I had a far more know where she ought to have a byline on the book. And when she said, I want to know how it ends. I'm like, Wow,

[00:08:19] Scott Maderer: really? It's not over yet. I'm still living it.

[00:08:25] Tate Barkley: But I think and what she was trying to say, what all happened with your dad and all of that? And so therein lies what started as me just trying to do some what we call 10th step or 4th step work in, in recovery. And I thought to myself maybe I could make it a book.

[00:08:46] And so that's how we got Sunday dinners, moonshine and men. It came from there. So

[00:08:52] Scott Maderer: let me ask you a couple of follow up questions. Growing up in, in the South and that kind [00:09:00] of environment. Did you, and yet now you still live in the South. And you live not too far up the road for where I do.

[00:09:12] And I know the people that live around you cause I live around some of them too. So I guess how have things changed

[00:09:21] Tate Barkley: for

[00:09:21] Scott Maderer: you and how has it not changed? Being in, still being in the South with where you are today.

[00:09:30] Tate Barkley: Things have changed a lot. I was late to coming out.

[00:09:35] I was 28. I really held on to what had been branded in my head at church by my family, by my dad for a long time. And unquestionably, the, just the toll of repressing your true self takes, there's no doubt that I'm not going to say it caused my alcoholism, certainly, but I'm going to say [00:10:00] certainly, exacerbated it.

[00:10:02] And it was a big part of why I needed to drink. And I didn't just drink to have fun. I drank to cope. It was my coping mechanism. And so how things changed really for me still in the South, we moved from rural North Carolina to Houston when I was about in eighth grade, seventh grade.

[00:10:26] And. And the views were pretty much the same here, except there was more different types of people here in a bigger urban mass like Houston bigger metropolitan area. Yeah. I had never seen a Latino in person. Before I came to Houston, I'd seen him on TV, but I'd never seen him in person.

[00:10:47] This is like 1977. And so it was a whole different experience for me, but what, but there was still that tough guy culture here in Texas. It was all over the [00:11:00] place and a man's supposed to be a man and a woman's supposed to be a woman, and that was still there. And I can say I first started coming out when I just couldn't take it anymore.

[00:11:13] And when I had a friend of mine from high school, that was really my first secret boyfriend when I was 16, I knew that he had come out and he was a lawyer and he was in Houston. And he and I literally stopped our relationship because we felt too much shame, too much guilt from what we were doing.

[00:11:35] We literally thought it was hurting our, the two of us expressing these feelings physically for each other. We thought it was harming our country. And keep in mind, I'm at I'm living in Ronald Reagan's America. This is the summer of 81. That was how we felt and how we had been trained to think that was the message that was said, right?

[00:11:58] That's the message and it was [00:12:00] everywhere at the time. So When I finally came out I was well into my alcoholism So my journey coming out was a rocky one and it really just involved a lot of drinking and going to the gay bars And then I finally crashed. So what changed was the question. Obviously a lot changed.

[00:12:24] I had to get sober. I eventually came out. But what changed around me during that time was when I was willing to be honest with who I was, when I was willing to say, I am a gay man, I became courageous enough to go find my community. And there was a community and there was a big one and there was a large gay community here in Houston and in Dallas and in Austin, and mainly in the urban areas, of course and I just had to reach out for help.

[00:12:57] The help was there. Now, [00:13:00] had my family changed back in North Carolina or my dad and my mom? No, they really hadn't. And that was the hard part. I'll be honest with you, Scott. I did not tell my dad face to face that I was gay until he was, he had his last illness and I regret that I waited so long and my mom was old school South too.

[00:13:23] And when I told her, she says son, it'll, I'll just have to get accept this or become accustomed to this in my own time. It'll take me a while. I just worry for you. And I get that. She said, I just want you to be happy, but as you said, you can live in certain places where if you're openly gay it's not safe for you.

[00:13:53] Scott Maderer: Jasper, Texas is not that far from Houston. And that's right. Not that many years ago that the very famous case [00:14:00] of a gay male being dragged by the pickup truck. Yeah,

[00:14:03] Tate Barkley: so yeah, so you got to be vigilant. I remember I tell people that you really have to be vigilant. And when I was a kid, I really, and I have instances, I talk about it in the book where I had an instance where I wasn't as vigilant as I should have been.

[00:14:16] And it happened in the boys locker room in eighth grade. And I'm literally getting caught. It was an awful experience for me that eventually led to physical fighting. And there were other close calls like that in those days. And. Yeah. And but what has happened over time, the point here is that once I became honest about it and began finding my community and the world started changing too and the people that I'm around, I choose the people that I'm around, I'm not around toxic, neurominded people.

[00:14:50] I just don't have them in my life. And. And nor do I, hide who I am. My [00:15:00] clients know who I am. My staff knows who I am. All my family, of course, knows who I am. My friends do. I don't hide it anymore. Because I realized that there are people who love me and if you don't tell the truth and be true to yourself and true to those around you you'll never that's how you find out who loves you.

[00:15:28] And and I'll tell you, and if I'm talking too much, just let me know, Scott but I'll tell, but I'll tell you that once I started recovery, having a higher power is a big part of the 12 step regimen. And I have to tell you, I felt my God, my higher power had turned his back on me. I was raised early evangelical Christian had turned his back on me.

[00:15:56] And that didn't help with the drinking either [00:16:00] when you feel

[00:16:00] Scott Maderer: that way. But you felt alienated from your earthly father, from your heavenly father, from, yeah, everybody.

[00:16:06] Tate Barkley: Yeah. Yeah. And but you have a higher power of your own understanding in AA and So that helped a lot. So I God is a part of my life.

[00:16:23] And and that was the, probably the best thing about AA for me. I was able to come back to faith. and come back to a God of my understanding. And that was huge. You feel safe when you have faith, you feel safe when you have God, regardless of really what's going on around you. You can be scared, but deep inside you feel safe if God is with you.

[00:16:52] And I've, I feel like God is with me.

[00:16:55] Scott Maderer: And that was honestly, thank you for going there. Cause that's. that's on [00:17:00] what I was going to follow up on next is you mentioned religion several times, you mentioned faith several times I'm a Methodist, the Methodist church right now is going through a big split and part over in large part over differences in, in our quote bylaws or what they call the book of discipline about how Currently, it says certain things about homosexuality.

[00:17:23] Some people want to change it. Some people don't in the back and forth. And because of that, folks have left and members are angry. And there's a lot of hurt. I use that as an example of religion and a religious expression. And I'm very deliberately using the word religion. Sure. What you were just talking about was faith.

[00:17:44] which to me, I like to point out to people, those are not actually the same word on purpose. How have you reconciled that difference between what you sometimes get as messages in terms of religion and where you've arrived at today in terms of your faith [00:18:00] and your understanding?

[00:18:01] Tate Barkley: I'll share this with you.

[00:18:05] Cause I was struggling as I said, I was struggling with God in my drinking days, absolutely. And I was struggling with God in my days of early sobriety too. It's a process to find a higher power. It's a process to work through the root causes of, it, my self hate that I had built up over the years was incredibly powerful foe and it was one I created which was so in recovery helped me deal with that.

[00:18:40] But I'll say this, one of the things that they emphasized in there is to find a higher power of your understanding. And in my head, I always associated that Old Testament biblical God with so much hate and brimstone and judgment. And, But I was working with my [00:19:00] AA sponsor and I just didn't know if I could be comfortable going back to my notion of a Christian God.

[00:19:09] And some folks out there that hear this, they're going to chuckle and they're going to say, is he a grown man? When you hear this story, you are, I, it was Easter and it was Easter 2001. And I had just come back from an Easter dinner and I was laying on my couch, flipping through the TV. And there was a clay animation program on about Jesus and it was these clay animation.

[00:19:41] I said, you're going to chuckle. I do it. And in these clay animation figures told the story of Jesus about his short life on earth and the story of. Who he hung out with and his followers and how merciful he was and how [00:20:00] forgiving he was. And yet that same person was passionate and courageous, but yet kind and tender and turned no one away.

[00:20:10] And turn no one away. And when that program concluded, I said, that's my God. That's my higher power right there. Because in AA, they said, you can have any kind of higher power you want. You can make it a doorknob if you want to. You just need one. And, but when that little clay animation cartoon story of Easter finished, I said, that's my higher power.

[00:20:38] It is Jesus. It is God, his father. I just saw it in a totally different light and because if you look at the words of Jesus, wow really, wow. Not how other people characterize them, but the actual words themselves. And I said, that, [00:21:00] that is my higher power right there. So I wound up coming home, coming full circle.

[00:21:05] I sure did. And I wound up coming full circle because, I was now reinterpreting my own Bible. Someone wasn't doing it for me and and that was okay. And and since then, I've always felt close to God since then. I've always I know he is my higher power and and I know he is in my life and I know we walk together.

[00:21:37] It's just a matter of some days we walk closer together because I allow him in and other days. I want it to be all about me and those days get a lot rockier than Scott. I can tell you this. As soon as I put myself in charge, stuff starts messing up if I just let go [00:22:00] and let God gently steer me.

[00:22:04] Everything seems to work out so much better. But man, my ego, it's constant stroke. In

[00:22:11] Scott Maderer: other words, you're human? Is that what you're telling me? It turns out that you're a

[00:22:14] Tate Barkley: person? I'm still human. . So annoying. I

[00:22:24] Scott Maderer: think it's funny because as you were talking, I had in a different way We talked about this before we, we scheduled the interview when we were getting to know each other a little bit about I grew up in an alcoholic household.

[00:22:40] I I am I'm not gay, but I have my own things that I, people have frowned at, or actually, honestly, my, my views on homosexuality get me chewed out sometimes because my attitude about it is, I don't know if it's a sin or [00:23:00] not, but. It's not up to me anyway, so I don't care. My job is to love on everybody.

[00:23:05] I don't care. Guess what? I love on my pastor, and she's probably done something that's listed as a sin at one time or another. And I love on me, and I for sure have done things that are listed as sins at one time or another. So whether or not I guess what I'm saying is there's these.

[00:23:25] things that we have that we set up as absolutes in our lives. And I think so often you, it sounds like you've come to a place of being able to be comfortable with the idea that your place in this relationship is to. To be there to be in relationship with God, the rest of this will take care of itself whatever that's supposed to be, whatever that's supposed to look like, is that accurate?

[00:23:53] Am I misrepresenting?

[00:23:55] Tate Barkley: No, I think that's right. And I fundamentally believe probably [00:24:00] the biggest wrestling match I have in my life is. I truly try to do God's will. And and I believe that's why I'm here. I'm here to do God's will. And and I pray to know what that is on a daily basis.

[00:24:23] And now I take it back from God sometimes, as soon as I walk out the door to go to work. But some days I don't and you're working back more

[00:24:34] Scott Maderer: of those days than the first, right?

[00:24:36] Tate Barkley: If I can put together a year where I have more days. Where I let God be in charge in fewer days where I put me in charge, man, I'm declaring victory.

[00:24:47] I'm still not there yet. I'm working on it. I'm getting a little better. I think I keep telling myself I can't wait until I'm retired, so maybe it'll be easier to do God's will then. I don't [00:25:00] know. I'm trying. I know, I swear to God. Oh my goodness. But yeah I look back and I did come from a very conservative background and none of my grandmothers learned that I was gay.

[00:25:17] They passed before I, I came out and my grandmothers and on the book that I have, it's called Sunday dinners. And one of the reasons Sunday dinners is how I lead with that is I had a grandmother, she was ARP Presbyterian. I don't know if your listeners know what an ARP Presbyterian is, but that was a Southern group of Presbyterians that broke off from the main church.

[00:25:40] So she was ARP. And. And we would go to, I went to church with her and I loved my grandmother Kirkman. She was the sweetest, most Christian lady I ever won, I ever did. And my life with dad was very chaotic and tumultuous and crazy. But Sundays I would be [00:26:00] with her for church and Sunday school. And she always cooked Sunday dinners.

[00:26:05] And that was important to me, not only because the dinners were so good and she would cook them from scratch. But she made me feel safe and I loved going to church and even on my dad's side, they were Lutheran. I loved the ritual of the Lutheran tradition. I enjoyed ritual from a young age and I liked that about their service.

[00:26:32] But that's what kind of hurts a bad. I liked church. So why did they not want me? And I think I carried that with me, but I remember how safe church felt whenever I was with my grandmother, and that was the Sunday dinners part kind of it. It symbolizes that early time in my childhood where church was a huge part of my life, but I knew from a very young age that somehow I was different and [00:27:00] somehow I didn't feel like I belonged.

[00:27:02] And it wasn't until I was much older why I felt that way came about. And the second part of the title, the moonshine part I mentioned you talked about the alcoholism for you. Your dad also struggled with alcohol. He did. He did. Yeah. How did that obviously that also has an influence on whether or not you grew up an alcoholic because every study says that.

[00:27:30] Scott Maderer: So forget the, beyond the other part that you talked about, how did that relationship affect as you decided to get sober yourself? How did it affect that relationship with your dad and that

[00:27:44] Tate Barkley: part? Okay. I'll tell you the moonshine part. It's if my dad were here he would be grinning like a mule eating briars, as he would say.

[00:27:58] [00:28:00] Because the part of the book's named Moonshine. My great grandmother, Mary Isabella Sharp Barkley was a moonshiner and she had 3 stills out on 3rd Creek. The Barkley land in Iredell County, North Carolina ran between 3rd and 5th Creek and she had 3 stills. out on Third Creek where she made moonshine and she was known to have mastered.

[00:28:26] the art of making good corn liquor. So it ran in the family and my dad, his first job before he graduated high school and just out of high school, even after prohibition ended, a lot of people still enjoyed their corn liquor, though that was illegal cause it wasn't regulated. And my dad ran Moonshine.

[00:28:47] The cover of the book is a is a Dodge. My dad loved Dodge and he, and that's what he ran Moonshine in. And he was a heavy drinker. And he liked drinking [00:29:00] and all the fun in our house when the neighbors would come over and my dad's friends would come over was around drinking. It's all I ever saw.

[00:29:10] And though my grandmother's frowned upon it. Let me tell you, Scott, when we got to Texas dad gave up being a flim flam man because he went broke. But he got a job in the refineries. So it wasn't long that we were here in Texas. Just what working folks do in the Gulf coast, if we're, it's a ref, I call it the refinery culture.

[00:29:32] You live and breathe the refineries literally. And my dad got into the refinery. So all his buddies were good old boys out of the refineries and you drank, you shot pool, you went to the ice house, you listened to country music, and if somebody pissed you off, you whooped their and that was the life.

[00:29:49] And that's what you did. And my dad drank to the day, literally to the day he died, too. It was part of becoming [00:30:00] a man, and I'll tell you, I, Scott, my dad was a hard man, and he was emotionally violent, and he could be physically violent, sometimes towards us kids, but often towards my mom, and I hated him.

[00:30:17] I hated him. I couldn't wait to go to college. And I hated him. But my dad and I, that, that relationship changed when we became drinking buddies. Oh, I put all that aside just because he was one hell of a drinking buddy. I want to tell you. And then when I got sober, our relationship went right back to its low point.

[00:30:44] I flew home from Hazelden, which is a treatment facility in Center City, Minnesota. I did 28 days. Chemical dependency treatment up there. And when I flew home, I flew out of Minneapolis back to Houston. And when I flew home, [00:31:00] my dad was there to pick me up at the airport. And my dad was three sheets to the wind drunk, Scott, when he picked me up.

[00:31:10] And in the whole trip home, I said, dad, maybe I should drive. No, God blah, blah, blah. And he's did they teach you how to drink? Did they teach you how to drink like me? So are you a T totaler now? So that was my 1st day back. After rehab. And when I got home, dad was still kept drinking my first day home, my first two hours home from 28 days in rehab for alcoholism.

[00:31:36] And dad knows where I went in for why. And then he proceeded to berate my mom and sister for going to an Al Anon meeting and Al Anon is like a support recovery group for folks. And at that point, my baby sister. Who was very young and had only been married three months. She just reached over and touched my hand and said, you need to come to live with me.

[00:31:58] And [00:32:00] cause by this time, Scott, I did, I was living with my parents again because my alcoholism had cost me all my money, my house, and a lucrative law practice that I had built. I lost it all and it was back at home. And then I was, then I had to go live with my baby sister to start getting on my feet again.

[00:32:23] I talk about a lot of that in the book, but that's where I began this rebuilding and this journey of humility that that, that has really been the last 24 years. What do you hope

[00:32:40] Scott Maderer: folks that pick up this book and read it what's your hope that they get out of it?

[00:32:47] Tate Barkley: Here's three things.

[00:32:48] I can tell you the three things I really hope folks get out of the book. The first one is rigorous honesty. And what I mean by that is is this. [00:33:00] It's not just cash register honesty. That's not just cheating somebody to cash register or not stealing something that you can easily steal. I hope people get out of there, the value of that rigorous honesty.

[00:33:12] And it starts with yourself. I had to come clean. That I was an alcoholic. Otherwise, I was killing myself and really killing the people who loved me, who were, that I was asking, watching me commit a slow suicide. That's a lot to ask the people who love you is to have them watch you commit slow suicide.

[00:33:40] And I had to be honest about who I was, and that is that I was a gay man. And I really didn't start truly coming to grips with that until I got sober. And when I say rigorous honesty, it means that to be honest with yourself about who [00:34:00] you really are. And I ask people all the time, I say, look, you don't need have to reckon with me.

[00:34:08] We're people. We're not a bank. book we're not a ledger. You don't have to reconcile yourself with all these freaking expectations or in things. I tell people all the time, I said, look, I have stayed up two nights in a row getting ready for a trial in federal court or whatever. I'm a practicing civil litigator.

[00:34:30] And I have also sat home on a rainy weekend and watched squid game for 10 hours straight on Netflix. I'm that same person. I'm the lazy so and so that can't get off the couch, and I'm also that person who could work that hard getting ready for a trial. We don't have to. We don't have to write something up and say, that's who we are.

[00:34:56] We are who we are, and we can be honest about it. And the [00:35:00] other thing about honesty, quick thing here, Scott, about honesty, is Harvey Milk said he was really the first openly gay politician we know about, and he had a saying, he said come out, wherever you are. And boy, that is so true.

[00:35:15] When I started knowing that there were other gays around me, it made my journey so much easier, but back. In rural North Carolina in the 70s, I didn't know once there was not one single out person that we knew and anywhere around me, but yet, if you're out, whether you're what, whatever that is, then it's okay to be honest about it and the second thing is I've had so many angels in my life, people that, that helped me when they didn't have to, I'll tell you a quick story there, if I may, Back whenever I was in eighth grade, [00:36:00] we did not have a lot of money.

[00:36:02] There were five of us kids still at home and my dad was working in the refineries and my mom was a stay at home mom. We were all we were broke all the time, Scott, always. And one day in my eighth grade public speaking class. There was a lady there that I didn't recognize. There was my teacher and another lady I didn't recognize.

[00:36:24] And after I gave my speech, Ms. Moreau, my eighth grade speech teacher, came up to me and said, this is Ms. Copeland. She's the debate coach up at the high school you're going to. And I said, okay. And Ms. Copeland takes me out in the hall and I'm thinking, what the heck did I do wrong to where the high school teacher now wants to I thought I was getting in trouble for something.

[00:36:45] And when she walks me out in the hall and she says, do you know what debate is? And I said, yeah, I have a general idea. And she says I'm the debate speech teacher and your high school is very competitive and I'm very competitive. And I've heard you [00:37:00] speak and your teacher speaks a lot of you and I

[00:37:02] Scott Maderer: want you because you've already got a reputation.

[00:37:04] Right.

[00:37:06] Tate Barkley: But she says, look, I'm busy. I don't have time to teach you how to debate. You need to go to, to, to the debate camp, Baylor debate camp this summer. And I was getting all excited. I could join the debate team. This is it. I could, I felt immediately this is my way out. This is something I can do, right?

[00:37:25] This is my way out. And then my heart dropped because we didn't have money for Baylor debate camp. We weren't that kind of family that had that kind of money. But let me tell you what happened. She sent a note home. My dad called her 2 weeks past. My dad says, I got to call this lady again. Man, she really wants you to go to this debate camp.

[00:37:52] And he looked at me and he says, do you want to go son? And I said, yes, dad, I want to go. [00:38:00] I think I can be good at this. He went off. We would have to drive to the convenience store. We didn't have a phone. So we'd have to drive to a convenience store to use a phone. After the second call to Ms. Copeland, the high school teacher, he came in the car and he said, Okay, you really want to go to this debate camp?

[00:38:19] And I said, Yes, sir. And he says you're gonna go. He says, I've saved, it's 300. And I've saved 125. And Ms. Copeland and Ms. Moreau, those teachers, they're pitching in the rest for you to go. So there's a lot of people trying here, Bob. They call me Bubba is what they call me at home. There's a lot of people trying here, Bob.

[00:38:44] So you go and do your best. And it changed my life. My dad. You're a lawyer now. I know I'm a lawyer of that, right? Yeah, that's right. So thank God for dad [00:39:00] forking over the family savings, which totaled 125 for me to go to the bank camp. And those 2, those were, and let me say this. And if you want to get mad at me, y'all can, but public school teachers who kicked in their own money to help a student out and it changed my life.

[00:39:18] And one of the things my dad used to say, he said, Bob, one of the reasons I came to Houston is I didn't want you to grow up and work in a furniture plant. And there's nothing wrong with that. All my uncles worked in a furniture plant, but dad.

[00:39:35] And and I wound up not only that helped being a lawyer and after going there and I said, dad, I can see how I could be a trial lawyer and do all of this. And he says, good. He says, this family needs a lawyer. Because my dad had been put in jail four or five times. For a variety of things.

[00:39:55] He'd see the

[00:39:56] Scott Maderer: need for a good lawyer.[00:40:00] I want to call out something though you, you talked about the friction that you had with your dad and feeling hatred for him and all of that. And again I hear a lot of the echoes of my dad. And I can remember my dad saying, I love you to me one time in my entire life.

[00:40:17] And it was literally when I had gone to mom and dad, very upset about something, very depressed, suicidal. And one of the things I mentioned to my dad is I've never heard you say, I love you. And he said in response of course I love you. It's that's the context by which I've never heard and yet I do.

[00:40:37] Now as an adult, looking back on it, there's things like. Your story of that $125. Your dad loved you .

[00:40:45] Tate Barkley: He did. No, he did. There's no doubt.

[00:40:48] Scott Maderer: It sounds like he had a hard time showing it. Sometimes but

[00:40:54] Tate Barkley: no and it is true. And I think [00:41:00] I like to think here I am so many years later and it's really been almost 40 years since then.

[00:41:08] It'll be 40 years in 2028, but. Since that happened, but I, there, there's, and my dad did love me and he struggled being an adult and I look, I can look back on my dad now. He was a classic narcissist. He was deeply disappointed in how his life had turned out and but yet I don't think he ever realized that, his alcoholism really held him back. Sure. But he never connected that. I can look back on his life and examine it and I can see because he was so smart and But and I think if he you know, anyway

[00:41:57] Scott Maderer: It's been able to deal with those demons then [00:42:00] maybe he could have actually made something out of himself

[00:42:02] Tate Barkley: Yeah, he had a lot of demons that he couldn't quite work through And like all of those, so

[00:42:08] Scott Maderer: you mentioned there were three things I've heard to, I think rigorous honesty and what were the, so what were the, yeah,

[00:42:15] Tate Barkley: the first one's rigorous honesty to is to acknowledge and love the angels in your life, the people that help you out along the way.

[00:42:23] Just let them know how much you appreciate it. And the third one, of course, is his service to others because I always seem to feel at my best and I always feel like I'm the best me whenever I'm helping others. And when I get too caught up in my own mind and my own wants, I start veering off the road.

[00:42:47] But yet, whenever I'm helping somebody else, which is something that we, it's really beat in our head and recovery and 12 step recovery about being of service to others because. We recognize that we're, [00:43:00] we have challenges as individuals, but when we're helping, when we're thinking, when I'm thinking, let me speak for myself, when I'm thinking about someone else, I'm not busy creating a bunch of crap in my own head about me and getting in my own way.

[00:43:16] So that's really the 3 things from the book that I hope people take out of it.

[00:43:22] Scott Maderer: And I think to to, to call out the service to others part As well, I think, again, that's that I go back to what we were talking about earlier with faith and religion and the judging others for things.

[00:43:43] You often hear, and I've heard this more in the South than anywhere, but this idea of hate the sin, love the sinner, or we're not supposed to judge people, but call out and tell them when they're screwing up, and it's wait, how do you do one of [00:44:00] those without the other and there's all this kind of messaging around that, and yet we're also told and again, this is something you'll hear in a conservative church in the South it's about love God first, love others, and serve others, take care of others, do, be stewardship and all of these things.

[00:44:20] How have you been able to reconcile that, that dichotomy that you see in serving others, treating others well, caring about others, and then Again, I know you're carrying the same sort of the roots of the Southern that kind of comes across sometimes the opposite way unintentionally, I don't think it's intentional, but it's there, you

[00:44:44] Tate Barkley: know?

[00:44:45] Yeah. I struggled with reconciling that not only when I was drinking, but I certainly, even in my early recovery and as time went on, I realized [00:45:00] I have my relationship with God. And it is a unique relationship and it is one that I treasure and you have your relationship and we each have our own relationship with God and we are each on our own respective journeys and boy, it is hard for me not to get into a wrestling match with people.

[00:45:23] I consider narrow minded and because I did such for many years and while they were pulling out Leviticus I was pulling out John's and I was pulling out Luke and Matthew and quoting the actual words of G. I did that wrestling and at the end of that big text Bible quote and wrestling match that I just had with this person, no one had changed their mind,[00:46:00] but yet we were all very aggravated and upset with each other.

[00:46:04] So I just stopped doing it. And recognize they're all on their own journey. And from time to time I have some friends of mine some old friends of mine who are, who go to very conservative churches. And they'll ask me this special thing is happening at church. Will you go with me?

[00:46:21] And absolutely, I will go. And even though they don't view the world the way that I do, I'm still grateful that they welcomed me into their place of worship and I try not to pass judgment on it. I think the only time, when that breaks into the civic or political square, then I still get a little riled up.

[00:46:51] But when we're purely talking about people in their faith journey, then they can have theirs and I can have mine. [00:47:00] And they're welcome at my church and I hope I'm welcome at theirs. And sometimes I am and sometimes I'm not.

[00:47:06] Scott Maderer: Yeah. And of course, yeah, sometimes it does try to break into the public square in terms of discrimination at work or treatment and and.

[00:47:17] As much has changed and as quickly as some things changed I now see some of that pushback that the pendulum swing, trying to push back the other direction that I think is natural and normal doesn't mean I have to like it but I think that's how we tend to do things a lot and our culture with you as a lawyer, that part of it.

[00:47:43] How do you think your upbringing has affected how you see things as a

[00:47:47] Tate Barkley: lawyer? I would say like this a couple of things here important to me. Number one is. is[00:48:00] the families that I grew up in, none of them had a lot of money. They were working folks and my mom's people were in town and they worked in the furniture plants and my dad's folks were farmers.

[00:48:14] And when they stopped being farmers, they worked in the furniture plants or the textile mills. That's just the way it was in North Carolina in those days. And they had limited means. And as such, you can observe when you're of limited means, the world kind of steps all over you or can step all over.

[00:48:34] You're not always, but it can step all over you. And those voices are not as powerful as other voices, right? My childhood in the South with my families affected me that way is that I always wanted people of limited means to be able to have a voice. And frankly, the easiest place for them to have a voice is in the courts.

[00:48:56] And in front of 12 people, and I am a [00:49:00] firm believer in a jury, not a perfect

[00:49:01] Scott Maderer: system, but it's better than,

[00:49:05] Tate Barkley: But if you, under the right circumstances, you can empower a lot of people who have been abused and I'm proud of that about our system. So there there's that, and I think.

[00:49:17] Secondly, it impacted me as a lawyer in that I have lived in 2 different worlds. Now, I have lived in a very narrow conservative world. I have lived in a rural existence, and I've lived in a very urban existence, and as such as I interact with my clients, as I interact with a jury pool, or witnesses, I've been blessed with having a wealth of experiences with all different types of people, and I think it gives, and certainly growing up poor It gives you an empathy.

[00:49:58] And I think if you can empathize [00:50:00] with people and you can connect with them. then it really makes being a lawyer one much easier. And it certainly validates the work that we do a lot more. So I liked, I'll be frank. I have been blessed in that I have had a successful life and dad, I remember when dad said he was moving us to Houston, he said Bob, Houston's booming.

[00:50:32] Houston's booming. We're going to go there. And he was so excited about us coming from Houston because we were flat broke. And he says, and I'll never forget. He says, Bob, I'm, I just know all our dreams can come true there. And I got to tell you, he had 5 kids that he dragged in a 1968 Plymouth Fury with him to Houston and every 1 of them have done very [00:51:00] well here in Texas.

[00:51:01] And they have by every metric been successes and. And so I get it he even he started doing a whole lot better when he settled down and just started working in the refineries and getting up and going to work every day. Even his life got better, but he certainly empowered his kids.

[00:51:27] That's for sure. That's for sure. So I've got

[00:51:31] Scott Maderer: a couple of questions that I like to ask all of my guests, but before I go there, is there anything else about the book or this journey that you've been on that you'd like to share with the listeners?

[00:51:41] Tate Barkley: There's a, the main thing is certainly about the book.

[00:51:47] And as you go through the book, you experience a good bit of my anguish that that I go through in my drinking days and then struggling with being a gay man [00:52:00] and in the world in which I lived in anyway. So you'll get a lot of that. But the one thing I want to share is that this, you are not alone.

[00:52:14] No matter what you are struggling with, no matter what it is you feel is keeping you down, you are not alone. Whether it's any form of addiction, whether it's some kind of safe self hate, you are not alone and there are people out there that will help you. If you're just take that step to start being honest and to start reaching out, but no matter what you're not alone, I'm telling you, God will not allow you to be alone.

[00:52:42] You just reach out your hand and someone's going to grab it. If you'll just reach out your hand. I think that's the main thing. Absolutely.

[00:52:52] Scott Maderer: My brand is Inspired Stewardship, and I talk a lot about stewardship and what that word means, but I've also discovered over the [00:53:00] years that's one of those words that we use, and yet it means a lot of different things to a lot of different people.

[00:53:06] When you hear the word stewardship, what does that word mean to

[00:53:09] Tate Barkley: you? I, the when I listen to the word in steward stewardship I immediately think of a legal concept. And and the legal concept I think about is the role of a fiduciary. And that's a legal notion. The fiduciary, what a fiduciary is and what that is legal.

[00:53:29] And I think this and this is how I view stewardship is that as a fiduciary, you are empowered to do something for the benefit of someone else. As a lawyer, I'm in power. I have a fiduciary relationship with my client and I'm in power to act in their best interest and that's my job as a steward, as an attorney, as a fiduciary, and when you [00:54:00] separate all the mishmashes in there, there's really 3 basic principles.

[00:54:05] To be in a fiduciary. The first one's an old school concept called obedience, but what obedience means is honesty. It means honoring what you said you were going to do. The second one is loyalty. That's the second duty of a fiduciary. Steadfast allegiance to whatever calls or to whatever person with whom you're the fiduciary.

[00:54:29] And the third one is care, which in the law means doing something to the best of your ability. So in my head, when I think stewardship, I think a fiduciary, and that is, I am empowered to do something for the benefit of someone else, and I need to do it for that person, even if there's nothing in it for me, and I need to do it to the best of my ability.

[00:54:49] That's what stewardship means to me. I like

[00:54:52] Scott Maderer: that. So this is my favorite question that I like to ask everybody. Imagine for a minute that I invented this magic [00:55:00] machine and with this machine, I could pluck you from where you are today and transport you into the future, maybe 150, maybe 250 years. But through the power of this machine, you were able to look back and see your entire life.

[00:55:14] See all of the ripples, all of the connections and all of the impacts you've left, what impact do you hope you've left behind in the world? I

[00:55:21] Tate Barkley: think the impact that I hope I left. in the world most is that by my being in that world or my being a part of someone else's life, they were able to shed shame, whatever shame they were carrying about who they were or where they're from, they shed that shame and they restore that resiliency that I think we're all born with.

[00:55:40] And and that's what I hope I would have done for as many people as absolutely possible. I have helped them get rid of that that life sucking shame and restore themselves to the resiliency that God gave us upon birth, at birth. So what's on the road

[00:55:58] Scott Maderer: map? What's coming next [00:56:00] here in 2024 and into the new year?

[00:56:02] Tate Barkley: There's a lot going on into the, we've got some book signings coming up. I've got one coming up in January January 17th at Intrabang Books up in Dallas. We're having a big book launch party, even though the book's out, we, my husband and I, we've been so busy, we couldn't put a, it came out on September 25th, but we've been so busy, we couldn't put a book launch party together until January.

[00:56:26] So that'll be happening in the 27th of January. And we're in talks to, to do a couple of more book signings. Along the way and our first printing of the book sold out, which I was very proud of. But there's, but we got a second printing done and it seems to be going really good. So I, and I've been asked to tell my story.

[00:56:49] At a couple of places. So I'm looking forward to doing that too. But while I'm doing all this stuff with the book, I still have a law practice and I gotta be mindful and there's still [00:57:00] just one me. I'm doing the best I can. You mean you still got to go to work? I still gotta go to work.

[00:57:06] Dang it.

[00:57:12] Scott Maderer: Maybe by the time you're retired, you can do the second book then, and you can do it

[00:57:16] Tate Barkley: right. That's exactly right. So true.

[00:57:20] Scott Maderer: So you can find out more about Tate Barclay over at tatebarclay. com. That's t a t e b a r k l e y. com. Of course, I'll have a link to that over in the show notes as well. Tate, anything else you'd like to share with

[00:57:34] Tate Barkley: the listener? I just want, thank you, Scott, for having me on your show and giving me the opportunity to talk about these things. Writing this book was really a journey of a lifetime. And one of the great, one of the great benefits of it is that.

[00:57:53] I don't know that in his lifetime I'd ever fully forgiven my dad for a lot of different things, but by the time this [00:58:00] book was done and I reflected on our relationship and I reflected on our life together, I knew that I had forgiven him and it really lifted a great weight off of me. And and I'm reminded and as we all get reminded from time to time of the great power of forgiveness it's power to do so much good for us and for everybody else.

[00:58:27] Scott Maderer: Thanks so much for listening to the Inspired Stewardship Podcast. As a subscriber and listener, we challenge you to not just sit back and passively listen, but act on what you've heard and find a way to live your calling. If you enjoyed this episode please do us a favor. Go over to inspiredstewardship.

[00:58:51] com Slash iTunes rate, all one word, iTunes rate. It'll take you through [00:59:00] how to leave a rating and review, and how to make sure you're subscribed to the podcast, so that you can get every episode as it comes out in your feed. Until next time, invest your time, your talent, and your treasures. Develop your influence, and impact the world.

In today's episode, I ask Tate about:

  • How growing up in the south as a closeted gay man affected his life....
  • How his faith evolved and affected his journey... 
  • His relationship with his father and alcohol...
  • and more.....

Some of the Resources recommended in this episode: 

I make a commission for purchases made through the following link.

It’s 300 dollars and I’ve saved 125 dollars and Mrs. Copeland and Mrs. Morow those teachers are pitching in the rest for you to go.  There’s a lot of people trying here for you Bub so you go and do your best, and it changed my life. – Tate Barkley

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About the author 


Helping people to be better Stewards of God's gifts. Because Stewardship is about more than money.

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