12 Stories of the Determination of Famous Stutterers

Screen Shot 2017-02-17 at 11.58.23 AMI was unaware that Tiger Woods had a stutter, but read this about him and Bill Walton the other day:

Top-ranked golfer Tiger Woods tells CBS’s 60 Minutes that it takes hard work and a competitive spirit to overcome childhood stuttering.

“The words got lost, you know, somewhere between the brain and the mouth. And it was very difficult, but I fought through it. I went to a school to try and get over that, and I just would work my tail off,” Woods told the news program.

“The parallels between speech performance and sports performance are striking,” said Jane Fraser, president of the nonprofit Stuttering Foundation, “and Tiger Woods is the latest example of how the many hours of practice and hard work to win in sports are no different from those long hours spent in therapy for stuttering”.

NBA Hall of Famer and sports commentator Bill Walton dealt with stuttering just like he did basketball. “I thought about the fundamentals of the game and how to start with the basics like the ability to mechanically duplicate moves on a basketball court. And then I just applied that to speaking.”

Which leads me to a brand new book by Gerald McDermott called Famous Stutterers: Twelve Inspiring People Who Achieved Great Things While Struggling with an Impediment

If you stutter, this book is for you; if you know folks who stutter, this book is for you; if you minister in a church, this book is for you. I see this book the way I see Adam McHugh’s book on introversion. The book will awaken you to a world around you.

Here are the famous stutterers he describes: Moses, Aristotle, Demosthenes, Joshua Chamberlain, George VI, Winston Churchill, Marilyn Monroe, Peter Brown, John Stossel, Annie Glenn, Byron Pitts, and John Updike.

OK, some will want to quibble about Moses, but this is all rooted in a text in the Bible: Exodus 4:10. My colleague, Claude Mariottini has a great post on this and the verdict is that it is not entirely clear what “heavy tongue” means, but one this is clear: Moses had some kind of defect and it affected his speech.

Screen Shot 2017-02-17 at 12.11.50 PMGerry McDermott concludes with some wisdom for folks with stutters: it’s not the end of the world, it need not prevent success in life, perseverance and self-discipline matter, find creative ways to improve, use stuttering to your advantage, let it deepen your character, ponder its benefits in your life, learn to laugh, think of writing, don’t let it define you, he has some tips on mechanics and be open to transcendence (e.g., prayer and I would add the Spirit’s transcending and transforming power).

Now a story. One of our DMin students at Northern Seminary is Derwin Gray, pastor at Transformation Church in Charlotte NC. Derwin pastors one of the fastest growing churches in the USA. Derwin is former NFL football player. Derwin grew up in San Antonio and in a home that had little to no connection to the gospel and church, but God got a grip on his life and he has become a pastor.

He stuttered and he wondered why in the world God would call him to preach. Transcendence has happened to this man, as he is a powerful preacher.

In Israel, Derwin read the story of David and Goliath in the Elah Valley, and it would be fair to say he performed it and preached it as he read the Bible aloud. So loud his voice was bouncing off the walls. I told Kris he read it with the voice of Goliath!

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than fifty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.