For 22 years, Eddie Bolden served time in an Illinois prison for a murder he didn’t commit. As a result, he missed many moments in the lives of both of his sons, Antonio Johnson, 24, and Dominique Bolden, 21, but filled the void as best he could given his circumstances.

Fortunately, Bolden was released in time to see Dominique graduate from Goshen College this past Sunday through the tears of pride that filled his eyes. 

According to the South Bend Tribune, Bolden served 22 years for the murder of two men. He was exonerated this year thanks to the efforts of Susan Carlson, a private investigator who found three witnesses that testified that Bolden was at a different location at the time of the murders.

While Bolden knew he was innocent, his time in prison was understandably difficult, for both him and his family. He credits their unwavering support as a main reason he was able to continue pushing forward.

“You all are the reason I didn’t give up,” Eddie said through tears to his sons on Sunday. “There were days that I didn’t want to live. The only thing that stopped me from giving up is that I knew it would hurt you all. I thank you for being my reason to live.”

I grew up attending the same grammar school as both Bolden and Johnson in Chicago’s Park Manor neighborhood. As a matter of fact, Johnson and I were going to be in the same sixth grade class until he skipped a grade entirely and ended up graduating a year early.

Looking back, I can confidently say that their experiences made them both stronger and played a role in who they became as young men. It gave them the ability to excel in whatever they chose to, whether it be doing well in school or playing basketball for one of the best high school programs in Chicago.

“Seeing his situation and how he refused to give up and how hard that was, compared to that school is nothing,” Dominique said. “Why would I give up school when he’s fighting his way through that?”

As far as Bolden’s freedom is concerned, both he and his family are looking to move forward and build new memories as a family for the first time in more than two decades.

“It feel great,” he said regarding his release. “I fought for it for 22 years, and it feels just like I thought it would feel.”

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