Organization of the year

Bruce takes his message of transformation into city neighborhoods

Rev. Thaddeus Bruce shares his life-changing experience through Taking it to the Streets.
Photo by St. Clair Murraine

By St. Clair Murraine
Outlook Staff Writer

Sitting on the outside deck of a coffee shop, Thaddeus Bruce began sharing some of his life-changing experiences.

As he went on, every chapter seemed increasingly difficult for the annals of Hollywood to top.

There was the time that he was inside of a house where law enforcement officers carried out a drug bust. Bruce managed to climb out of a window about three feet off the ground.

He crawled under an abandoned vehicle, while police officers milled around. Eventually he walked away from the scene that was surrounded by officers.

It didn’t take long for him to find himself in another drug house. Those places had become a part of his lifestyle as a drug addict for more than two decades.

Through his on-and-off involvement with drugs, Bruce managed to marry three times. Only the first one produced three children.

Even through five years and five months in the Army, Bruce’s addiction got the best of him. His worse years were the three he spent playing basketball in the Circuito Mexicano de Básquetbol, a professional basketball league in Mexico.

He was making money and had easy access to drugs and anything else he wanted, while living a celebrity life as a star basketball player. That was the early 1980’s.

It would take another 20 years before Bruce finally got sober. But through all the years he never stopped trying to find the solitude that he has now.

Today he is Rev. Thaddeus Bruce.

He credits growing up in a home where church-going was the norm and having a father who preached for helping him to get over. 

His turnaround 18 years ago has become a message that Bruce shares in recorded music. He also tells it in neighborhoods with a mission that he calls Taking it to the Streets. 

He did it in Jacksonville, Melbourne, Sanford and a few other Florida cities under different names before bringing the concept of going to the streets to change lives in Tallahassee.

“I think more than anything, what motivated me was I remember when I was out,” Bruce said, explaining why he aspires to help others who are walking the path he did, “I would go to different places and ask for help. Nobody would help me.”

The impact he is having on lives makes Bruce’s Taking it to the Streets the Capital Outlook’s choice for Organization of the Year.

Bruce, 62, has taken his mission to Walker/Ford Community Center in the Bond neighborhood. He’s made multiple stops in the neighborhood along Texas Street on the city’s Southside.

 “God has allowed him opportunities to come back and utilize his gifting,” said Derek Steele, who grew up with Bruce. “He has a heart’s desire to move as the Lord moves him.”

Steele, who has had his own challenges with drugs, empathized with Bruce. The message he brings has the potential to calm gun violence in the city, Steele said.

“You have no idea what could happen if you could reach one,” he said. “If you can reach one, then they can reach one or two or three.”

When Bruce shows up for one of his events, he usually have a few of his friends who bring messages of hope. Other times, he partners with churches like Christian Heritage and make their appearance a food drive.

“The impact I’m hoping to have is that they can see there is hope, help and healing,” Bruce said.

Most of those who knew Bruce growing up in Tallahassee knew him only as a talented basketball player at Leon High. He later took his talent to Pensacola Junior College where he played from 1977 to 1979.

Bruce transferred to FSU but left after 38 days instead of taking a red shirt. His next stop was FAMU. He left early to try the NBA, but was cut. 

He found the CIMEBA professional basketball league in Mexico, where he played from 1981 to ‘84.

Bruce didn’t have much more than a passion to become one of the best car salesmen when he returned to Florida. He did that for 30 years, sometimes concealing his addiction the best he could.

 It continued until one day in 2004 when Bruce recalled saying to himself “enough is enough.”

He began to put more time into writing songs and producing them on CDs. He has three out now and his singing is very much part of what he does when he takes his mission to the streets.

When he isn’t trying to change lives on the streets, he is at St. Mary’s Primitive Baptist Church, where he is an associate minister.

Bruce’s timing for taking his message to neighborhoods is perfect, said Elder Ernest Ferrell, pastor at St. Mary’s Primitive Baptist Church.

“It’s a whole new world,” Ferrell said. “People sometime are not reaching out to the world that we think we are in. Thaddeus is trying to reach them where they are.

“Thaddeus has started something that I think is going to be far-reaching.”


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