Richard grew up as the seventh child of a sharecropper during World War II in the boot heel of Missouri. Five of his brothers and sisters, including twins, died from childhood diseases before he was two years old. His mother and dad divorced when he was two. Richard was supposed to live with his mother in Blytheville, Arkansas, where he was born. However, his father sneaked into the house one night and took Richard out of bed to live with him in Gobbler, Missouri, which is near the town of Steele, Missouri in the boot heel. He lived until age 8 with his dad and one older sister. They chopped, picked and pulled cotton as a means of survival until his alcoholic dad was sent to Missouri State Prison. He and his sister were passed from one relative to another for short periods of time, since none could afford to feed two more children. An aunt in Memphis, who attended Bellevue Baptist Church, managed to get Richard and his sister into a newly-built Baptist Children’s Home the first day it opened in May, 1950. Richard lived there, going to church every time the door was opened, until he graduated in 1959. He left the Children’s Home in Memphis with a diploma, suitcase and some very close high school friends. He lived with these friends until joining the U.S. Air Force in 1960.