Interview with Clifford Fuggett
Clifford Fuggett is a father, husband, and truck driver who was born and raised in Texas. TAVP first learned of Clifford through a video he posted to Youtube in which he searches for the unmarked gravesite of his father, Charles Milton, who was executed by the state of Texas in 1985. Clifford eventually found the gravesite, and at the time of this interview, is working to create a gravemarker for his father.
Through this video and others, Clifford uses online platforms to share the stories of his family, where thousands of followers are moved by his honesty, deep thoughtfulness, and natural storytelling abilities.
In his interview, Clifford discusses the importance of unconditional love and forgiveness, and shares about how these qualities have shaped his own life and his path towards understanding his family. Along with sharing the story of his father, Clifford also talks about trying to locate information about his mother, who has been missing since he was two years old. Clifford reminds us of the importance of closure and of the beautiful ways that community forms around legacy.
Fuggett [00:00:41] My name is Clifford Fuggett, and I'm actually joining you from Texas at the Loves [gas station] because I'm on the road. I'm headed home. I'm sitting in my 18 wheeler. I'm the son of Charles Milton, a guy that was executed in the Texas system.
Whelan [00:01:05] Thank you, Clifford, and thank you so much for joining us and for making time. If you're comfortable, can you tell us a little bit about your parents and what memories you have of your family?
Fuggett [00:01:17] Well, I don't – I don't know anything about my parents, especially my dad, because…or even my mother, also. I don't know anything about them because I was so young at the time that he went to prison and my mother come up missing. So I don't know a lot about them. But the family – his brothers and sisters, I know a lot about them, and they are very – all of them are great people. I've been in contact with them since I've known who my father was, and they're really awesome people. I actually talked to one of the relatives – my dad’s niece – she's supposed to get with her mother, which is my father's sister, and get all the dates and everything that we need for the – his birth date and his deceased date, because I have a plaque that the family gave me. But one of my sisters said that his birth date is wrong on it. So, I want to get all the numbers correct before I actually have the headstone made. I don't want any discrepancies on the headstone. But other than that, I was put in the system – I think like 1970, 1971. And when my dad went to prison, my mom come up missing. I been in the system since then. And I – my dad's family…they’re some great people. Really great people. I mean, they are awesome. You know, a couple of them, you know, throughout the years was trying to get me to – well basically adopt me and bring me – keep me closer to the family, which I was grateful for that. It never happened, but it had nothing to do with either side. I think it was something going on with the state. But other than that, I mean, our family is awesome. They are really great people. I don't know – you know, I don't know what else to say other than that they are just good people.
Whelan [00:03:28] Thank you so much, Clifford, and for sharing about your relationships with them and how they kind of took you in. And I'm curious – you mentioned trying to figure out exact dates. When you're working on that, or when your family members are working on that, do you rely on like documents, or family members’ memories, or – how do you go about that?
Fuggett [00:03:48] Well, I reached out to his sister, which is my auntie, and I don't know if she's going to go by a birth certificate or whatever the case is, but she did say when she get all the numbers correct, she would she would get those to me. And I did also explain to them the process of what I'm trying to do. Once I get the headstone back, once I get it back – because she’s a minister, and I want her to meet us in Huntsville at the North Side Cemetery. And when I place the headstone myself – I'm going to do it myself. I've already reached out to the president of North Side Cemetery and he said he have staff that will assist me. I don't want anybody to do it. I want to do it myself. And I also have a brother, his name is Charles Junior – my dad's oldest son. Hopefully I can get him involved. I haven't talked to him, I don't know, within the last month. So, once I get with him, then maybe he and I can just place the headstone. But yeah, he uh – everything is good. They’re really great people. And she's going to try…like I said, I don't know the resources she's going by to get the actual dates, but I'm just waiting on her to get back with me as we speak.
Whelan [00:05:12] Thanks, Clifford. And you mentioned the process of kind of speaking with the leadership at the cemetery. And we know you through the process you've been going on to try and locate your father's gravesite and the videos you've created. Could you tell our listeners who might not know about that about your work there?
Fuggett [00:05:32] Well, I just want to say – I think that it was just, you know – I'm a big spiritual guy and I just think God had stepped in and took over because one morning, me and all my children and my wife, we went to Huntsville to the regular cemetery where inmates are buried once they come deceased in prison. So we went there and we walked the whole cemetery based on the information that we got. They said you can go by the numbers. Some told me you can go by alphabetical order, but that's not true because there's no names and nothing. There's just all numbers. So I had – I have his TDC number, so we all walked the cemetery and we could not find it. So I went back to the Byrd Unit, the unit where he was actually at, right there by the cemetery. And I, I spoke with a lady and the lady said that if you couldn't find it by the number – I told the lady I was a son of a guy who had been lethally injected, you know, in the system. And she gave me her condolences and everything. But she also told me that there was nothing she could do if I couldn't find the numbers out there then she didn't know how to help me. But when God stepped in, this very same lady – I was at home because I was working nights at this time. So I was at home like two or three days later, I get a phone call from this lady at the prison and she tells me it didn't sit well with her not being able to help me. So, she did some digging and some research and she told me this: she said your dad was a Muslim. And when they are Muslims in prison, the Muslims claim their body and they place it in a regular cemetery, which was the North Side Cemetery in Huntsville, Texas. So, after she told me that, she gave me the numbers that she had. So, I called the cemetery and the secretary answered and she told me that she does – she do have a C. Milton in that graveyard. So I asked, When can I come out and speak with somebody to help mark it off and find it and [inaudible] let me know exactly where his grave was. So that's when the president of the North Side Cemetery contacted me and he told me that – be mindful this was during Covid, so he was real cautious about it. So, he says – he gave me a date and time to meet him there. And we met at the cemetery with his map – with the map with Charles Milton on it, on his map. And he walked it, and marked it off. And then he stepped – he got right here and said – he got in a certain area and said, This is where Charles Milton is buried right here. Of course, you know, there was no markings, no nothing, because this was in the Eighties. So there was no markings or nothing. So I marked it off temporarily, and then I went to Hobby Lobby and put a few things out. I'm sure they are gone now based on the weather and wind. But he's already agreed to meet me again and make sure we're in the right spot and put the headstone in. So, I'm excited about that. So – but yeah, the process was just – the lady, when the spirit had touched the lady at the prison, she dug deeper and deeper and realized that he wasn't even in the cemetery that we were looking in. So that was a blessing there. So me and my wife went back the following weekend. And, you know, we cleaned the grave up and put some stuff out. So it was – it was a good day that weekend. So but, you know, I'm trying to complete that, you know, get complete closure with it. So I'm gonna – I'm going to have some of the family members in – when I get the headstone in – I’m going to have some of the family members, and we're going to all go out and, you know, just kind of have a good time in the cemetery and let the people around Texas and around the United States know that Charles Milton was a great guy. He made a mistake. In my opinion, he was just a young man trying to find his way. He made a mistake, and that mistake cost him his life. But at the end of the day, he's my father, and I'm grateful. Simple as that. No in-between.
Whelan [00:09:59] Thank you, Clifford. And I'm so, so grateful that the woman from the cemetery did decide to do some more digging and to contact you.
Fuggett [00:10:10] Yes. She was actually the woman from the Byrd prison unit. Right when you walked through the door, the lady sitting in that glass, that's the lady that actually helped me the most.
Whelan [00:10:23] Well, I’m grateful for that and for you sharing a little more with us about that process. I also know that there's quite a few people that have been following along with your and your family's story, and you've kind of built a community and an audience of people looking for updates and following along. How did that come about?
Fuggett [00:10:45] Well, to be honest with you, I just – I just made a video with my looking for my father – looking for Charles Hamilton in a prison cemetery. And then I backdoored that video with Looking for Carolyn Louise Briggs – my mother. And the people that I grew up with in the area that I'm from, they did not know my story. They actually thought that the people that was raising me were my biological parents because they were such great people. They made no difference. They – they treated me just like I was they own, me and my sister and my brother. They treated us all well, so the people didn't know. So when I came out with the story, they were all shocked because some of my friends said, Man, sometimes you think you know a person and you really don't. And they was just commending me on doing well and knowing that I didn't have my biological parents. But that's how that came about. I just – I just told my wife one day, I said, You know, I'm gonna make a video. I'm going to start looking for my mother. We're going to go find my father's grave, because I didn't want – this is just me. I didn't want my father being in a cemetery without a headstone. To me, that says a lot about you and your deceased loved one. So I just want to make sure that he's recognized as a great man. And, getting back to the initial question, I just started doing videos right there in my living room and trying to just get recognition to both sides, my father and my mother, because my father, as you know, he was in – went to prison, got lethal injection. So his story isn't a bright story, but I want people to know that he was a great guy. You know, we all make mistakes. Who, who are we to judge what someone else do? Now, don't get me wrong – my heart goes out to the family, the victim, the family of the victim. My heart goes out to them. I pray that they can find peace like I have, because I lost a parent in the process, too. So I found peace. And I understand it. I mean, I don't know what he was going through. I don't know anything about anything. All I know is he's my father and I'm grateful. And I have a lot of people they’ve been waiting on this interview because I've been promising them and promising them that this interview is coming. I was hoping we could have got to do it in person, but unfortunately, our schedules did not meet. But I'm grateful. I'm grateful for everybody that’s following me, keeping up with my story, and I’m hoping we can find answers, you know, get closure with my dad and find answers for my mom. So, we – we still a long ways out, but I believe we are closer than we were.
Whelan [00:13:41] Thank you, Clifford. And we're really excited for when we can meet you in person and do another interview, because this is just the beginning and I'm so glad that everyone that follows along with your story will have at least an initial interview to engage with. You know, you said this is just the beginning, and I believe that, too. What would the ideal end look like for you?
Fuggett [00:14:06] Well the ideal end, as far as my father…I would – I would just love to be able to…like I'm a truck driver and sometimes I go through Huntsville. So, I would – now that I know where he's at, once I get a headstone, I can run in there and just, you know, just talk to him, you know, talk to him through the spirit and just let him know that he created some wonderful kids. We are all doing well and God is continuing to work in our lives and don't – don't feel sorry for nothing because we're going to – we're going to live on through him regardless, you know, his legacy, his name will never be forgotten if I have anything to do with it. So that's – that's it. I just want to be able to go to his gravesite from time to time. Let him know I love him and I'm grateful. Right. And when it comes to my mother – It's been so long because that's a totally different situation. She came up missing, so, I just – I really don't know what I feel in that perspective…because if she's alive, I would I – I would love to try to be there for her for the rest of her life. If she's not alive, I would love to do the same thing for her that I'm doing for my father. So, you know, I don't know when it comes to my mother. I just – I just want to find answers. I'm just looking for answers from anybody I can get them from.
Whelan [00:15:38] Absolutely, Clifford, and I really admire how much you honor your parents and their memory and their legacy. And I'm grateful that you trusted us to sit down with you and help you talk about that. Murphy, Was there –
Fuggett [00:15:52] I’m –
Whelan [00:15:53] Oh sorry, Clifford, go ahead.
Fuggett [00:15:55] Go ahead, go ahead, go ahead.
Whelan [00:15:56] No, please, you jump in.
Fuggett [00:15:58] I said, I'm grateful that you guys are giving me the opportunity to get my story out, my parents story out. I just want it on every platform. I just – I just want to get their stories out. You know, my – getting my mother's story out is a little different because I have to come up with, oh, you know, we're doing DNA and we're doing – maybe I try to get some investigators and stuff. And as you know, all that – nothing is free. So, I'm a truck driver. I don't – I don't make a lot of money, but as I make the money I will put it toward what I need to put it toward to get, you know, get some other things going for my mother. And then my father, you know, I just, you know, I just want the world to know that he's all right. He's good. He created some great kids. Great kids. I have some – on my father's side, I have three other sisters and a brother, and they awesome. They awesome. I talk to them from time to time. Not all the time, because we didn't grow up together, but I do speak with them, you know, from time to time. But at the end of the day, they are all great kids – great people. My father, he – outside of what he did, I think he was an awesome person. I really do. Uh – I don't really know what else to say when it comes to that. I just just want to get a little closure and make sure that he knows, you know, through the spirit, that his kids love him.
Whelan [00:17:29] Thank you, Clifford. Murphy, did you have um anything you wanted to add?
Carter [00:17:39] No, I don't think I did. Also, hi Clifford.
Fuggett [00:17:41] How you doing?
Carter [00:17:43] Thank you so much for everything that you're sharing. And I just – the dedication I can just feel, even though we're talking virtually right now – we're not together in person – and the way that you're honoring your parents, like Hannah said, it means so much. I feel so grateful to know about it and to know there's so much work that you've put into this and how much time that it probably has taken as well.
Fuggett [00:18:14] Right. I mean, but it's a – to me it's a pleasure. I don't – I don't look at it as a lot of work. And then it's just a pleasure because I – growing up, don't get me wrong, some of my family members gave me bits and pieces of what my parents was about throughout my life, but now I'm actually applying myself to learn all that I can learn about them. So it's a joy to me, because, you know, I have to live out my enjoyment through all my family members that knew my mother and my father. I have to live my enjoyment out through them. So I'm – I'm flattered about it. It’s – I'm just flattered about the situation, to be honest with you.
Carter [00:18:55] That's beautiful. What were some of the bits and pieces? I know that's how you kind of just described it, that you had heard about your parents through other family members, you know. What were like the first things that you got to learn?
Fuggett [00:19:09] Well, the first thing I got to learn was – one of my aunties – well, she's a family member. She's really not my aunt, but I call her my aunt – her name is Edna Wilson. And she would always tell me how protective my mother was of her, because when they come from another city and move to Bono, where my mother was – and my mother was just really protective of her cousins and she was just telling me how sweet my mom was. And my dad – some of his sisters and some of the other relatives would tell me how good of a guy he was from day to day. And you know, certain things happen, and things change, but at the end of the day, they were telling me that he was a great guy. You know, they didn't really give me a lot. And believe it or not, I lived with my dad's mother for about, I don't know, six or seven months. I lived with her. We called her m’dear. And she was awesome. She was awesome. She would – I would come through the door and she would say, Charles, is that you? She said, because she thought I looked so much like him. So I was just so grateful of that. Just to – just to be in that room with my father. But yeah, he – they always said he was an okay guy, you know. But as time goes on, life changes, and we understand that. So – and like I said, I'm not here to pass judgment on anybody because I made mistakes in my life, and nobody has judged me. They've allowed me to relive my mistakes and become a better person. So who am I to judge anything else outside of what I know? So, I'm grateful. But they said he was a great guy. He was outgoing. Good guy. So – and then they said my mother was a protector, so you can't ask for no more than that.
Whelan [00:21:10] That's true. You really can't ask for more than the combination of love and protection.
Fuggett [00:21:16] Uh huh.
Whelan [00:21:18] Clifford – Oh, sorry. Go ahead.
Fuggett [00:21:21] No, I was just saying that it was those two DNAs is the reason why I'm here. And I think this was a perfect match, in my opinion. Because, you know, like I said, I went through my changes in life and none of them – I don't – I don't blame nothing that I went through based on growing up without parents. I don't blame that because I've always known right from wrong. So, you know, based on the changes that I went through in life, I overcame them. And they DNA – I'm a product of those two DNA, and I'm grateful that they were able to bring me into this world, you know, with the grace – with the help of God. I'm happy.
Whelan [00:22:11] Thank you, Clifford, for sharing so much of your life and your family with us. And I can't help but think about how today you're joining us while on the road, and how all of our conversations have been while on the road. And I'm wondering if your job allows you to kind of think about all of this and talk about it and be the storyteller that you are, because watching your videos and speaking with you, you are such a natural storyteller.
Fuggett [00:22:40] Yeah, I'm grateful. You know, I get a lot of me time, as one would say, because I'm always on the road by myself. Whenever my wife don't go with me, I'm out here by myself. And so I try to maximize my time, my thought pattern. I try to fill my thoughts with things about my parents, you know, just thoughts of maybe if one day, if I ever got to meet my mother, what I would say to her. Or, if I would have gotten to meet my dad, what I would say to him, what our relationship would be like, because I've had some good relationships with some men that participated in raising me. I have a really great one now with another one of the guys that helped raise me. His name is Calvin Wilson and we have a great relationship. So I often wonder, would my relationship with my dad be the same way? So I just – you know, I fantasize a lot, but at the end of the day, I'm still focused and I truly understand the circumstances and the situation. So I just – I just think about them and I just ask God to kind of mend that broken heart that I used to have, because I'm pretty good now. I'm solid with it. I got great family support in my wife and kids. So – and even towards the people that raised me, there’s some of the women right now, if you tell them they not my mom, they would talk – they would give it to you because there's a couple of women right now that’ll tell you, That's my son. And – and I'm grateful. I'm grateful for that. I'm grateful. So. it's just – life is good, you know? Life is good. God has humbled me to understand it. I grew up without parents because he said, Grow up without parents. No. If – If it wasn't God's will, my parents would be here. So – and that's just what I believe. So I'm – I'm humbled in that situation.
Whelan [00:24:50] Clifford do you feel like your own journey – finding strength and growing up without parents – has influenced how you parent yourself?
Fuggett [00:25:01] I do. And let me tell you, I'm gonna tell you a quick story. When I – you know, when I began to become a parent myself, I struggled with being a good parent. I struggled because. I didn't understand. You know, I – even though I had some great examples set before me with the people that were raising me, I just didn't understand as a young child how you could grow up without a father and a mother, how your father can do what he did and be taken away from you, and how your mother could come up missing and you never see her. So I couldn't understand that for a long time. So I just had to give it to God and let God work on me. And through the years, I'm getting better at parenting. I'm getting better. I have a pretty good relationship with all my children. Of course, you know, most people – kids – you go back and forth with them. You can't – you got to love them the way they allow you to love them. And I mean, even though the love is unconditional, you still have to limit the way you love. Because some – you know, I don't – I don't really know how to explain it, but I mean, I'm grateful that God has given me a second opportunity to be the father that I am, the grandfather that I am, and then the person that I am. And I don't blame that on me growing up without parents. I just did not quite understand, you know, I just didn't quite understand.
Whelan [00:26:34] Thank you. I wanted to leave some time too Clifford to see if there's anything else you wanted to share or questions you wanted to ask me before we leave each other today.
Fuggett [00:26:48] I just want people out there to know that if you have parents – no matter what, what the problem is or the circumstance or the situation is, love your parents. Love them. Because tomorrow is just not promised – it’s just not promised. I spent – I'm 55 now. I spent 53 of those years without parents. So if you have any memories or any love for your parents, love them right now. Don't – just love them, just love them. And that's pretty much it for me. And I'm grateful that you guys interviewed me.
Whelan [00:27:20] Clifford we’re so, so grateful to you. Thank you so much for your time today.