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Biography: Norman Higgins, activist
 

Norman Higgins was born on January 26, 1963 in Kansas City Missouri. His mother, Maxine, became a single parent when her husband deserted her a month after her son was born. Maxine was a waitress in a prosperous restaurant so between wages and tips made an adequate living for her son and herself. It was not easy working and caring for a baby, but Maxine had loving neighbors and friends who helped her with the child while she worked and Norman thrived.

Maxine made sure her son regularly attended school, and saw that he did his work and got at least average grades. He was not an inspired student, but worked hard to justify his mother’s faith in him and make her proud. He liked to participate in athletics, especially football and baseball, so kept his grades up in high school so he’d be eligible to play on his high school teams.

After graduation in 1981 he wanted to get out on his own, so joined the Navy. He was stationed at North Island, California but visited his high school girlfriend, Gracie, whenever he got a leave long enough to go home to Kansas City, and they planned to be married when he got out of the service in 1985. But in January l984, a month after he’d been home at Christmas on leave, Gracie wrote a hysterical letter that she was pregnant. Norman got an emergency leave and flew home. They were married in a small ceremony, which included friends and family. Norman was thrilled that he was going to be a father and vowed he would always be there for his child. Jason Higgins was born September 15, l984.

When he was discharged from the service after his four-year enlistment, Norman was offered a job working for a friend of his mother’s who owned a Janitorial Service. The work was mostly at night servicing office buildings, so he and Gracie worked out a schedule where she worked at her secretarial job with a lawyer’s office during the day, and he worked for the janitorial service at night. Norman was a conscientious, hard-worker, and the owner of the service promoted him rapidly to a supervisory position where Norman learned more about the business operation. Gracie continued working with the goal in mind of saving enough money so Norman could start a business of his own. After the birth of Jason, Maxine willingly helped out with the baby-sitting. Maxine had quit working and remarried some years before. She and her husband loved being grandparents.

In 1986, Gracie was pregnant again. She and Norman had discussed moving to a small town to raise their son, and now with another baby on the way, they decided the time was right. They had saved some money, and Maxine’s husband wanted to invest in Norman’s new business. Norman had stayed in touch with one of his Navy buddies who lived in Oxford, and Norman had visited him several times. He and Gracie decided Oxford would be an ideal town in which to raise their family. It’s small size and low crime rate convinced them this was a good move. They moved to Oxford in l987 after the birth of their second son, Justin.

Norman’s established the Higgins’ Janitorial Service Company in Oxford and the business thrived. But Norman made sure he always had time to spend with his boys. He was almost obsessive about giving them the time and attention he’d never had from a father. The boys loved the attention from their Dad, and the three of them were very close.

Jason loved baseball and began playing Little League when he was eight. Pete, the assistant coach, was a young bachelor, who loved kids and volunteered his time to coach. Since he lived a block away from the Higgins family, he offered to pick up Jason, and take him to and from the games and practices. This was such a convenience to Gracie and Norman they accepted without a second thought. After a few weeks Jason began making excuses for not going to practice. He had a stomachache or too much homework, or a headache. He also started having terrible nightmares and even made excuses to stay home from school. Gracie expressed her concern to Norman and they decided to take him to his pediatrician since they were sure there was something physically wrong. The doctor examined Jason and gently talked to him out of the presence of his parents. Jason finally broke down and admitted the assistant coach had fondled him in the car while driving to and from practice.

Norman went to the police and filed a complaint against Pete, the assistant coach. The police checked the records and found that Pete was a registered sex offender. Norman was livid. He raved and ranted and cried: Why were they not notified that a registered sex offender not only lived a block away but was allowed to be a coach on a youth baseball team? The police explained that there were no regulations to allow them to release names of registered sex offenders to the public, and evidently the youth baseball league had no requirements to do background checks on their volunteers. Norman vowed to get the laws passed that would require the names of registered sex offenders released to the public, and that he would keep track of them in Oxford. Gracie was traumatized by the whole situation, as was Jason. After the trial, she said she couldn’t stand living in Oxford anymore, so she packed up the boys and moved back to Kansas City. Norman was devastated and missed his family, but became even more intense about his cause. Gracie eventually divorced him, and didn’t even want the boys visiting him in Oxford, so he had few chances to be with them. He phoned and went to see them, but it just wasn’t the same. He vowed no other family would have to endure what his family had, so intensified his work monitoring registered sex offenders, getting the national registry law passed and strengthening any legislation regarding registered sex offenders. He worked long and hard to influence Congress in 1994 to pass the Jacob Wetterling law to require states to register sex offenders and on Megan’s law in 1996 that allows public access to the state registries of sex offenders. He continued to monitor released registered sex offenders who lived in Oxford, and made sure the community knew the dangers of sex offenders in their midst to the extent the law would allow.

He occasionally worked with COP but felt they were spread too thin by spending their energies on insignificant projects and causes which weren’t as important as monitoring registered sex offenders. He felt Andrea Stover was a danger to the community because of the pornographic ideas she espoused which could stimulate sex offenders to commit further crimes at the expense of innocent children.

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