Most of us can remember exactly where we were when we heard that JFK was shot, and most of us can remember exactly where we were when we first heard Neil Armstrong’s words on July 20, 1969. Most of us can also remember exactly where we were on October 3, 1994, when the verdict was delivered about the O.J. Simpson trial.
In my case, I was in a room of about 200 insurance people at a meeting at the Union League Club in downtown Chicago. Someone had turned on a TV in the room due to the fact that the decision by the jury was expected just before noon. When the news finally spilled forth, virtually everyone in the room expressed shock and dismay, and our belief that a great injustice had occurred was vindicated a little more than 2 years later, when a civil court jury ordered him to pay $25 million in punitive damages to the families of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman. The week before, the jury had awarded $8.5 million in compensatory damages to Goldman’s family. Since Simpson did not have anywhere near that kind of money, it’s difficult to say how much money the families eventually got.
Like many athletes, O.J. had a rough start in life. His father, Jimmy Lee Simpson, was a well-known drag queen in the San Francisco Bay Area. Later in life, Jimmy Simpson announced that he was gay. He died of AIDS
Simpson grew up in San Francisco and lived with his family in the housing projects of the Potrero Hill neighborhood. In his early teenage years, he joined a street gang called the Persian Warriors and was briefly incarcerated at the San Francisco Youth Guidance Center. Future wife Marquerite, his childhood sweetheart, described Simpson as "really an awful person then" after his third arrest. A meeting with Willie Mays during which the baseball star encouraged Simpson to avoid trouble helped persuade him to reform. At Galileo High School (currently Galileo Academy of Science and Technology) in San Francisco, Simpson played for the school football team, the Galileo Lions.
Orenthal James Simpson (“juice”) lived a charmed life – at least for a period of time. When he played for USC, he won the Heisman Trophy in 1968, and then went on to play in the NFL for 11 seasons. Most of his time in the NFL was with the Buffalo Bills, but he played his last two years with the San Francisco 49’ers. In 1973, he became the first NFL player to rush for more than 2,000 yards in a season. He holds the record for the single season yards-per-game average, which stands at 143.1. He is the only player to ever rush for over 2,000 yards in the 14-game regular season NFL format.
Simpson was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1983 and the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1985. After retiring from football, he began new careers in acting and football broadcasting.
When Nicole and O.J. divorced in 1992, his net worth was $10.8 million. Due to his legal expenses, this net worth today has diminished to around $3 million.
In 2007, Simpson ran into legal problems once again when he was arrested for breaking into a Las Vegas hotel room and taking sports memorabilia, which he claimed had been stolen from him, at gunpoint. On October 3, 2008 (EXACTLY 14 years after his acquittal in the 1994 trial), he was found guilty of 12 charges related to the incident, including armed robbery and kidnapping, and sentenced to 33 years in prison. On July 20, 2017, he was granted parole, and released from prison on October 1, 2017.
O.J. offers a couple of interesting life lessons:
1) Being born into poverty does not mean that you can’t achieve fame and fortune
2) If you achieve fame and fortune, there is no guarantee that it will last