James Arruda Henry, a lobster-boat captain from Mystic, CT, has an incredible story. For the first ninety years of his life, he couldn’t read or write a word, not even his own name. According to CNN, he said:
I kept it to myself. I learned how to be a pretty good bluffer in those days. No one ever knew except my wife, Jean. We were married for two years before she found out.
When we was married I took care of everything, you know, paying bills and things like that, but I knew how to do things without having to write anything. After a while I had to work more and it got harder so I told her I think she should go to secretary school to learn how to take care of things. She asked me why I wasn’t going to do it anymore and when I told her I couldn’t read or write, boy was she some surprised.
But aside from her I didn’t tell nobody else.
At 90-years old, Henry heard a story about George Dawson, the son of a slave who learned to read and write at 98. “Geez, I said. If he can do it, I can do it. So I decided to give it a try.” He elaborated:
[My nephew] Bobby gave me the ambition to do it when he told me not to call him because he wouldn’t answer. He said write me a letter. And I tell you, that was the best thing he could have done because I really was determined to do that. I’m really proud of that letter…I even kept it and had it framed. It’s on the wall at my house. I’m real proud of that letter.
But after his wife died, Henry said, “I stopped everything and didn’t touch the books. I think I went four or five years like that.”
By age 96, his granddaughters and a tutor he had hired encouraged him to continue in his studies, and he soon found that reading wasn’t enough. He wanted to write. According to his website, “James began quietly practicing his own signature at the dining room table and went on to hand write his first book.”
The result? A man who was illiterate at 90 became a published author at 98.
His book is called In a Fisherman’s Language: an Autobiography by Captain James Arrudo Henry.
Congressman Joe Courtney even honored Captain Henry on the House floor. Watch the video, below: