A pastor’s daughter took an unusual step to get her father’s attention. Rather than picking up the phone or e-mailing him to voice her anger and frustration, LaShonda Matlock penned a scathing letter and published it on a blog. It’s title? “Letter to My Father Bill Adkins: ‘Go to Hell.‘”
As you can imagine, the note captured not only the attention of Pastor Bill Adkins of Greater Imani Church & Christian Center in Memphis, Tenn. (its intended recipient), but it has been picked up by local media outlets. To understand Matlock’s reasoning for writing the letter, one needs to know a little bit about the father-daughter back-story.
Before he was a pastor, Adkins had a relationship that resulted in Matlock’s birth. In the years following, he married and built a family, but he has apparently had little interaction with the 33-year-old throughout her life.
So after years of frustration, Matlock turned to her keyboard to let her father — and the world — know exactly how she’s feeling.
From the beginning of the letter, she makes things very clear:
There are times in life when you need to speak up, voice an opinion or just let it all out. This is one of those moments. I find myself at a crossroad, where the past and the present seem to meet and it is not a place I wish to be. Born in Memphis, Tn the illegitimate daughter of married pastor Bill Adkins, my life was nothing but controversy. I grew up in an upper middle class family that happened to be five blocks from my father’s church. He never visited, but I always knew he was there. At six-years-old I received a cease, and desist order addressed to my mother for me stop trying to communicate with him. At eight, he visited my elementary school but never approached me and merely watched from the shadows. By age ten, I was a figment of my own imagination. I didn’t exist, my last name was a lie and all records of me were buried in a black hole.
I learned to cope due to that I had a wonderful mother and extended family who always made me smile. I never wanted or went without anything even a pair of designer Salvatore Frragamo heels for my thirteenth birthday. I had a good childhood, but the lies kept piling upon one after another.
Matlock goes on to highlight her life-long urge to have a relationship with her Adkins, but the disappointment she continuously felt when she was repeatedly rejected and ignored.
“As I grew older into my teens my face became the exact image of a man I never knew. I met other illegitimate siblings whose story were all the same,” she wrote. “Rumors spread and I became a topic at dinner parties and for bored housewives. I never wanted the attention, only to be apart of his life. To have a dad like everyone else and like any child to have a father’s love.”
As the letter progresses, it becomes even more pointed and personal.
Matlock recalls running into her father on a trip back to Memphis back in 2009. At the time, she was a 29-year-old woman, but upon seeing him sipping cognac and having a cigar, she remembers feeling like a child again. She attempted to approach him, but to no avail.
When a bodyguard served as a barrier, she yelled out, “I forgive you.” Matlock claimed in her letter that her father simply nodded in return — and that was all.
But today, she’s feeling somewhat less forgiving. Considering what has unfolded, she’s angry. And she wants everyone to know it. The letter continues:
Am I bitter, yes. A man of the cloth preaching to his flock how to live and walk the path of God yet having several children outside of marriage and never righting his wrongs is despicable to me. Living day after day full of lies and hiding your past for a manufactured image to appease your followers. I wonder how does he even live with himself sometimes. But as he claims to walk the path of righteousness yet steadily head in the opposite direction. All I can do is let go and move. That is his road, not mine. I can no more make someone love me or be a father. That part of my life is gone. And I have grieved and suffered.
But does Bill still preach, yes.
Will I ever be acknowledged, no.
So to a man, who is a stranger and yet my father, I say “Go to hell.” But, you’re already there, aren’t you.
Rather than ignore the letter, Adkins responded in an interview with WATN-TV. While he acknowledged that Matlock is, indeed, his daughter, the pastor also corrected some claims he deemed inaccurate.
“Yes, I’ve read the letter and I’m sad to have seen the letter. I’m sorry she is enduring such hurt, suffering, and pain,” said the preacher, going on to clarify that Matlock’s birth was not the result of an affair. ”First of all, I was not married. She’s 33 years old and that was 1979. I was not married. I was not a pastor of a church. I was a Radio Announcer at WLOK Radio.”
But it seems the part about not having a relationship with her was true. Now, he’s willing to change all that.
“I want to do whatever I can to help her, and if it’s acknowledgment that she wants, I’m willing to give it to her,” he said. “I responded to her in email today and I simply said, along with my other children and my wife, come to Memphis, let me introduce you to the entire congregation.”
Matlock, though, responded to WATN-TV, stating that it may be a bit too much for the family to start a relationship by going in front of the church congregation. Instead, she suggested they meet in family counseling.
A copy of audio interviews with both Atkins and Matlock speaking about their relationship was originally published, but the outlet has since removed it. You can, however, read the letter in its entirety here.