His cap says ‘Security.’ His nameplate: ‘L. Maxwell.’ He patrols the campus with an ear-to-ear grin and despite the wrinkles and gray hair. There’s no question he loves his job.
But before he began wearing his Belmont University Patrol Officer badge, he spent years rebelling against the law he now enforces.
“I grew up in church, needless to say, once you grow older, you don’t always stay with it. You kind of find your own path in life,” said LaMont Maxwell, 52.
Maxwell’s path strayed after leaving the military in 1982. When he left, Maxwell adopted addictions to alcohol and cocaine which eventually led to homelessness and incarceration.
“I felt I could perform at my best when I was under the influence and a lot of times, that proved to be very true,” he said. “Allowing my brain to breathe didn’t feel right, but having that liquid or powder courage gave me that false sense of security. That gratification was very selfish.”
Although his drug and alcohol addictions did not cause him to become a criminal, Maxwell enjoyed what that sense of security brought to daily activities.
“I went from being Clark Kent to Superman,” he said. “Everyday activities like driving a car and mowing the grass were just more fun when I was under the influence. I actually felt it elevated my performance. Doing those mundane tasks with a sober mind meant nothing.”
He was eventually terminated from his job in Alabama and decided in 1995 to come to Nashville to find work. Unfortunately, Maxwell needed more than just a location change and an occasional church visit to kick his old habits.
“I forgot about working on the recovery aspects of life. With my first paycheck, I started to slip back into that old lifestyle,” he said.
The slip turned into a fall, causing Maxwell to lose everything he had gained.
“I know what it’s like to have to sleep in the park. I know what it’s like to have to sleep in a vehicle in the wintertime when it’s 13 degrees and there is snow up to your window and you are about to freeze to death. I know what it’s like to have to steal for food and to support drug and alcohol habits,” he said.
At 37, Maxwell began to question the quality of life he had left.
“I’d done everything but die and there came a time when I felt like my life was not worth living anymore,” he said with a disappearing smile.
What Maxwell didn’t know was that God hadn’t completely given up on him.
“One particular day, the Lord spoke to me and said, ‘Pack your bags and go to the Nashville Rescue Mission,” he said.
Once there, Maxwell knew God had a plan.
“It was like they were ready for me, they were ready to receive me,” he said, his familiar smile reappearing.
Maxwell was accepted into the Men’s Life Recovery Program which helps men 18 and older fight alcohol and substance addictions. Men in the program attend Christian counseling and therapy sessions and learn how to recover from past choices and plan for their lives once they graduate.
After years of taking part in the program and staying clean from drugs and alcohol, Maxwell got a glimpse of what his new life had in store for him.
“One day, the Lord spoke to me again. He told me, ‘Go to the prayer room so you can hear from me,’” he said through tear-filled eyes. “In the prayer room, God told me ‘Preach my word.’ That is a moment in my life I will never forget.”
When Maxwell told his counselor about his experience, they both knew it was real.
“He is what you hope for with every patient that comes through here,” said Ed Grimes, director of guest ministries at the Nashville Rescue Mission. “You could tell there was a transformation happening in his life.”
In December 2004, Maxwell accepted his calling and preached his first sermon five months later.
But when he graduated from the Nashville Rescue Mission Men’s Program in July 2004, Maxwell struggled to find paying work. With a history of janitorial experience, Maxwell’s counselor looked into opportunities at Belmont University.
Maxwell was initially hired in housekeeping in January 2005. After seven years as a custodian though, he began searching for a new opportunity.
“One day, God spoke to me again and told me my days in housekeeping were over. He said to go to security and see if they have any openings,” Maxwell said.
After filling out an online application, Maxwell was called in for an interview. It was then when Chief of Campus Security Terry White decided Maxwell was fit for his team.
“He was outgoing, friendly, confident, he looked neat, he had an easy demeanor, and he was someone who just had his heart in the right place,” White said.
Maxwell was hired in June 2012 as a first shift patrol officer with Belmont security. As he walks through the Neely Black and White Dining Room on morning patrol at 7 a.m., the room brings back memories of his housekeeping days.
“I will never forget having to wax and strip this entire floor. By myself,” he said.
Just before leaving the room, he paused at the glass doors and looked down at the floor, remembering those long, night shifts.
Maxwell has re-established his life, but the recovery process has taken almost 30 years.
“The drugs, the homelessness, the alcohol, God has traded in all of that for keys to a patrol car and keys to a campus. He brought me here to minister this campus,” Maxwell said.
Although it was slow, Maxwell has embraced where all his experiences have brought him.
“God never wastes our experiences,” said Maxwell, fighting back tears. “This was not part of the plan for my life, but I still believe He would have called me to be a minister had I never gone through this.”
“But because He did allow me to go through this, I’m much stronger, I’m wiser, and I’m better… so much better.”