SHREVEPORT, La. -- Bobby Edwards remembers when his family had to use the back door of restaurants, and had to step aside on sidewalks.
But after graduation from Booker T. Washington High School in 1971, he left his shotgun home to serve his country in the Air Force, then went on to help develop some of the marvels of the aerospace industry.
How? Learning karate may have been a start.
Bobby Edwards, now 68, took up karate out of curiosity at around age 8. He would become a black belt, competing -- and winning -- internationally.
"Discipline. I would train mentally, physically and spiritually. And I would always practice, practice, practice humility."
He showed an impressive video of a recent exhibition he put on at his church, Morning Star Baptist.
"I break the bricks. I break the boards. I do the nunchucks," Bobby says, as the video confirms that routine.
He does more than perform. He also conducts martial arts training so that coeds can learn defense skills at Southern University in Shreveport.
Also as a young man, his fascination with flight would give him him a bird eye's view of military aircraft, flying up to him in his position in the back of an air tanker, guiding the boom to refuel them in mid-air.
"Whether it be helicopters, fighter planes, the B-52 bomber, the Blackbird, all of them came up there. Everybody needed some fuel," he says.
His Air Force career included Vietnam War sorties. At his home base in Ohio, he took electrical engineering courses that got him a job at General Dynamics in San Diego. As a quality engineer, he still had a hand in our military helping develop the advanced cruise missile, used in the first war with Iraq.
"Sometimes war has to be done in order to get the peace that you require out of everybody that's on planet earth," Bobby says.
Bobby would also help in the development of the rocket boosters that blasted space shuttles into orbit. He also assisted in with the MD-11 jetliner, which flew people on business and leisure, and is still used in the air cargo industry.
He retired back in his hometown of Shreveport, where he mentors at-risk youth, and kids in his own west side neighborhood so that they can become achievers, too.
"You've got to extend your hand in order to meet the hand of a friend to help pull you over those conditions that you're going through in life," Bobby says to those looking for a way out of tough times.
For Bobby, it was a karate instructor. For others, today?
"You need to reach out. Whether it be a teacher. Whether it be your minister. Whether it be a guy in the neighborhood, you know, talk to that guy.
"Find a career objective that you would like to do in your life." he continued. "The world is wide open to you. There is no stop sign. There is no stop sign to a person who wants to get to the top of where they want to be in life."
One last bit of advice -- and maybe this goes for all of us -- "Don't let negativity, whether it's from what's in the media or from politicians, skew your outlook."