46. Big E’s sanctuary is with his mother in her North Nashville neighborhood.


One afternoon in the autumn of 2019, Erick “Big E” McCord phoned and invited us to visit him. We had visited him before in public many times and even met him at an undisclosed “safe house,” the latter of which was a big act of trust on his part. This time he invited us to meet his mother–an invitation almost NO ONE in his life has received.

“This here is my true safe house,” he said, showing us into his mother’s apartment in a North Nashville high-rise.

He said no one gets an invitation to visit him at his mother’s house. For one, it is because this is where he goes to get away from the street and nobody from his street life is welcome here–or to even know the location! “This is my sanctuary.” Then there is also the fact his mother won’t allow it!

He wasn’t sure how his mother would respond to seeing me in her place when she would arrive, he said. But we found out.

When she walked through the door she just stared at me for a minute. She said later she thought I was undercover police.

Erick told her a little of my own story and assured her he had vetted me thoroughly. She relaxed. And within a few minutes she was sitting with us and telling stories about Erick. A mother’s stories.

Even the most serious of men and women were once children. Today we got to see Erick as a son and not a gangster. And we had to laugh because his mother’s stories about him are the same stories my mother tells about me. Big E said, “Maybe this is who we really are, not what we have become but who our mothers always knew us to be.”

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