The son of a sharecropper, J. T. Pace could not read or write for most of his life. As a young soldier during WWII, he was unable to read letters sent to him by his mother and girlfriend. As a married man, he had to ask his wife to sign his checks and he was unable to help his children with their homework. As a functionally illiterate man, he worked for over 40 years as a truck driver and construction worker. 

When he moved from New York back to his home state of South Carolina, he became involved in the Greenville Literacy Association first as a student and then as a volunteer. When he learned to read and write, he was finally able to read his beloved Bible, supplementing the audiobook approach he had been dependent on. 
J.T.  became a fervent champion of literacy and volunteered to help others in his community learn to read. In 1988, he was awarded a local Jefferson award for his efforts. He was also featured on the Oprah Winfrey Show and on national television with First Lady Barbara Bush. In 1994 "Dust of the Earth," a biographical fiction inspiried by his life, was published.
J.T Pace is an example of someone who overcame adversity to become a leader in helping others. On this National Black Literacy Day, we celebrate J.T. and all other service pioneers like him who work in low-literacy areas to bring the skill of literacy into people’s lives.