Writer’s Note: This is the third part of a three-part series about Madison, Tennessee resident and businessman Robert Sherrill, who seeks a federal pardon from U.S. President Donald Trump for past federal drug offenses. The first and second parts of this series are available on The Tennessee Star’s website.
At age 30, Robert Sherrill had served his time for a drug-related felony and was out of prison, destined for greater things, but more struggles were approaching.
In 2015 Sherrill started his own company, Imperial Cleaning Systems, which he said reaches nearly $1 million in revenue with more than 20 employees. He published an autobiography, The Journey Back to Now.
Sherrill then started Impact Youth Outreach, a nonprofit to help inner city at-risk youth. Former Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam pardoned him so that he would have no state record. Sherrill then started The Dream Initiative, a nonprofit that helps former prisoners reenter society.
Imperial Cleaning Systems’ Chief Operating Officer Contrecia Tharpe told The Tennessee Star that Sherrill’s capacity to connect with troubled adolescents is what wows her the most about him.
“Many youth advocates come into it from a place of sympathy, meaning that they just feel sorry. They just feel sorry that the kid is going through that thing. They just feel sorry that they are in juvenile detention. They feel sorry that they have experienced some kind of turbulence at home. But Robert comes at it from a place of empathy. Because of that I have seen him be able to reach children in a way that I have never witnessed before,” Tharpe said.
“We were at a local high school here. Two boys were going at it over something very minor, very trivial. But the conversation was that not at school — but once they left — they were going to let the streets handle it, which essentially meant that one of them was going to get killed.”
Sherrill and Tharpe were at the school that day for another purpose entirely, to reward another student with a pair of shoes. The school resource officer asked Sherrill for help, Tharpe said.
“And in a matter of 45 minutes the situation was squashed. One young man has graduated from that high school since then, and the other one is slated to graduate this year. Those are the types of things that amaze me about him. He is not just a youth advocate for the title. He is a youth advocate with passion,” Tharpe said.
“He really wants to see children become more than he had the chance to become at that age. He works very diligently with other mentors on Impact Youth Outreach to make sure that these kids understand they have a chance at better things.”
Despite his good works, Sherrill cannot get certain loans for his business because of his past federal felony record — for a non-violent crime.
Filing for a federal pardon, Sherrill said, is a lengthy process.
“It’s costly. You have to hire attorneys. You have to file a packet with the Department of Justice,” Sherrill said.
“And you don’t hear anything until the president rules on it.”
Since then, Sherrill said he has reached out to Vice President Mike Pence and U.S. Rep. Mark Green (R-TN-07) for help.
“Mike Pence is very articulate and very smart,” Sherrill said.
“He didn’t have to talk to me, but he spent time with me. He put his hands on my shoulders and told me that we believe in second chances, and I believe him.”
Sherrill said Green, meanwhile, “was very instrumental in the local and federal process.”
“I appreciate President Trump. I want him to know that I am operating at a disadvantage, and I know he’s pro-business. He’s done some great things for us there. I want to join that league of people and be able to grow my business, but I need a fresh start to do it,” Sherrill said.
“The sky is the limit. Once I get this pardon there is nothing else in life that can stop me but me.”
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