MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (WKRN) – They are two men unlikely to ever cross paths: a former member of the Ku Klux Klan and a black business owner.
It’s a tattoo that brought the men together and will change both lives forever, showing even the worst of the worst can have a change of heart.
Life has a way of knocking you to your knees.
“It’s rough out here,” said Lee Earnest Walney, who is homeless. “I was helping a man roof houses, and that job fell through.”
For the past three years, Walney has been trying to get back up.
“I just couldn’t get nobody to hire me, so it placed me up underneath a bridge,” he told News 2.
The older he got, he became somewhat set in his ways. To understand why, you have to go back more than 30 years.
“I had a cousin that got raped,” he said. Walney wanted to make sure the person who did this got what he deserved.
“The police wasn’t doing nothing, so I said if they won’t, I will,” he told News 2.
A white sheet and a white pointed hat was his solution.
“I was a full-blown member,” Walney said. He joined the KKK, and he had a tattoo to prove it.
He use to have hate in his heart, but now he said he doesn’t see color.
“Going out here talking, calling this one the N-word, calling this one, that one… why do that?” Walney said. “God put us all here to be one thing, to love each other, and that’s what I want to do.”
As for that tattoo? He wanted it gone, saying it’s time to get his life back together. That’s where tattoo artist Kni DeWayne comes in.
“Most times if someone tries to change their lives, I’m here to help,” said DeWayne, the owner of Beastmode Ink.
“For him, to go against what he put on his arm is even crazier,” he told News 2.
Even though Walney doesn’t see color anymore, DeWayne does, at least in his work.
“Watch this miracle take place,” he said, as he worked on removing the KKK tattoo.
The pain Walney felt as the tattoo was being covered is nothing compared to the pain he caused with his racist past.
It took more than three hours to complete the tattoo.
“It’s time for the big reveal,” DeWayne said. “Remember what it looked like before?”
“It’s unbelievable. It is,” Walney said when he saw the new piece of art.
That KKK tattoo was converted to a cross with red roses in memory of Walney’s mother.
“It took the bad news that was on there and turned it to good news,” he said. “This is the future.”
“Welcome to the future,” DeWayne added. “The cover up king, Beastmode.”
Walney may not be the man he wants to be, but there is one thing for sure. He’s not the man he used to be. That old tattoo doesn’t represent him anymore.
“No more. It’s over,” he told News 2. “You know who represents me? That man upstairs.”
“My job is complete,” DeWayne said while shaking Walney’s hand.
“It is done; it is done,” Walney said. “It took some work, but it’s done.”
DeWayne did the tattoo cover-up for free and even gave Walney all the products to care for it until it heals.
It’s an unbelievable story of change, generosity, and a much brighter future.