South Mississippi Strong: Biloxi man refuses to let disabilities stop him, inspires many along the way

South Mississippi Strong: Eagle Houston Jr.

BILOXI, Miss. (WLOX) - He is persistent, has a positive attitude and loves to make people laugh, despite having physical disabilities that would keep many people down.

Eagle Houston Jr. of Biloxi wants to share his story because he hopes it would inspire at least one person, and those who know him say he’s done just that.

The 29-year-old was already coping with left hemiparesis, also known as cerebral palsy, on his left side. Then in March 2017 he had a seizure that threw him out of his bed, leaving him paralyzed.

Personal care aid Jennifer Daniels and Eagle Houston Sr.walk with Eagle Houston Jr. at their home in Biloxi. Houston Sr. trained dogs in the Air Force and is now training dogs to be his son's service dogs.
Personal care aid Jennifer Daniels and Eagle Houston Sr.walk with Eagle Houston Jr. at their home in Biloxi. Houston Sr. trained dogs in the Air Force and is now training dogs to be his son's service dogs. (Source: John Fitzhugh)

Doctors didn’t give him much of a chance to live, much less walk again. But he was determined to prove them wrong from the beginning, said his father, Eagle Houston Sr.

”Even laying on the floor when we found him, and he couldn’t move. He was kind of joking around with the ambulance people. ‘Just pick me up, I can walk.’," his father said.

Refusing to give up, Eagle’s making exceptional improvements and has even amazed one of his caregivers.

“He went from bed to a wheelchair to a walker, and he’s on a cane right now,” said Josephine Duckworth of The Pillars Medical Residences in Biloxi. “He comes to see us every couple of weeks. Tears come to my eyes when I see him because it is so amazing."

Don Sykes, owner of 1 On 1 Fitness in Biloxi watches as Eagle Houston Jr. exercises at his gym.
Don Sykes, owner of 1 On 1 Fitness in Biloxi watches as Eagle Houston Jr. exercises at his gym. (Source: John Fitzhugh)

His father gives the younger Eagle all the credit.

“It’s all him. I guess, I don’t know a positive attitude all the time,” he said while watching one of his son’s regular workouts at 1 On 1 Fitness Center in Biloxi.

“He’s always been persistent, and he always chooses the hardest route, even since he was little,” he explained.

Before he became paralyzed, Eagle would walk three miles each way to his job at Jak’s Card Shop near Keesler.

He learned how to play the drums and guitar, despite having one hand that he can’t move. His solution was to turn the guitar upside down and play like Jimi Hendrix. His love of music now has him making compositions on his computer. He also spends a lot of time in the online gaming world, but he says he isn’t a homebody and tries to get out when he can.

Personal care aid Jennifer Daniels follows Eagle Houston Jr. to his session at Neolife Physical Therapy in D'Iberville.
Personal care aid Jennifer Daniels follows Eagle Houston Jr. to his session at Neolife Physical Therapy in D'Iberville. (Source: John Fitzhugh)

A long-time friendship with the owners of Sophi’s Mediterranean Cafe and the Hookah Up Cafe gives him the opportunity to spend a lot of his time at these locations.

“I try to let him do everything on his own that I can and have a normal life," explained his father.

“People tell me that he inspires [them] because of what he’s doing, and he always has a positive attitude,” he said.

The waitresses at Port City Cafe on Pass Road are among his admirers.

“They can’t believe he’s got that disability, but he still jokes around,” his father explained. “They come up to the table and ask him what else he needs, and he’ll be like ‘I need a girlfriend.’."

Eagle’s disabilities require him to have a personal assistant, Jennifer Daniels. But the relationship has brought them very close. Eagle knows all of Fred Sanford’s punch lines from the show Sanford and Son, and Jennifer responds in the character of Esther.

Physical therapist Dakota McDaniel helps Eagle Houston Jr. walk to his next piece of equipment at Neolife Physical therapy in D'Iberville.
Physical therapist Dakota McDaniel helps Eagle Houston Jr. walk to his next piece of equipment at Neolife Physical therapy in D'Iberville. (Source: John Fitzhugh)

“He is much more than a client,” Daniels said on the back porch of Eagle’s home. “Some days I’m like his wife. Some days I’m his worst enemy,” she said with a smile.

“Eagle will be Eagle. You can’t tell Eagle what to do. Eagle is going to do his own thing,” she said.

“I guess I wouldn’t let anything put me down,” Eagle said humbly describing himself. “I just keep my head up and keep going. I used to be able to walk like normal people would and do stuff on my own, cook and wash my own clothes,” Eagle said of his life before the seizure. He was even looking forward to getting a place of his own.

And throughout the obstacles Eagle faces, he always remembers one thing.

"You have to keep pushing it,” he said.

That attitude has impressed everyone he comes in contact with.

“He motivated a lot of us up in here, and it just made me feel so great,” Duckworth said. “I’m so pleased with him. I really am. And when he comes in to see us, I give him thumbs up every time, and I tell him he had the perfect name. He flew like an eagle out of here.”

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