It was October of 1999 when a man named Jim Bradford decided to stop at Mrs. Winner’s Chicken & Biscuits. He bought a 25-cent cup of coffee, and glanced over to notice a boy, sitting alone, staring out a window.
Curious, Bradford asked about the 9-year-old boy, sloppily dressed and wearing braces on each leg. His right arm was bent in an odd fashion, and Bradford noticed the boy was blind.
The child, as an employee explained, belonged to Pearl Derryberry, the woman working behind the cash register. She was HK’s grandmother and sole caregiver, and had to bring him to the diner on weekends as she couldn’t afford to hire someone to watch him.
Bradford walked up to the boy and struck up a conversation. It was the beginning of a beautiful, desperately needed friendship.
HK’s pregnant mother and father were driving down a winding Tennessee road when his father lost control of the vehicle. The resulting crash took his mother’s life, and brought the unborn child into the world months earlier than he should have been.
A resulting brain bleed left HK with cerebral palsy and an underdevelopment of his right limbs. His retinas were not fully developed, leaving the baby blind.
After weeks of uncertainty, HK went home with his grandmother Pearl. The ordeal proved to be too much for his father, who abandoned the family when HK was at the tender age of five.
Grandma Pearl took it upon herself to enroll HK in the Tennessee School for the Blind, and assumed all responsibility for his medical care. For years, she was consumed with doctor’s appointments, HK’s education, and her work at the diner.
When Bradford met HK, everything changed. He became a mentor and a father to the young boy, and unearthed the flawless memory that HK had kept hidden all those years.
So many books to sign, so little time. NO, I'm not complaining!! Do you see me smiling?? 😃 Getting ready for a…
Incredibly, HK is able to effortlessly remember every detail of his life. He can tell you what he had for dinner two weeks ago or the score of any Titan’s football game.
He can remember literally everything about his day-to-day life. Less than 100 people in the world possess the same remarkable memory talent, called hyperthymesia.
Bradford saw potential in HK, and harnessed his talent for a greater good. Together, they wrote a book titled “The Awakening of HK Derryberry,” the story of the boy who remembers everything.
Today, Bradford is 73 and HK is 26. They meet regularly to chat about bluegrass and football, make jokes, and sign copies of their book.
The pair now travels the country together, telling their story for others. HK is thrilled that his purpose in life is, “to inspire people.”