Humphrey Taft

Former OSR inmate Michael Humphrey (left) stands with former Ohio Gov. Bob Taft, who issued a pardon for him in 2004. The two men met for the first time on Thursday at the historic Mansfield prison.

MANSFIELD -- Michael Humphrey showed former Ohio Gov. Bob Taft his former Ohio State Reformatory cell on Thursday.

It was a fitting moment and location since Taft had given Humphrey his ultimate freedom in 2004, issuing a pardon for a grand larceny conviction for which the ex-inmate served 14 months at OSR in 1969-1970.

It was the first meeting between the 79-year-old Taft and the 71-year-old Humphrey, completing a journey that began with the former two-term governor's signature on a piece of paper 17 years ago.

Humphrey, who hosts "The Inmate Confessions Tour" at the historical former prison, told visitors during a meeting a few minutes later in the Central Guard Room that the governor's decision changed his life.

"I can't tell you what it did for me," said Humphrey, whose felony conviction in Stark County made his life more difficult in terms of finding a job, buying a house, achieving a good credit rating, etc. "I can't put it into words.

"It took 80 percent of the anger out of me," Humphrey said. "I didn't want to be mad anymore.

"It changed my whole life ... period," said Humphrey, a prison tour guide whose presentations focus on his time as an inmate at OSR and his own life story, including an auto theft conviction that landed him behind bars at age 18.

"I was never a criminal when I came (to OSR)," said Humphrey, describing a childhood that included frequent beatings and abuse from his father. "I was a dumb kid who made a mistake. No kid grows up wanting to become a criminal."

He was never in legal trouble again after leaving OSR. He decided to seek the pardon with the support and encouragement of his colleagues at the Mansfield Reformatory Preservation Society.

Taft, who left office in 2007 and now works at the University of Dayton, said it was clear Humphrey, a high school dropout who earned his high school diploma while at OSR with a 4.0 GPA, had been fully rehabilitated.

The state parole board had voted unanimously to recommend the pardon for Humphrey, who found construction work in North Carolina after leaving prison in 1970 and later owned his own music store back home in Ohio.

"He was giving tours here, doing greyhound rescue work," said Taft, who sat in the front row during the presentation.  "He was extremely young when it happened. I wish it had happened earlier, actually. I wish it had come to me earlier. It was really a clear case."

(For more information about upcoming events and tours at OSR, located at 100 Reformatory Road, call 419-522-2644.)

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City editor. 30-year plus journalist. Husband. Father of 3 grown sons and also a proud grandpa. Prior military journalist in U.S. Navy, Ohio Air National Guard. -- Favorite quote: "Where were you when the page was blank?"