My Moment Of Truth

By Caroline V. Clarke, Wynton Marsalis by Sonja D. Brown

and college, I was out of control,” Leggett says. Then he met a girl.

“I met my wife, Denise, in 1980. Until I met her, I never knew anybody for whom God was their best friend. I knew plenty of people who went to church, but we were all partying until 5 a.m. on Saturday then singing in the choir on Sunday. Denise, even at that young age, talked to God all the time. Her father was an evangelist and she observed a Saturday Sabbath.

“Denise dreamed of being a lawyer her whole life. But junior year, when it came time for her to take the [law school entrance exam], she found out they only gave it on Saturdays. My advice was: Take the test on Saturday and ask the Lord to forgive you on Sunday. But she had concluded that if the Lord didn’t work this out for her, He had something better in mind for her to do. I’m sitting on the sidelines saying, ‘Baby, I love the Lord too, but I’d be sitting in there taking that test.’ She wouldn’t do it but she kept studying hard. I’m watching her study, knowing there’s no Sunday test date, thinking, ‘What are you doing? Why are you studying?’ She’d just say, ‘I have faith that the Lord is going to work this out for me.’

“As it turned out, that year they offered the test on Sunday in about five cities throughout the U.S. One was Cleveland and she was living in Columbus, just a drive away. They didn’t announce the Sunday option until the week before the test, but she was ready because she’d kept studying, even when she knew it might not happen for her. I was amazed. I decided right then that I needed to get serious about my relationship with the Lord. I watched her just continue to study and apply herself that summer, and I learned how to live what you believe. Seeing the depth of her faith changed my life.”

When Leggett returned to Princeton the next year, he had stopped partying on Saturday nights and would spend most of Sunday in church. He also began hitting the books with a new resolve. “Once I embraced the whole concept of true discipline and mental strength, I went from being a decent student to being off the charts. I wasn’t any smarter, I was just in a different place, mentally and spiritually. You can be highly educated and have great talents, but if you have no self-control, you’ll never reach your potential. Your state of mind is the greatest predictor of your future.”

Leggett went on to attend Case Western Reserve School of Medicine in Ohio, marrying Denise while he was still a student. He received his cardiology training at some of the best facilities in the world — Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore and Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, among others. He attributes all of these opportunities to God’s work in his life. Today, at age 42, he

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