By Story and photos by Staff Sgt. Shelton Sherrill
/ Published October 02, 2018
From a church pulpit to a stage bar, this former preacher walks into the spotlight. As his fingers dance on the guitar strings, his voice sings tales of pain, perseverance and his journey to exuberance.
As if in a trance, the audience hangs on to this every word, and in those moments, this native Alabama Airman is able to live out his dream.
“I’m living the best days of my life right now. Maybe the better days are in front of me, but I know these days are far better than the ones that preceded it,” said Tech. Sgt. Abraham Partridge, 403rd Maintenance Squadron intergraded missions systems technician.
Partridge has topped music charts, exhibited paintings at events, and played at exclusive music venues, but his life wasn’t always full of happiness. His road to happiness was filled with some tough times wrapped in despair.
At 18, Partridge moved out to pursue a theological degree. Four years later, he not only earned a degree, but he also met the woman who became his wife. They later moved to the Appalachian Mountains in Kentucky where Partridge said he accepted a pastorship and was in charge of guiding other’s souls.
Quickly realizing he had the ability to influence people’s lives, Partridge began to look deeper into what he was teaching. Partridge said he began to see a different truth than what he was preaching to others.
Tormented and conflicted, he said he had to decide to follow his own beliefs, which went against the church’s beliefs, or accept this reality and live in an eternal jail.
“It (preaching) became something that I couldn’t do anymore,” said Partridge. “So, I packed everything I owned, my family, drove back to Mobile, moved in with my mother and started over.”
After returning home, Partridge took a minimum wage job and then bounced around doing various manual labor jobs until he joined the Air Force Reserve. During these dark times of doubt and uncertainty, Partridge’s pen and paintbrush were a therapeutic guide and outlet that brought him back to happiness.
He started working a steady civilian job while serving once a month as a reservist until going on a deployment overseas in 2013. Upon his return, Partridge took a full-time position as an Air Reserve Technician. This newly found job security and benefits that the Air Force Reserve provided, allowed him more time to realize what made him happy in life. So he started to perfect those talents which were once his savior: art and music.
“At the same time I started to write songs, I created visual art,” said Partridge. “It made me feel good. No one ever appreciated it, so I was secretive about my artwork and songs for a long time.”
The more his skills grew, the more he would let other people peek into the artistic world that he had created.
“His passion for music is beyond anything I have ever witnessed,” said Tech. Sgt. Earnest Scruggs, a maintainer with the 803rd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. “For years it was something that he did just for himself, close friends and family. Lucky for us, he started to open to the world a little and let a few more of us hear some of the songs he had written.”
As time passed, Partridge said he finally did his first performance in front of a live audience. It was during a songwriting competition in Gulf Shores, Alabama. A crowd of more than 200 people gave him a standing ovation at the end of the show. Not only did he gain confidence in his talents, he also met a producer who helped him record his first album. That record provided him notoriety and started him on the road of touring.
“I’ve been playing shows from Texas to Key Largo to Cleveland," said Partridge. “All while being an ART, a reservist, a father and a husband, which is really difficult.”
Partridge’s determination fueled him to continuously grab opportunities touring while also recording his second album and getting picked up by a record label.
The success of his music then opened the doors for his artwork. Partridge’s publicists and manager came to his house and was captivated by one of the few paintings his wife allowed him to display in the house.
“I brought out all my other pieces hidden in the corner of my house, and they loved all of them,” said Partridge. “It was the first time anyone showed any interest in that part of what I do. So, I made my art public and within a month it was international news.”
Partridge has had feature articles in the Associated Press, Washington Times and other national publications. His last record debuted at number 19 on the European Americana Music Charts. He represented the Gulf Coast Blues Society in the 2017 International Blues Challenge and has toured all over the U.S. and the Netherlands. After hiding his talents for over a decade, Partridge transformed his life struggles into art.
“I am not bragging, because I didn’t have anything thing to do with it,” said Partridge. “I really feel like perseverance has led me here, and I have been extremely blessed.”
“Not to take away from his talent, but the most inspiring part of Abe is his drive,” said Scruggs. “He puts himself in front of people, and he delivers every time. That's why he's had so much success in such a short period of time.”
Partridge continues to work full-time with the Air Force Reserve while still pursuing his passion for art and music. Partridge said he doesn’t seek fame through all of this. His true happiness continues to bloom as long as he is able to provide for his family, create art and perform.
He is a living proof that a person can follow your dreams while serving as a Citizen Airman. Everyone’s path to internal happiness may be filled with obstacles, but he reveals that an important tool needed to build success is perseverance.
“If you’re doing anything original, when you first start doing it, everyone is going to look at you wide-eyed like you’re crazy,” said Partridge. “But if you persevere, believe in your work, put it out there and perfect your craft, eventually things will start happening.”
(Sherrill is assigned to the 403rd Wing public affairs office.)