The largest diamond in the world, the Star of India, was stolen from the American Museum of History in New York City in October 1964. Also stolen at the same time were the Eagle Diamond, the DeLong Ruby, the Midnight Sapphire and twenty-three other precious stones. Who would commit such a crime, one so daring that it received world-wide attention?
The burglar was a talented young man named Jack Roland Murphy. An accomplished athlete, musician and artist, Jack was also a pioneer in the east coast surfboard industry, a sport that gave him the nickname “Murf the Surf.”
Murphy was captured two days later by the FBI and served a three year sentence in New York for his daring burglary. After his release, he returned to Florida where he was tried, convicted and given double life sentences in Florida for crimes committed there. Jack Roland Murphy was scheduled to spend the rest of his life behind bars, but a miraculous thing happened to him inside the Florida State Prison in 1974. His life was changed forever.
It was in 1974 that Murphy heard the testimonies of Bill Glass, Roger Staubach and others. Glass, a former Baylor All-American and Cleveland Browns All-Pro tight end, and Staubach, the quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys, were at the prison to participate in a prison ministry event. What they said during that event made an impact on Murphy’s life that helped to change his mindset forever.
Murphy became a Christian and immediately started participating in the prison chaplaincy program, leading Bible studies and mentoring other prisoners. His charismatic personality, coupled with the sincerity of his belief, attracted other prisoners to hear the life changing story of this nationally known career criminal.
Murphy’s life change was so dramatic that everyone took notice, including the then head of the Florida prison system. Twelve years after his conversion experience, Murphy was summoned before the Florida Parole Board and granted a lifetime parole. In 1986, he walked out of prison.
Murphy was hired by Bill Glass Champions For Life ministry and immediately began visiting prisons and jails all over the United States to witness to other prisoners how they, too, could change their lives. He has remained active in prison ministry since that time, and has ministered in prisons worldwide. Murphy was the keynote speaker in Jerusalem during the 1st World Conference on Crime Prevention and Religion and is a frequent guest on Christian television and radio programs. He has also appeared on Larry King Live.
In 1997, Murphy, aka Murf the Surf, was inducted into the Surfing Legends Hall of Fame. In recognition of the change in Murphy’s life, the Florida Parole Board terminated his lifetime parole in 2000. Already free from the burdens of his past life, he was now free from his parole obligations.
Murphy told his life story in a 1989 book, Jewels For the Journey, in which he described both his hedonistic lifestyle as a career criminal and his new life as a Christian.
Murphy continues to minister around the world, including Washington Parish. Recently, he visited with Sheriff Randy Seal to plan a Washington Parish Jail ministry event which took place on October 26 when more than a dozen volunteers from throughout the country descended on the jail for a day of ministry.
Sheriff Randy Seal commented, “It was a privilege to meet Jack Murphy and listen to him as he shared his life story and his burden for men and women behind bars. I agree with Jack that the only hope for these men and women is a spiritual heart change that can come only through a personal relationship with the Lord. Whether we look it at from a spiritual perspective or simply as future crime prevention, it works, and I’m all for anything that works.”