"I thought it was spam!" Fordham recalled, amused. "I'm glad I didn't
Fordham, 30, will help carry the Olympic torch when it arrives in
Oakland on Friday en route to Salt Lake City and the 2002 Winter Olympic
Games, which begin Feb. 8.
An Olympic nominating committee, supported by regional task forces,
received more than 210,000 essays from friends, families and colleagues
of the nominees. In all, 11,500 torchbearers were selected. They all
share one characteristic: the ability to inspire.
Fordham graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, School
of Law (Boalt Hall) last spring and is now a law clerk to Utah Supreme
Court Justice Christine M. Durham. He plans to return to the Bay Area
when the one-year clerkship ends.
But back in 1989, he was a patient lying in a hospital bed. He was
paralyzed from the chest down and in his hands. A car crash had left
him a quadriplegic.
The crash had also, temporarily, eliminated his ability to speak.
Working with a therapist, he communicated by strapping a gadget to his
chin and tapping out codes that appeared as words on a computer screen.
Over time, and with much rehabilitation, he regained his speech and
set his sights on college.
Just one year after the accident, he enrolled in a local community
college and then transferred to the University of Utah. He arrived at
college equipped with a new power wheelchair and his own creativity
- he learned he could take notes by placing a pen in his paralyzed hand
and using the muscles of his arm to control the pen's movement. Later,
frustrated with the long bus rides to the university, he learned to
drive an adapted van.
Fordham graduated from the University of Utah with high honors and
soon enrolled in one of the top law schools in the country, Boalt Hall.
"He learned to cope with his disability with a sense of humor," Fordham's
mother, Barbara Fordham, concluded in her nominating letter to the Olympic
committee. "Brigham embodies the Olympic Spirit by virtue of his fortitude,
perseverance and willingness to give of himself."
Fordham became involved in community service after learning of its
importance first hand, when many people assisted with his rehabilitation.
Throughout his rehabilitation and during his years as an undergraduate
and as a law student at Boalt Hall, he participated in community service
at places such as the Arthritis Foundation in Utah and the Legal Aid
Society in San Francisco.
While at Boalt Hall, he was a member of the California Law Review,
was on the board of the Berkeley Law Foundation, and was president of
the Boalt Disability Law Society, among other things. However, his interests
had never really turned to sports -- before or after the accident.
"Truth is, I'm not a big sports fan and have never followed the (Olympic)
Games that closely," Fordham admits. "For that reason, the nomination
came as a surprise. But I think it's quite an honor to carry the torch.
This year, especially, the torch relay and the games seem to have great
symbolic significance. I'm looking forward to seeing some of the games."
Fordham will carry the torch up 51st Street in Oakland, starting at
2:45 p.m. Friday, Jan. 18. He will begin at Lawton Avenue, just below