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Hometown Hero: Former state trooper teaches life lessons through chess

Chess ain’t checkers.

It’s not easy, but almost anyone can learn the complex 1,500-year-old game that teaches strategy, confidence, a willingness to learn and also how to accept failure.

So says Orrin Hudson, a 50-year-old Stone Mountain chess champion who has devoted his life and life savings to teaching the ancient game to modern kids to instill in them a never-say-die attitude.

Or as Hudson puts it, “every disappointment is a blessing. Life is a conspiracy to help you win.”

He says he was headed for trouble as a youngster until his brother introduced him to chess. Then the only white teacher in an all-black school showed him that the game was far more than just a way to have fun, but a demonstration that all actions have consequences.

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“That has never left me,” says Hudson, who spent six years as an Alabama state troopers before his whole life changed in 2000 — he saw a TV news account about seven employees of a restaurant being murdered by two kids for $2,000.

By then, Hudson, reared in a housing project, was already a champion chess player who’d been teaching kids chess in Birmingham, Ala., schools for 13 years.

After moving to the Atlanta area, he launched “Be Someone,” a 501 c (3) non-profit foundation, in 2001 to teach underprivileged youths how to learn from chess.

He’s lectures in schools, his own chess studio in Stone Mountain and around the country.

Long-time educator Brian Bolden, principal of R.E. McNair Discovery Learning Academy, says Hudson works wonders with kids, stressing they can overcome any obstacles. “Kids love him,” Bolden says. “A lot of kids are better off because of him.”

Hudson’s budget is $30,000 a year but he’s traveled all over the country, often for free.

He speaks at schools, offers private lessons and holds classes in Stone Mountain, where he lives with wife and six kids. He figures he’s taught 40,000 youths.

Bill Maddox of the Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education says Hudson does after-school programs and is “focused and dedicated” on helping kids.

“He’s the real thing,” Maddox says.

Hudson, author of “One Move at a Time, How to Play and Win at Chess and Life,” says his goal is to take his message to a million youths.

“My message is ‘heads up, pants up, grades up, and the big one, ‘never give up’.”

Kate Danaher, 64, a former professor in Wilmington, Del., says wants to do a screenplay about him.

“I called Orrin, 6 in the morning, thinking I’d leave a message,” she says. “He answers and I apologize, he says, ‘that’s fine, a soldier sleeps with his boots on.”

Georgia Tech Student Aaron Porter, 20, says the former cop “taught me to look at chess like life” and that “you can make mistakes and recover. It made me look at life in a different way, changed my life.”

Volunteer Brian Woods, 17, says he learned from Hudson “that every move has a consequence.”

Hudson’s goal is to keep kids off drugs, in school and away from violence.

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