Karmichael Spiller


"Sometimes things (will) be going through my mind in my sleep," 46-year-old Jackson native Karmichael Spiller says. "It's like I'm always awake." Such a non-stop stream of creativity would seem necessary for an inventor, especially one like Spiller, whose inventions range from energy-saving cookware to animal birth-control devices. But Spiller says a major source of his constant thought is dyslexia.

"I think part of it is my mind trying to compensate for the dyslexia," he says.

As a student at Provine High School, Spiller never knew the name for his disability, which causes him to transpose letters and numbers when he reads and writes. Other students, and even some of the teachers, made fun of him.

"Can you imagine how introverted I became?" he asks.

It would take some imagination: Spiller, a thick-set, bald-shaven black man, is engaging and talkative. He is the one conducting this interview.

Spiller has come a long way since high school. In short order, he dropped out of Provine, started hanging out with "the wrong kind of people," and wound up serving three years for armed robbery at Parchman Penitentiary in Sunflower County. Ironically, it was at Parchman that a fellow inmate told Spiller he had dyslexia and taught him how to read.

"Once I learned to read, I felt like I could do anything," he says. "And I never stopped reading, because I was worried that if I ever stopped, I'd lose it."

After his release from prison in 1984, Spiller earned his GED in Jackson and began doing plumbing and electric work. He also decided on his future career. At Parchman, before he could read, he looked at the pictures in a book of black inventors, which inspired him to become an inventor himself.

Today, Spiller and his wife, Renae, have been married for nearly 25 years, and they have three children: Elliot, 20, Whitney, 18, and Joshua, 15. He works as a concrete finisher with Larry Breedlove Concrete, but, "in every moment of my spare time, I'm inventing," he says.

His latest invention, for which the patent is pending, is an improved checkbook for disabled users. It includes a spelling guide for the dyslexic, along with several features designed specifically for people with Parkinson's disease and other conditions. For instance, the corners of the checks are rounded so the checks will slide more easily into envelopes.

The next step for Spiller is to find funding for a check-printing facility here in Jackson, which he hopes will create jobs and boost the economy.

"People have told me that I have to leave Mississippi to get anything done," Spiller says. "Well, I totally disagree. I love Mississippi. This is my home."

Previous Comments


JPS does not want to deal with dyslexic students -too much paperwork. You have to become a serious and committed advocate for your dyslexic child if you don't want that child to get lost in the system.... so now you can imagine all the children like Spiller who never got a fair chance while in school - thank goodness things worked out for him in the end...



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