OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – His neighborhoods as a top realtor are a world away from those of his youth.

Markus Smith can point to some of these large, expensive properties as someone who brokered their sale.

He can also point to other, poverty-stricken places in the city where he grew up, the product of a Japanese mother and a Black father.

He recalls being poor and surrounded by crime in the mid-80s through the mid-90s.

Smith is a former gang member with the tattoos and stories to prove it.

“What happened to your friends,” asks a visitor to his home office?

“Most of them are dead or incarcerated,” he replies, “and that was the path I was headed down too.”

He finished high school and a semester of college but that was it for nearly a decade.

It took the violent death of a good friend to finally wake him up.

Smith recalls thinking, “Enough is enough. I’ve got to do something.”

Markus went back to school with earnest in 1998.

He got his Masters Degree in less than six years, then a P.H.D.

Markus Smith and his mother at his master's graduation
Markus Smith and his mother at graduation

His best teacher, insists Markus, was his mother who never gave up on her boy.

“She never, ever told me that she was disappointed in me,” he insists. “I just felt it.”

Smith still teaches college classes when he’s not out hustling for new listings.

At the urging of friends and former teachers, he started writing about his experiences – the highs and lows of what it took to turn his life around.

“It was tough,” he confirms. “It was tough.”

The product is a book in three parts, a journey that takes a kid from a tough neighborhood through the rigors of university classes, and to a competitive profession.

"Journey Through the Hoods: From Poverty to PHD to Million-Dollar Real Estate Agent" by Markus Smith

His message: not that it was easy, but that the struggle was worth it.

“I understand. I know what people go through,” says Smith. “I’ve been there, but you can persevere through that adversity.”

Smith’s book “Journey Through the Hoods: From Poverty to PHD to Million-Dollar Real Estate Agent,” was published by CLC Publishing of Mustang, OK in the Fall of 2021.