Abbott was jogging on July 14, 1984 when a 75-foot oak tree snapped and came down on him, striking him in the back. It was a life-altering moment that left Abbott with no feeling his his legs and with a profoundly different life than he had before that fateful day; to this date, he’s in a wheelchair, as the Texas Tribune reported.
He successfully sued and settled with homeowner Roy W. Moore, claiming negligence over the hallowed-out oak tree, though Moore — who reportedly voted for Abbott in the gubernatorial race decades later — has said he had no idea the tree was hollow.
As The Christian Post noted, Abbott has received about $5.8 million through the end of 2013, and also gets a monthly income as a result of the settlement — payouts that will reportedly continue until his death.
Abbott has openly discussed the impact that the event had on his life, explaining the initial uncertainty surrounding his circumstances; at the time, he was a recent law school graduate and had been married for just three years.
“One moment I was walking and running and doing everything I had done my entire life. The next moment, literally, I would no longer be able to walk,” Abbott told KXAS-TV. “But I didn’t know if I would be able to work. I didn’t know if I will be able to do anything in life.”
The governor, a Catholic convert whose grandfather was a Christian pastor, admitted that the harrowing experience tested his faith and that he found himself questioning why he faced such profound challenges. But he also came to rely on God amid his struggles.
“I quickly felt the guidance of God and the realization that God has a different pathway for us than what we may think and that we cannot be locked into a certain pathway. We need to listen to God’s guidance,” he told KXAS-TV. “And through each step in my recovery process after my accident, I grew closer and closer to God.”