Norman Tillman was a key figure in the spread of crack through his hometown of Chicago—and other major and minor cities—in the 1980s. But at 55, he's a very different man, DNAInfo reports. "If I would have understood then what I know now at my age, man, that would have never happened," Tillman says. He worked alongside "Freeway" Rick Ross, the LA drug kingpin who built a nationwide drug enterprise that sold more than half a million nuggets of the drug daily, the Los Angeles Times reported in 1995; in a look at Ross last year, Esquire noted that it's estimated he bought and resold three tons of cocaine over a seven-year period in the '80s. In Chicago alone, the then-20-something Tillman was taking in $9 million a month from the gangs he sold to, which was nearly all of them.
"I had more money than the pope," Tillman says, and purchased more homes in which to cook cocaine into crack than he could keep straight. But he had a total change of heart when his brother was killed in 1990. "I saw his body, and that’s when I quit selling cocaine." Now, traveling through Chicago, he reflects on his actions: "People literally smoked up everything—first their jobs, then their assets, then their retirement, and then their lives—in a cocaine pipe. My whole family is gone," he notes. "Man, I am real remorseful about that." In recent years, he's worked to help those in need of drug treatment, and today, he runs the Freeway Boys Foundation, which is focused on helping released inmates get their lives back on track. The group's chairman, per its website, is Ross, who was released from prison in 2009; DNAInfo notes Tillman never served time for his dealing.