FEBRUARY: BLACK AMERICANS MAKING AMERICAN HISTORY
As I celebrate 50 years of my radio sports talk show, Inside Sports, 50+ years of marriage, 50+ years of Kids In Trouble, and 50+ Christmas toy parties for elementary school children, I look back to see and thank those who lent a helping hand in all those successful endeavors–I now understand “NO MAN IS AN ISLAND!“
I think of Gary Johnson when I count my blessings. He is a native Washingtonian and a product of the DC Public School system. Gary remembers having a small AM radio that he used to sit in his window for reception and listen to me on the W-U-S-T radio back in the day.
Gary was born into a DC working middle-class family with his sister Judy and a rotating cast of Aunts and Uncles who migrated from the coal mining town of Uniontown, PA, to the big city to make a life for themselves as they finished college.
His father was a cab driver, who went back to school and became a Maintenance Engineer at Police Headquarters. His mother was one of the first black female police officers on the Metropolitan Police Department rising to the rank of Sergeant. His Godmother Mattie Taylor was also a DC cop and served on the first ever DC City Council.
In high school, Gary began to question the advice of his school counselors and advisors who were attempting to steer him into trade school instead of going to college. Gary was determined to take control of his life and not let other people define his success.
He graduated high school and attended the University of District of Columbia (UDC) as a full-time student. One year later Gary got a job with a government Intelligence agency as a Mail Clerk. He attended college during the day while he worked full time in the evening. A few years later at the age of 23, Gary was assigned to The White House where he worked for three Assistants to the President for National Security Affairs as an Intelligence Watch Analyst.
He left The White House after serving just under 4-years. Eleven years after graduating from High School, Gary graduated college with a BS degree in Organizational Behavior from Columbia Union College. He also attended Antioch University School of Law, where he studied in the Master of Legal Science program.
By now Gary was married with a child on the way. He continued working for the government and expanded his side hustle of vending machine management. Gary bought his first vending machine at the age of 14. He worked at the gas station across the street from his Jr. High School. He told his boss that they could make a lot more money at the station if he (Gary) took over the management of the machine because he knew what kind of candy the kids liked. His boss agreed and after 3 months Gary bought him out and was the sole owner.
By the time Gary got married he grew the business to approximately 20 machines to include candy, soda and video arcade machines that were popular at the time. Gary had machines in banks, gas stations, auto shops, college campuses and liquor stores throughout Washington, DC, Prince George’s and Montgomery County, Maryland. Because he was working full time he needed to hire people he could trust to fill the machines and empty the cash. He turned to his Dad who had retired and his father’s uncle, another retiree. Those guys ran the business during the week for Gary.
Gary worked 18-years for the federal government before launching his own businesses, where he was free to use his personal power to define his success. The same personal power that we all have, but don’t always know how to use.
Fast Forward to 1994. Gary is married with two small boys ages 4 and 7, Gary, Jr and Chris. He conducted an honest self-assessment of his situation and abilities and decided he was not living up to his potential. With his wife’s support, Gary walked away from a “good government job and a successful career”, because as he tells it, “I was not personally fulfilled, and I thought there was room for me to develop and contribute more to society outside of the government arena.”
He also wanted to spend more time with his two sons, Gary, Jr. and Chris. For the first couple of years, he was a “Stay-At-Home” Dad. He secured office space 15 minutes from Gary and Chris’ school for his ongoing consultant business. Self-employment allowed Gary to be a hands-on father and slowly grow his business.
When he was hired to go teach or coach managers at different companies, he would get on a plane and would be gone for 3-5 days at a time. For example, he would go to NYC on Monday and teach on Wall Street and then he would head home on Friday.
Gary would sometimes be home for the next 8 to 14 days until another client called. There were times he got lucky and would get some federal government contracts which were local requiring no plane travel. Even with this unpredictable work schedule, Gary was able to spend more time at home with his wife and kids.
In 1995, he launched a management training company bearing his name, Gary A. Johnson Company & Associates. Gary either independently or in collaboration with other HR firms, provided training, consulting, and facilitation services to numerous Fortune 500 companies in almost every industry, such as the airline, auto, chemical, agricultural, pharmaceutical, banks, Wall St. firms, and government organizations. Also in 1995, Gary conceived the idea to develop a website to balance the image of black men in America the day of the Million Man March on Washington.
As the Internet started to grow, Gary saw this new medium as “the great equalizer” allowing him to provide a forum and a voice to the voiceless when it came to issues of interest to black men. Six years later, without any web training, Gary built a website and launched the site Black Men In America.com and marketed it as an online magazine. Today, Black Men In America.com (www.blackmeninamerica.com) is an award-winning top-rated website in the category of “African American Online Communities.”
Gary is using Black Men In America.com to help independent and black authors promote their books. He also helps black singers, actors and comedians have a place to promote their latest ventures.
Gary is the author of the book 25 Things That Really Matter In Life (Courtland Press, ISBN-13: 978-0-9791113-0-3 ) and was a contributing author to the books IN SEARCH OF FATHERHOOD(R) — TRANSCENDING BOUNDARIES and The Black Fatherhood Perspective.
In the early 2000’s Gary and his business partner Chauncey Dunham helped the DC Public School System secure their first technology bus for a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math) program called “Be The Game,” at McKinley High School in Washington, D.C. The company secured a contract with the DC Public School system to help provide STEM education to under-served youth. Gary was able to hire high school students to teach elementary school and middle school students as Instructors. He along with his partners helped the DC Public School System secure their first technology bus.
Gary understands that friendships are like bank deposits. You can not continue to draw on them without making a deposit. He is seen here with Mr. Alvin Byrd, a man who was down on his luck and needed a meal. Mr. Byrd wanted a picture of the two of them as they head out to dinner. At this point in his life, Gary says he’s all about making positive memories and setting solid examples for his adult sons and his granddaughters.
Gary keeps reinventing himself to help improve the lives of anyone he encounters, especially his children and their children. He recently launched his own talk show on a website that he conceived and built that will allow him to talk about topics that are important to him such as hunger in America, scams targeting senior citizens, jobs, money management, caregivers for family members with dementia and Alzheimer’s and more. To date Gary has interviewed an Olympic Gold Medal Winner, a GRAMMY award winning musician and producer, and every day people who make a positive difference in our society. You can watch Gary’s interviews on the Calculations Talk Show website located at www.calculationstalkshow.com.
About the Author
Harold Bell is the Godfather of Sports Talk radio and television in Washington, DC. Throughout the mid-sixties, seventies and eighties, Harold embarked upon a relatively new medium–-sports talk radio with classic interviews with sports celebrities, politicians and news makers of the day. He changed the way we talk and report sports on radio and television. The show and format became wildly popular. Harold has been an active force fighting for the rights of children for 50+ years with the help of his wife Hattie through their charity Kids In Trouble, Inc. To learn more about Harold Bell visit his official web site. You can check out Harold’s work on this site by clicking here.