The Nation’s Largest African American Video Oral History Collection Mobile search icon Mobile close search icon
Advanced Biography Search
Mobile navigation icon Close mobile navigation icon

Albert W. Johnson

Share on Social Media

Information about Albert W. Johnson

Profile image of Albert W. Johnson

Profession

Category:
BusinessMakers
Occupation(s):
Auto Sales Entrepreneur

Favorites

Favorite Color:
None
Favorite Food:
Grits
Favorite Time of Year:
None
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Northern California
Favorite Quote:
None

Birthplace

Born:
2/23/1920
Birth Location:
St. Louis, Missouri

Profession

Category:
BusinessMakers
Occupation(s):
Auto Sales Entrepreneur

Favorites

Favorite Color:
None
Favorite Food:
Grits
Favorite Time of Year:
None
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Northern California
Favorite Quote:
None

Birthplace

Born:
2/23/1920
Birth Location:
St. Louis
See how Albert W. Johnson is related to other HistoryMakers

Biography

Entrepreneur and philanthropist, Albert W. Johnson of Chicago was the first African American to have a General Motors franchise and later became a leading independent Cadillac dealer. He has received numerous recognition awards, including the Entrepreneurship Hall of Fame and Man of the Millennium from the University of Illinois School of Business.

Johnson was born on February 23, 1920, in St. Louis, Missouri, the son of a physician. He received his B.S. degree in business administration from Lincoln University in 1940 and his M.S. degree in hospital administration from the University of Chicago in 1960. He became an assistant administrator of a St. Louis teaching hospital in 1945 and sold automobiles part time. He became known as “the man who sold cars from a briefcase,” since African Americans could not be hired to sell inside a dealership.

Johnson’s persistence in realizing his dream of being a car dealer paid off in 1967. He became the first African American given a General Motors franchise, more than fifteen years after he began petitioning General Motors. He obtained a Cadillac franchise in 1971, and the next year, he became an independent dealer. He sold his companies in 1994 and has devoted his time to civic involvement. Not only was Johnson a founder of the PUSH Foundation and a life member of the NAACP, he has made significant contributions to hospitals, schools, recreational facilities and charitable organizations across the nation.

Johnson has received an honorary doctorate of law from Mary Holmes College and an Honor of Entrepreneurial Excellence from Howard University School of Business Administration. Among his many other affiliations include chairman emeritus of the University of Illinois Center for Urban Business, College for Business Administration; board member of LaRabida Children’s Hospital; member of the Executives Club of Chicago, Ingalls Memorial Hospital, the Better Business Bureau, Chicago Tourism Council, Bellwood Bank, and the General Motors Black Dealer Advisory Board.

Johnson and his wife reside are the parents of three grown sons.

Johnson passed away on January 13, 2010 at the age of 89.

See how Albert W. Johnson is related to other HistoryMakers
Loading...
Click Here To Explore The Archive Today!
  • Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Albert W. Johnson's interview
  • Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Albert W. Johnson lists his favorites
  • Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Albert W. Johnson talks about his mother
  • Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Albert W. Johnson talks about his father's medical career
  • Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Albert W. Johnson describes his earliest childhood memory
  • Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Albert W. Johnson talks about his professional mentors
  • Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Albert W. Johnson describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood
  • Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Albert W. Johnson describes his childhood personality and interests
  • Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Albert W. Johnson talks about his jobs in hospital administration and his decision to become a car salesman
  • Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Albert W. Johnson talks about his first job in hospital administration
  • Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Albert W. Johnson talks about applying his management skills to his work as owner of a car dealership
  • Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Albert W. Johnson describes the creation of a dealer development department at General Motors in the late 1960s, pt. 1
  • Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Albert W. Johnson describes the creation of a dealer development department at General Motors in the late 1960s, pt. 2
  • Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Albert W. Johnson talks about transitioning careers from the hospital to the car dealership
  • Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Albert W. Johnson talks about his father's love for cars
  • Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Albert W. Johnson explains why he became interested in selling cars
  • Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Albert W. Johnson recalls becoming a General Motors automobile franchisee, pt. 1
  • Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Albert W. Johnson recalls becoming a General Motors automobile franchisee, pt. 2
  • Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Albert W. Johnson talks about integrating himself into the Chicago, Illinois community
  • Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Albert W. Johnson talks about Oldsmobile and his attempts to increase diversity in the automobile industry during the 1970s
  • Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Albert W. Johnson talks about challenges he faced as an African American car dealer in Chicago, Illinois
  • Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Albert W. Johnson describes assuming ownership of Ray Oldsmobile in Chicago, Illinois, pt. 1
  • Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Albert W. Johnson describes assuming ownership of Ray Oldsmobile in Chicago, Illinois, pt. 2
  • Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Albert W. Johnson talks about hiring new staff at Ray Oldsmobile in Chicago, Illinois
  • Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Albert W. Johnson describes how he lost black, not white clients at Ray Oldsmobile in Chicago, Illinois
  • Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Albert W. Johnson explains how General Motors consultant Maury Lyons was instrumental with his success
  • Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Albert W. Johnson explains how General Motors consultant Maury Lyons helped him manage the costs of running an auto body shop at Ray Oldsmobile
  • Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Albert W. Johnson talks about changes in the automotive industry during the late 1960s due to the Civil Rights Movement and Federal Antitrust Laws
  • Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Albert W. Johnson talks about black car dealers in the late 1960s and early 1970s
  • Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Albert W. Johnson talks about Cadillac's resistance to non-corporate owned and minority car dealerships
  • Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Albert W. Johnson explains his decision to locate his Cadillac dealership in Tinley Park, Illinois
  • Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Albert W. Johnson talks about the success of his Oldsmobile dealership, his net worth and the importance of talent development
  • Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Albert W. Johnson talks about his work with civic organizations in Chicago, Illinois
  • Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Albert W. Johnson talks about the Political Action Committee of Illinois (PACI)
  • Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Albert W. Johnson talks about the Political Action Committee of Illinois (PACI) organizing for Mayor Harold Washington in 1983
  • Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Albert W. Johnson talks about the Political Action Committee of Illinois'(PACI) support of Chicago mayoral campaigns in the 1970s and 1980s
  • Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Albert W. Johnson talks about Chicago Mayor Harold Washington's election in 1983 and his administration
  • Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Albert W. Johnson talks about working in Chicago Mayor Harold Washington's administration
  • Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Albert W. Johnson talks about the financial health of Chicago, Illinois under Mayor Harold Washington, HistoryMaker Eugene Sawyer and in 2002
  • Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Albert W. Johnson talks about breaking down racial barriers in Chicago, Illinois' professional racing sphere
  • Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Albert W. Johnson explains how he became involved with cable television
  • Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Albert W. Johnson reflects on his generation of entrepreneurs and their impact as well as the potential of The HistoryMakers
  • Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Albert W. Johnson talks about the future of African American-owned businesses
  • Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Albert W. Johnson talks about the American automobile industry, his interest in gaming and opening up opportunities for others
  • Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Albert W. Johnson reflects on the attributes of a good businessperson and those who influenced his success
  • Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Albert W. Johnson reflects upon his legacy
  • Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Albert W. Johnson describes how he would like to be remembered
  • Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Albert W. Johnson spells out the names he mentioned during his interview
  • Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Albert W. Johnson narrates his photographs, pt. 1
  • Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Albert W. Johnson narrates his photographs, pt. 2
  • Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Albert W. Johnson narrates his photographs, pt. 3
  • Tape: 9 Story: 1 - Albert W. Johnson narrates his photographs, pt. 4