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Gregory Jackson

Automobile sales entrepreneur Gregory Jackson was born on July 12, 1957 in Detroit, Michigan to Doris Hood and Roy Jackson. Jackson graduated from Central High School in 1975. He earned his B.S. degree in accounting from Morris Brown College in 1980; and his M.S. degree in finance and marketing from Atlanta University in 1981.

Jackson began working as an accountant for Arthur Andersen & Company. He then left in 1984 and was hired as a controller for Stroh’s Transportation. While at Stroh’s, he launched The Kastelton Company, a gourmet cookies venture. Jackson then pursued a career in automotive sales, completing the General Motors Minority Dealer Training program in 1989. He launched the Prestige Automotive Group and purchased his first dealership, Prestige Pontiac-Oldsmobile, in 1993. Under Jackson’s leadership, the company grossed $1.67 billion in sales in 2005. In addition to automotive sales, Jackson also purchased The Lafayette Towers in the Mies van der Rohe residential district of Detroit in 2012. Over time, Jackson operated a total of eighteen automobile dealerships, selling all but four: Mercedes-Benz of St. Clair Shores, Toyota of Warren, Courtesy Ford of Okemos and Prestige Cadillac in Warren He was owner and served as a board member of two separate Chinese-American joint venture corporations based in Beijing and Wuhu, China. He also acquired The Lafayette Towers in Detroit in 2012.

For over a decade, Prestige Automotive Group received top rankings on Black Enterprise’s “Auto Dealer 100” list and held the #1 position for six years. The company also received Mercedes-Benz’s Best of The Best Award and the Michigan Chronicle’s Men of Excellence Award. Jackson was named Black Enterprise’s Dealer of the Year and was featured in Crain’s Detroit Business’s “Largest Minority-Owned Business” publication.

Jackson served as president of the General Motors Minority Dealers Association and on its Board of Directors. He also served on the Board of Directors for the Automotive Hall of Fame, was the first vice chairman of the Board of Directors for the National Association of Minority Automobile Dealers, and served as a council member for the General Motors Minority Dealer Advisory Council. Jackson was also an active member of the National Association of Black Accountants, the NAACP, and Fellowship Chapel Church in Detroit.

Jackson has two children.

Gregory Jackson was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on August 12, 2017.

Accession Number

A2017.113

Sex

Male

Interview Date

08/12/2017

Last Name

Jackson

Maker Category
Organizations
Schools

George N. Brady Elementary School

Durfee Elementary School

Central High School

Morris Brown College

Clark Atlanta University School of Business

First Name

Gregory

Birth City, State, Country

Detroit

HM ID

JAC41

Favorite Season

Summer

State

Michigan

Favorite Vacation Destination

The next one I go to

Favorite Quote

Work hard play hard

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Michigan

Birth Date

7/12/1957

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Detroit

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Vegetables

Short Description

Auto sales entrepreneur Gregory Jackson (1957 - ) owned a total of eighteen automobile dealerships in Michigan, including Mercedes-Benz of St. Clair Shores and Prestige Cadillac in Warren as well as real estate and other businesses.

Favorite Color

All colors

Gregory Baranco

Auto sales entrepreneur Gregory Baranco was born on March 8, 1948 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana to Dr. Beverly Victor Baranco, Jr. and Evelyn Baranco. Baranco attended Southern University in Baton Rouge, where he was a pre-med major until changing his focus to business administration after working at a stamping plant for the Ford Motor Company during the summer of 1969. He went on to graduate with his B.S. degree in business administration in 1971.

He began his career in sales at Audubon Ford in Baton Rouge in 1971, where he was eventually promoted to finance manager. During the mid-1970s, Baranco was accepted into the General Motors Dealer Development Program, where he trained as a GM dealership owner at Royal Oldsmobile in New Orleans, Louisiana. In 1978, Baranco and his wife, Juanita Baranco, founded Baranco Pontiac, Inc., which began as a dealership in East Point, Georgia, and then relocated to Decatur, Georgia in 1981. During the 1980s, Baranco became one of the lead developers for Sandstone Shores, a 66-home residential development in a predominantly African American community in Decatur, Georgia. Baranco turned his focus to luxury cars, acquiring an Acura dealership in Tallahassee, Florida in 1988 that he later moved to Atlanta, Georgia; and then opened the Mercedes-Benz of Buckhead dealership in Atlanta in 2001, in partnership with his wife and former mayor Andrew Young. When First Southern Bank in Atlanta was founded in 1988, Baranco served as the first chairman of its board. In 1997, he worked with Citizens Trust Bank of Atlanta and its chairman Herman Russell to negotiate a merger between the two banks, and stayed on as vice chairman of the newly merged bank until 2003.

Baranco was honored as a Best of the Best Dealer of the Year by Mercedes-Benz USA in 2012, and given a Lifetime Achievement Award by the National Association of Minority Automobile Dealers in 2010. He served as president of the Metropolitan Atlanta Automobile Dealers Association and chairman of the Atlanta Life Insurance Company, in addition to his longtime memberships at One Hundred Black Men of Dekalb County, the United Way and the Dekalb County Task Force on Efficiency in Government. He also received an honorary doctorate from Southern University.

Baranco and his wife, Juanita Baranco, have four children: Evelyn, Grene, Janelle, and Gregory, Jr.

Gregory Baranco was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on October 3, 2016.

Accession Number

A2016.049

Sex

Male

Interview Date

10/3/2016

Last Name

Baranco

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Schools

Southern University and Agricultural and Mechanical College

McKinley Senior High School

St. Francis Xavier Catholic School

Southern University Laboratory School

Catholic High School

Tulane University

First Name

Gregory

Birth City, State, Country

Baton Rouge

HM ID

BAR15

Favorite Season

Fall

State

Louisiana

Favorite Vacation Destination

Paris

Favorite Quote

If The Conditions Are Right, Let's Go All In.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Georgia

Birth Date

3/8/1948

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Atlanta

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Catfish

Short Description

Auto sales entrepreneur Gregory Baranco (1948 - ) founded Baranco Automotive Group, where he served as the president and CEO.

Employment

Ford Motor Company

Audubon Ford Car Dealership

General Motors Corporation

Baranco Pontiac, Inc.

Favorite Color

Green

Timing Pairs
0,0:6465,258:9865,417:17895,482:36879,651:49926,766:52646,822:65216,952:67556,968:122030,1484:124100,1983:134740,2053:142271,2146:153140,2202$0,0:13717,186:18498,207:27847,377:30350,531:55138,741:60789,843:63407,879:66858,924:71981,1143:73151,1192:99410,1411:114932,1628:131521,1852:132698,1923:154801,2205:156178,2234:170948,2481:174807,2533:242160,3623
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Gregory Baranco's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Gregory Baranco lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Gregory Baranco talks about his maternal uncle, Maurice A. Edmond

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Gregory Baranco remembers car rides with his mother

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Gregory Baranco describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Gregory Baranco talks about the history of race relations in Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Gregory Baranco describes the African American community in Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Gregory Baranco talks about his parents' values

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Gregory Baranco talks about his paternal family's background in business

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Gregory Baranco lists his siblings

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Gregory Baranco describes his earliest childhood memories

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Gregory Baranco remembers his early sense of responsibility

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Gregory Baranco describes his neighborhood in Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Gregory Baranco describes his education in Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Gregory Baranco remembers integrating Catholic High School in Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Gregory Baranco remembers his high school classmate, H. Rap Brown

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Gregory Baranco talks about his influential teachers

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Gregory Baranco describes his early interest in medicine

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Gregory Baranco remembers his decision to pursue a career in business

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Gregory Baranco recalls transferring to Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Gregory Baranco remembers the death of his mother

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Gregory Baranco recalls the student demonstrations at Southern University

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Gregory Baranco remembers his courtship with his wife

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Gregory Baranco describes his first car

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Gregory Baranco recalls his internship at Ford Motor Company in Dearborn, Michigan

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Gregory Baranco describes the start of his career in the automotive industry

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Gregory Baranco remembers learning to fly airplanes

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Gregory Baranco describes his business relationship with Russell Dunn

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Gregory Baranco recalls his decision to start a car dealership

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Gregory Baranco describes the General Motors Corporation's minority dealer program

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Gregory Baranco remembers acquiring his first car dealership

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Gregory Baranco recalls opening Baranco Pontiac, Inc. in East Point, Georgia

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Gregory Baranco talks about his wife's involvement in the automotive industry

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Gregory Baranco remembers acquiring a private airplane

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Gregory Baranco describes the challenges he faced as an automobile dealer, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Gregory Baranco describes his business relationship with Bob Spivey

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Gregory Baranco talks about his mentorship of aspiring minority automotive dealers

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Gregory Baranco describes the challenges he faced as an automobile dealer, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Gregory Baranco talks about his strategy as an automotive dealership owner

Tape: 4 Story: 11 - Gregory Baranco talks about the failure of the Saturn automotive brand

Tape: 4 Story: 12 - Gregory Baranco talks about the conditions for a successful car dealership

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Gregory Baranco describes the design of Baranco Pontiac, Inc. in Decatur, Georgia

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Gregory Baranco talks about the success of Mercedes-Benz of Buckhead in Atlanta, Georgia, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Gregory Baranco talks about the Mercedes-Benz dealerships in metropolitan Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Gregory Baranco describes his residential developments in DeKalb County, Georgia

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Gregory Baranco shares his advice to aspiring African American entrepreneurs

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Gregory Baranco describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Gregory Baranco talks about the success of Mercedes-Benz of Buckhead in Atlanta, Georgia, pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Gregory Baranco talks about his children

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Gregory Baranco talks about the future of automotive technology

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Gregory Baranco reflects upon his life and legacy

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$4

DAStory

3$6

DATitle
Gregory Baranco remembers his early sense of responsibility
Gregory Baranco describes the challenges he faced as an automobile dealer, pt. 1
Transcript
I mean I had a wonderful childhood, we--there were a lot of things that I learned early because of the family. My, my family ran an organization called the Good Samaritans [Baton Rouge, Louisiana] where they went to the schools. Schools gave you know gave them the name of families that needed assistance, so around Thanksgiving they would, they would start in September to collect clothes, food and everything for these families that they had identified, then you go and deliver them. Well I was young and all this was prepared upstairs in my dad's [Beverly V. Baranco, Jr.] office, so I went in there, there were tables laid out with clothes and with toys and different ages and numbers. And I, when I got up there this boy this is absolutely wonderful, I you know really could use that toy and that outfit and this that and the other. And so you know they ran me out of there so finally my dad said I want you to go on a delivery. And I never will forget the first delivery they pulled up to the house and they hollered, "Good Samaritans," and the kids would come running out. And so they gave me a bag and said, "You take this bag over there," so I carried the bag; the kids were happy to get the bags. I had a bag of food to take it in the house, well when I went inside the mother was on the couch, and she had obviously had diabetes or something and was missing a leg, and she told me with tears you know how much she appreciated bringing it in there. And I--from that point on, I never worried about the, the clothes and the toys as much, 'cause they didn't, didn't mean the same to me that they did to those kids. And the other lesson I learned was from my brother, I was--brother Beverly [Beverly V. Baranco, IV]--I had, was cutting up over some toy I'd gotten, it was a train. I was pretty excited about it, I put together and I ig- I'd ignored my brother quite a bit. So he came in and smashed that train to pieces (laughter) so I said well okay, I got it you know. So for me I, I never had a, a big connection, I've always felt that whatever it was I needed I could earn and get. And there's a responsibility that comes with that--there're folks that need it more than you do.$Well 1984, I--I take it you were making good money--$$Yeah. Yeah.$$--to afford a plane, to be able to--?$$Yeah, yeah. Well I, I was very, very fortunate. I had a, a gentleman--when I started I knew a lot about finance and how to get things financed. And when I started the East Point [Smith-Johnson Pontiac; Baranco Pontiac, Inc.], I one of the things I noticed was that a customer would--and this happened, and it also happened in Tallahassee [Florida]; most stores. In East Point [Georgia], customers would come in and they would apply to buy a car and I couldn't get them financed. And then they'd go and they'd end up buying a car somewhere else and it would get financed. So it occurred to me that I was being redlined; in other words if you bought a car--if you had great credit you could buy a car from me.$$But?$$But if you had marginal credit you could buy a car from somewhere else but you couldn't buy one from me, 'cause I couldn't get you financed. And my primary source--'cause I didn't know anybody up here--was General Motors [General Motors Corporation; General Motors Company]. So I complained to General Motors and complained and they said, "Oh no that's not true that would not happen, we would not do it." So, a customer comes in so I said well okay, I'm not gonna call this customer in. I talked to the dealer, my adjacent dealer down at Southlake by the name of Wayne Hughes. White dealer, good guy, I said, "Wayne," told him what was happening to me, I said, "Wayne, I need you to call this deal in. I'm gonna bring the application to you and I'll--as soon as you call it in you, you let me know." So Wayne called the deal in and then after he called it in, I called it in. Well Wayne got approved; I got rejected from the same GMAC office [General Motors Acceptance Corporation; Ally Financial Inc.]. So I took that information, go to Detroit [Michigan] and sat down there and told them what had happened. And so they said, well you know it can't be, I said yeah it is, so they said, "What do you want?" "I want to be transferred out to Decatur [Georgia]," was--because they had two branches. And in Decatur was a fella by the name of Bob Spivey [ph.] and, and when I had complained to the manager about them doing this, he said no. So they invited me out to lunch, he had too much to drink--we were down at The Commerce Club [Atlanta, Georgia], (air quotes) the big club in town. He had it, he was the, the lead guy he had the branch manager in Decatur and his assistant branch manager from Atlanta [Georgia]. So after too many drinks he'd begin to explain to me that--he used the N word, there's no way that I could manage a dealership; it was too complicated. And that I was just making excuses about not, you know about whether or not my deals were bought. So we left that meeting and Mr. Spivey called me on the phone and said, "Look that's not the way I am, that's not how we operate." Said, "I apologize that that happened, it was too much liquor," he said, "yeah I'd love to help you but I can't, because you're in that branch." I said, "Well suppose I get transferred to your branch," he said, "Well I'll help you." He said, "They told me my job was to help make the dealer successful." I said okay, so I came back, that's when I called the dealer Wayne, called the dealer myself, got it rejected; went to Detroit. I said, "This is what I want: I wanna be transferred to Decatur, just any--," well I didn't say Decatur, I said I wanna be transferred. There were only two branches in metro Atlanta, so that meant Decatur was the only choice. I got transferred.

Walter Douglas

Businessman and Detroit civic pioneer Walter Edmond Douglas, Sr. was born in North Carolina, and raised in the town of Hamlet, a major railroad community. His parents were educators. Douglas holds two degree from North Carolina Central University. He earned his B.A. degree in accounting in 1954. A year later, Douglas earned his M.B.A. from North Carolina Central University. Upon graduation, he briefly taught at Edward Waters Junior College in Jacksonville Florida, before being drafted into the U.S. Army. In 1965, Douglas was hired by the Internal Revenue Service. An assignment transfer brought him to Detroit in 1966.

Douglas was deeply moved by the July 1967 riots in Detroit, which was the worst in American history at the time. He began volunteering around the city, and his efforts were noticed by city leaders. In 1972, he became the vice-president of New Detroit Inc, a nonprofit founded in 1967 to deal with the city’s racial and employment tensions. Douglas became a key advisor of Coleman Young, the city’s first African American mayor, following Young’s election in 1974. Young appointed Douglas to several positions, notably, the city’s new civilian police commission. In 1978, Douglas was named president of New Detroit. He remained in that position, until he decided to test the private sector.

The year was 1985 when entered into a car dealer ownership a minority training program hosted by the Ford Motor company. The purpose of the program was to give more African American a chance to own dealerships. In 1986, Douglas purchased a share in Avis Ford in suburban Detroit, a historic dealership owned by the founder of the Avis Rent-a-Car System. Douglas became majority owner in 1992. Since then, he has earned a host of awards for the success of his dealership, and his continued work within the Detroit community as a philanthropist. In 2006, he turned over the business operation to his son, Mark. He lives in suburban Detroit with his wife of more than forty years, Retha.

Accession Number

A2010.042

Sex

Male

Interview Date

6/7/2010 |and| 06/09/2010

Last Name

Douglas

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Schools

Hamlet Avenue School

Pine Street School

Capital Highway High School

North Carolina Central University

First Name

Walter

Birth City, State, Country

Hamlet

HM ID

DOU04

Favorite Season

Spring

State

North Carolina

Favorite Vacation Destination

Bonita Springs, Florida

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Michigan

Birth Date

8/22/1933

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Detroit

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Pork Chops

Short Description

Auto sales entrepreneur and nonprofit chief executive Walter Douglas (1933 - ) was owner of Avis Ford in suburban Detroit. He previously served as president of the nonprofit New Detroit, Inc.

Employment

Avis Ford

New Detroit, Inc

Edward Waters College

Tuskegee University

Internal Revenue Service

Favorite Color

Green

Timing Pairs
0,0:10057,251:16198,419:29127,555:29512,562:46532,874:47352,903:48500,924:57312,1005:64691,1110:65864,1129:70035,1151:72415,1198:79895,1372:80588,1386:83194,1417:87830,1530:88210,1536:88970,1552:90338,1578:97504,1677:101026,1692:101530,1698:102178,1712:102682,1720:109236,1786:110608,1822:111000,1827:111588,1842:118955,1947:120155,2078:120980,2093:122180,2124:124730,2172:125030,2177:125780,2194:129360,2201:141949,2420:142264,2426:142516,2434:143020,2443:144595,2486:147219,2509:147567,2514:151416,2580:152928,2622:153144,2627:159510,2693:159960,2700:165510,2813:171170,2874:175145,2959:175595,2975:179465,3045:180960,3079:181350,3086:183300,3163:189008,3195:195697,3258:197517,3296:203485,3387:203761,3392:204037,3397:204796,3411:209324,3450:213342,3533:214080,3542:214490,3549:227022,3719:231810,3894:233490,3930:242602,4040:251519,4137:251835,4142:266123,4347:276216,4416:280774,4502:281462,4517:284422,4544:287720,4581$0,0:2897,92:3446,103:7167,203:7655,213:14992,300:15736,313:19960,360:29090,517:37652,661:42176,763:44673,784:45195,796:45630,802:58158,971:58426,976:58694,981:63309,1059:63876,1069:64443,1078:64695,1083:69386,1150:74039,1322:83945,1480:98388,1611:111808,1901:113608,1970:121602,2068:123122,2096:123578,2104:124262,2117:126086,2155:127378,2195:127758,2201:128062,2206:128442,2212:146620,2513:150364,2557:153700,2590:154100,2596:156900,2683:171716,2858:172172,2868:172628,2878:173369,2895:174053,2910:174395,2918:174737,2926:179794,3003:180270,3017:180882,3027:181834,3054:182514,3070:183398,3085:184282,3102:193426,3280:194944,3307:196264,3344:196594,3352:200422,3466:202006,3536:202864,3579:206362,3668:206626,3673:207814,3694:215570,3760:216102,3768:218154,3807:224842,3929:225146,3934:225526,3940:226514,3957:232475,4025:233300,4040:233675,4046:244676,4258:252466,4385:264234,4513:268734,4540:269124,4546:269514,4552:275629,4629:298306,5024:299296,5037:299692,5045:300022,5051:300352,5057:312030,5215:313433,5242:330450,5475
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Walter Douglas' interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Walter Douglas lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Walter Douglas describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Walter Douglas talks about his mother's upbringing

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Walter Douglas describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Walter Douglas remembers his paternal grandfather's farm

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Walter Douglas talks about his paternal aunts and uncles

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Walter Douglas describes his parents' early relationship

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Walter Douglas remembers his mother's teaching career

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Walter Douglas describes his parents' personalities and who he takes after

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Walter Douglas describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Walter Douglas remembers his neighborhood in Hamlet, North Carolina

Tape: 1 Story: 13 - Walter Douglas describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood, pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Walter Douglas recalls the famous visitors to Hamlet, North Carolina

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Walter Douglas describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Walter Douglas remembers the Negro League baseball games

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Walter Douglas recalls his early travels

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Walter Douglas remembers the Hamlet Street School and Pine Street Elementary School in Hamlet, North Carolina

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Walter Douglas recalls the Capital Highway High School in Hamlet, North Carolina

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Walter Douglas recalls his high school activities

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Walter Douglas describes his early experiences of religion

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Walter Douglas remembers his early aspirations

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Walter Douglas describes his decision to attend the North Carolina College at Durham

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Walter Douglas talks about his relationship with his brother

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Walter Douglas describes the North Carolina College at Durham

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Walter Douglas remembers his social activities at the North Carolina College at Durham

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Walter Douglas describes his early career as a business professor

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Walter Douglas talks about his experiences in the U.S. Army

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Walter Douglas describes his introduction to the business world

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Walter Douglas recalls applying for a position at the Internal Revenue Service

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Walter Douglas describes the start of his career in data processing

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Walter Douglas remembers UNIVAC computers

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Walter Douglas recalls the founding of the Internal Revenue Service data center in Detroit, Michigan

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Walter Douglas remembers moving to Detroit, Michigan

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Walter Douglas remembers his involvement with the First Presbyterian Church in Detroit, Michigan

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Walter Douglas remembers the Detroit riots of 1967, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Walter Douglas remembers the Detroit riots of 1967, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Walter Douglas recalls the police shootout at the New Bethel Baptist Church in Detroit, Michigan, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Walter Douglas recalls the police shootout at the New Bethel Baptist Church in Detroit, Michigan, pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Walter Douglas describes the founding of New Detroit

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Walter Douglas talks about his role at New Detroit

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Walter Douglas recalls the start of the campaign to elect Detroit Mayor Coleman Young

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Walter Douglas remembers the election of Detroit Mayor Coleman Young, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Walter Douglas remembers the election of Detroit Mayor Coleman Young, pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Walter Douglas describes Mayor Coleman Young's political appointments, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Walter Douglas describes Mayor Coleman Young's political appointments, pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Walter Douglas talks about police reform under Detroit Mayor Coleman Young

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Walter Douglas recalls the effects of busing in Detroit, Michigan

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Walter Douglas remembers the housing crises in Detroit, Michigan

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Walter Douglas talks about the problem of land use in Detroit, Michigan

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Walter Douglas remembers the critics of Detroit Mayoe Coleman Young

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Walter Douglas recalls Detroit Mayor Coleman Young's economic development projects

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Walter Douglas remembers the influence of New Detroit

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Walter Douglas recalls joining the Ford Minority Dealers Association, pt. 1

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Walter Douglas recalls joining the Ford Minority Dealers Association

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Walter Douglas recalls buying his first Ford Motor Company dealership

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Walter Douglas describes his working relationship with Warren Avis

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Walter Douglas recalls becoming the sole owner of Avis Ford Inc. in Southfield, Michigan

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Walter Douglas talks about his early challenges as a car dealer

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Walter Douglas remembers his automotive sales strategies

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Walter Douglas recalls the hiring of CEO Alan Mulally at the Ford Motor Company

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Walter Douglas describes the culture of the Ford Motor Company

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Walter Douglas talks about the demographics of his car dealership's clientele

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Walter Douglas reflects upon his life, pt. 1

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Walter Douglas reflects upon his life, pt. 2

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Walter Douglas describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Walter Douglas reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Walter Douglas talks about his family

Tape: 8 Story: 5 - Walter Douglas describes how he would like to be remembered

DASession

1$2

DATape

3$6

DAStory

2$7

DATitle
Walter Douglas talks about his relationship with his brother
Walter Douglas recalls buying his first Ford Motor Company dealership
Transcript
Now I didn't ask you about this earlier, but, but your brother [Frederick Douglas, Jr.] is just slightly older than you.$$He's three years older.$$Three--yeah, three years older. And were, were you all very close coming up and--$$We were. We shared work chores. He was a lot more aggressive than I, but we had a cow. We had hogs to feed and all that kind of stuff. But I never learned to milk the cow. He did and that became his responsibility. I just--it was something I just wasn't going to do. I was, I was kind of stubborn. There were things that I wouldn't do and my parents [Inez Highland Douglas and Frederick Douglas, Sr.] couldn't get me to do them, and I never learned how to milk the cow, so--but he did that. But, yeah, as he, as we got older, we did lots of things together, in fact did a little bit of dating. He was older than I, but I'd tag along with him, you know, when he, when he would go out places, yeah.$$Okay. All right. 'Cause you were describing earlier some of the pressure on you--$$Yeah.$$--being the son of a--$$He was--$$--principal.$$He was--he had a lot of innate skills, but he had some inhibitions. He graduated valedictorian with his class in high school [Capital Highway High School, Hamlet, North Carolina]. He was going to go away to become a doctor, majored in chemistry in undergraduate school never missed a day of school in his life in high school. He had a perfect attendance record every year and all of us had a lot of them because my father insisted upon it. But he never missed a day in school in twelve years of school, which I think is a phenomenal record for any kid. But he went away to college, majored in chemistry, did well, never had any problem with his grades, but he just had a, he had an innate inability to finish things. You know, there are some people who are like that and he was just one of those, so--$$So he didn't really--$$He went to--he--in college, we were both at Central [North Carolina College at Durham; North Carolina Central University, Durham, North Carolina] for the same, at the same time, I a freshman, he was a senior. He graduated and then during my sophomore year, he came back to graduate school because that was another stipulation my father had. He says, "I want you to finish graduate--get your master's degree before you ever leave." Well, that was during the Korean War and my brother was drafted during his first year of graduate school. And then he went to Korea for two years. By the time he came back, I had graduated and I, too, was in graduate school. So the both of us were in graduate school at the same time even though he had started earlier before going to Korea and coming back. I completed my graduate work, he didn't. Okay, so he--but after that, after studying for a year, he just never wrote his thesis. I think he did everything else. We both left and he began to teach college. He taught at Allen University in Columbia, South Carolina, which is an A.M.E. [African Methodist Episcopal] school, and I at the same time taught at Edward Waters junior college [Edward Waters College] in Jacksonville, Florida, which is an A.M.E. school. But we shared a lot of time at North Carolina Central together. He didn't manage his money nearly as well as I. I used to work in the dining hall and had some money. My father gave me a typewriter for graduating from high school and my brother pawned my typewriter and would always continue to lie about where it was and whatever. I never got it back. But that was just a little bit of his character. You know, he was just kind of--when he got out of the [U.S.] Army, he bought a car. My father cosigned for him. And he was getting his VA money [Veterans Administration; U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs] and everything else, but he never paid the bills. So the guy was always calling my father threatening to come pick the car up, but my father would pay for it, you know, and he continued to have the car. But that was just, that was just a part of his personality. I never knew growing up because I looked up to him as my older brother, smarter, a male version of my mother which was a light skin handsome guy and the girls all loved him, and here I was, this little runty guy who lived in his shadow. But as I got older, I began to observe characteristics about his personality that eventually led to--he became an alcoholic after years. He retired from the, from the federal government at a, as a pretty high grade. He was smart, but, but died as an alcoholic at fifty-nine years of age.$Now, I'm an accounting major and I had a master's in business administration. I had my own school bus company at the time, so I understood a lot about this stuff. Now I understand one thing, you gotta watch the money and, and make sure there's enough in the bank to pay your payroll and stuff like that. I got lucky, quite frankly. The gentleman who owned this dealership [Avis Ford Inc., Southfield, Michigan], Richard Turner, who owned 49 percent of it, the majority was owned by Warren Avis, Warren Avis whose name is linked with Avis Rent A Car [Avis Rent A Car System]. He started Avis Rent A Car out of this dealership, not at this location but, but back in the '40s [1940s] when it was located in the City of Detroit [Michigan]. Warren Avis owned 51 percent. Turner was killed in a plane crash. He was, he was flying his own plane up north to Boyne Highlands [Harbor Springs, Michigan] and attempted to land in a whiteout, and crashed and killed himself. That made this dealership available. I heard it on the radio. I got in the program in January. This was late March. I immediately called the regional manager. I guess at the time it was, it was the district manager, a guy by the name of Miller [ph.], who had, who had placed me at Bill Brown Ford [Livonia, Michigan] and said, "I'm interested in that dealership. Is there any opportunity?" By this time, Ed Brown and I had gotten to know each other reasonably well, liked each other well enough to say that, you know, if I had a business opportunity, I would agree that he could be my partner. But they didn't give me any, any real consideration. So I said, "Well, I'm not gonna take the answer of the district manager as gospel," so I wrote a letter to Don Petersen [Donald Petersen] who at the time was the CEO of Ford Motor Company [Dearborn, Michigan], and I had gotten to know Henry Ford [Henry Ford II]--Henry Ford because of my involvement at Henry Ford Hospital [Detroit, Michigan] where he was the chairman of the board. I sent a carbon copy of the letter to Henry Ford. I had also met Henry Ford earlier when he stepped down from the Ford Motor Company. Coleman Young, Larry Doss [Lawrence Doss] and I along with Judge Damon Keith [HistoryMaker Damon J. Keith] and Arthur Johnson (unclear), gave him a party, and I had gotten to know him. I used to go over and brief him when I was president of New Detroit [Detroit, Michigan], so I sent him a carbon copy of the letter. He called and told them to make it happen. So with his top down influence, Ford then came back to me to say, "Well, okay. We'll give you an opportunity but you gotta have a partner because you don't have enough ex- expertise to run Avis Ford [Avis Ford Inc., Southfield, Michigan]," and they were right. Ed Brown and I formed the partnership and as I say, the rest is history. It took us about six months to work out all the details and we came in here in November of 1986 and began to operate this dealership. The day I showed up, several of my employees quit including the general manager and the controller and they all went to work for Mel Farr [HistoryMaker Mel Farr, Sr.]. Mel kind of raided the place, knowing that it was going to be transitioned and probably with their concern, they didn't know me, they didn't know whether I would run the place in the ground or make it successful or not, so I can understand how they might have wanted to leave.$$So they didn't quit because you were black coming in. They quit--$$Well, they went to work for Mel. He's black, too, so--$$Yeah, right, yeah.$$--so that couldn't have been the issue. The issue had to be some other things, probably with some encouragement on his part. So we walked in here and took over. Jim Whitman [ph.], my general manager, at the current was controller over at Bill Brown Ford. He came over to be the controller here, but he split his time between the two organizations for that first year before then joining us. But that's how we got started. That's how we made the transition. I never made it all the way through the minority dealer program [Ford Minority Dealer Training Program]. I got sidetracked by buying a dealership (laughter).$$So, it worked out better.$$Worked out better. We--I had to come up with a lot of money. The dealership was to be sold for somewhere around three and a half million dollars and I didn't have anything, like that kind of money. I had saved some money and I could come up with a pretty substantial amount, and I was able to--my fair share, my equal share with Ed Brown because we were gonna come in as equal partners, to buy the 49 percent that Warren Avis availed to us was eight hundred thousand dollars. I had to come up with eight hundred thousand dollars. So I mortgaged my house and my savings and my 401k account and all of that. And then I was able to go to Ford Credit [Fort Motor Credit Company, LLC] to borrow the balance. So the day we closed, I had put up all my money, but yet I had a substantial debt to pay back to Ford Credit, which means that the thing had to work. If it didn't work, I was gonna be broke. Well, we made it work. We had difficulties with cash flow problems and my partner, Ed Brown, was gracious enough because he had deep pockets, when we ran short, he would put the cash in. Otherwise we would've been broke. For--but we paid him back with interest much the same as we would've done with a bank. And we got healthier and healthier.

James Roberson

James Earnest Roberson was born on June 14, 1943 to Aressa and Mack E. Roberson in Birmingham, Alabama. Roberson’s parents were activists and involved in the Civil Rights Movement. Roberson lived across the street from Bethel Baptist Church, home to Reverend Fred L. Shuttlesworth, that was twice-bombed by the Ku Klux Klan.

Roberson attended A.H. Parker High School where he graduated with an advance academic honors diploma in 1960. He received his B.A. degree in secondary education from Alabama A&M University in 1964; his M.A. degree in educational leadership in 1986 from University of Alabama; and his J.D. degree from Faith College in Alabama.

Roberson led demonstrations and was a political broker on the Alabama A&M University campus. He spearheaded sit-ins to desegregate Shoney’s and Big Boy restaurants.

For nearly thirty years, Roberson worked as an educator and administrator for the Alabama Board of Education. He taught earth science at A.G. Gaston and Leeds Junior High Schools before becoming assistant principal.

Roberson joined the Ford Motor Company’s Minority Dealer Development Program, and in 1993, he was named a dealer candidate, making him the first African American with a Pontiac dealership. Roberson then became owner of USA Auto and Budget Truck Rental Store in 2000 until his retirement in 2003.

Roberson holds memberships and leadership positions in various organizations including 100 Black Men of Birmingham, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., the March of Dimes and Grace House Ministries. He has received multiple awards and recognitions for his contributions to the community.

Roberson and his wife, Linda, currently reside in Birmingham, Alabama.

Roberson was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on March 21, 2007.

Accession Number

A2007.104

Sex

Male

Interview Date

3/21/2007

Last Name

Roberson

Schools

A.H. Parker High School

Hudson Elementary School

Alabama A&M University

University of Alabama at Birmingham

Samuel Ach Junior High School

First Name

James

Birth City, State, Country

Birmingham

HM ID

ROB13

Favorite Season

Spring

State

Alabama

Favorite Vacation Destination

Caribbean

Favorite Quote

Stone Walls Do Not A Prison Make Nor Iron Bars A Cage.$Jesus Is The Center Of My Joy And I Don't Allow Anyone To Steal My Joy.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Alabama

Birth Date

6/14/1943

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Birmingham

Country

United States

Favorite Food

None

Short Description

Auto sales entrepreneur and high school administrator James Roberson (1943 - ) served as an educator and administrator for the Alabama Board of Education. He then became the first African American with a Pontiac car dealership. Roberson then became owner of USA Auto and Budget Truck Rental Store in 2000 until his retirement in 2003.

Employment

Roosevelt Elementary School

A.G. Gaston Junior High School

Brownell Pontiac

Leeds Junior High School

Jefferson County Board of Education

Ford Motor Company

Favorite Color

Black

Timing Pairs
0,0:16950,274:17310,279:21710,550:24086,590:24966,650:41250,898:90414,1388:91188,1404:119436,1748:146210,2140:157325,2251:182812,2528:188658,2815:211700,3122:213170,3155:214080,3177:218740,3198:219410,3203$0,0:6482,128:9468,150:11652,246:33568,510:35755,562:36160,568:52204,866:75962,1219:77223,1234:78290,1253:80133,1293:83764,1329:84374,1349:91020,1414:113146,1765:114142,1788:121690,1877:122130,1882:122570,1887:123670,1909:124396,1927:134041,2092:138986,2337:166320,2670:166670,2676:182316,2896:190060,2988:190420,3017:197170,3196:222910,3614:223603,3629:224912,3647:225220,3652:225605,3658:227453,3699:227992,3708:228377,3714:231357,3721:231785,3726:249942,4004:250509,4013:259436,4106:259744,4113:261130,4148:261746,4157:262131,4163:280475,4413:283176,4443:283540,4448:288396,4488:288872,4505:298780,4667:314330,4885
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of James Roberson's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - James Roberson lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - James Roberson describes his mother

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - James Roberson talks about the influences upon his Christian faith

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - James Roberson describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - James Roberson describes his maternal ancestry

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - James Roberson describes his father, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - James Roberson describes his father, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - James Roberson recalls his relationship with his father

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - James Roberson describes his father's influence

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - James Roberson recalls his paternal grandparents

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - James Roberson describes his paternal ancestry

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - James Roberson recalls visiting his paternal grandfather's grave

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - James Roberson describes how his parents met

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - James Roberson describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - James Roberson recalls his kindergarten in Birmingham, Alabama

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - James Roberson describes his education in Birmingham, Alabama

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - James Roberson describes the racial violence in Birmingham, Alabama, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - James Roberson describes the racial violence in Birmingham, Alabama, pt. 2

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - James Roberson describes his activities at A.H. Parker High School in Birmingham, Alabama

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - James Roberson recalls organizing sit-ins in Huntsville, Alabama, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - James Roberson recalls organizing sit-ins in Huntsville, Alabama, pt. 2

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - James Roberson remembers pledging Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - James Roberson recalls his family's involvement in the Civil Rights Movement

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - James Roberson remembers working at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - James Roberson recalls organizing a strike at Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical College in Normal, Alabama

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - James Roberson talks about his teaching career

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - James Roberson describes his early positions in educational administration

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - James Roberson describes his career in the auto sales industry

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - James Roberson reflects upon his retirement

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - James Roberson talks about his honorary doctorate in law

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - James Roberson reflects upon growing up in the Jim Crow South

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - James Roberson recalls working at the Brownell Pontiac dealership in Birmingham, Alabama

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - James Roberson reflects upon his career

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - James Roberson describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - James Roberson talks about mentorship in the African American community

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - James Roberson talks about his parenting style

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - James Roberson describes his wife, Linda Thompson Roberson

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - James Roberson narrates his photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$5

DAStory

6$2

DATitle
James Roberson recalls organizing sit-ins in Huntsville, Alabama, pt. 2
James Roberson recalls working at the Brownell Pontiac dealership in Birmingham, Alabama
Transcript
So when we walked in [to Shoney's Big Boy Drive In Restaurant, Huntsville, Alabama], you could hear the chattering and the silverware ticking and clacking, and all of a sudden it got dead silent. And everybody turned around and said, "The audacity of these colored boys to walk into this restaurant." And it was just quiet, totally quiet. And then somebody said, "You get the tar, I'll get the feathers, and we'll get these niggers out of here." And we turned around and looked at him like he was crazy. Everybody was--it was--it was just, it's quiet. So a manager came up to us. He said, "Hey guys, I know what you're doing, and I understand that. I'm from New York. I understand, but you just can't do it here." I said, "Sir, we want to be served. We have money. We're dressed appropriately. We're not causing any problem. We just want to be seated to eat." He said, "You can't do this. Guys, I'm gonna have to call the police." Said, "Well, do what you have to do. We want to be served." And so he went and dialed the police. We knew that they had about--we had about a two to three minute window to escape. We, we were not planning to be arrested. So as soon as he dialed the number, and we let him dial the number--we had to let him dial the number, 'cause they had to get a call out for them to come, and the TV people and the radio people gonna have the same radio. We knew that. And we waited and said, "Sir, we'll be back. This is not our first trip. We'll be back." So we left out immediately and drove over to White Castle and did the same thing. So now we had two places that had been invaded. It hit the newspaper. It hit the TV. And then the kids on campus wanted to know what was going on. So then we started the sit-ins at the, think it was Kresge's [S.S. Kresge Company] in Huntsville [Alabama]. We went in. And how we did the sit-ins were, the whites would be sitting across there. As soon as one got up, a black would sit down. And it was offensive for a black man to sit next to a white person, and he would jump up. When he jumped up, we would sit down. All of a sudden we got the whole area with black people. Now nobody's eating. We can't be served. They're not making a dime, and we're getting there. And Huntsville police were very reserved. Nobody got arrested to my knowledge. And I got taken away, but I was not ever booked or anything. But it brought attention to this. On the college campus, I had professors saying, "Stick to it. You're doing what's right." I had other people, "You, you're a troublemaker; you're a rabble-rouser. You're creating problems for the university [Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical College; Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical University, Normal, Alabama]. We're here to get an education. We don't need this." But we stuck it out, and then changes took place. And I credit Dr. Hereford [Sonnie Hereford III], who was my cytology and histology teacher, to making a giant step in Huntsville 'cause he took his son [Sonnie Hereford IV] to integrate the schools during that same time. And then Huntsville, as a whole, immediately cleared their problems up, and it's still a very liberal city.$So then I looked around in Birmingham [Alabama], and there were no black salesmen, any (unclear) so I took it on my own to do a resume. And I walked into these dealerships and said, "You're taking black people's money, but you don't have any of them working for you. I want to work for you. I'm a college graduate." And nobody would hire me. And then I bought a 1969 Grand Prix [Pontiac Grand Prix] from a white guy named Merlin Allan. And I told Merlin, I said, "Merlin, only reason I'm buying this car from you is because I like you. Y'all don't have a black face anywhere on this dealership floor, but you're taking my money." He said--and I said, "I came here to talk about getting hired here, and they wouldn't hire me." He said, "Who'd you talk to?" And I told him the name Pillar [ph.]. Mr. Pillar was a redneck, face, drinks a lot so he had a red face. He said, oh. So, about a month later my mother [Aressa Craig Roberson] called me and said, "A white guy keeps calling here, wants to talk to you. You need to call. His name is Blaine Brownell." So I said, "That's the owner of this dealership," so I called him. He said, "Mr. Roberson [HistoryMaker James Roberson], Merlin Allan talked to me about you. He indicated that you said that nobody wanted to hire a black person. Would you come have dinner with me? I want to talk to you." So I said sure. And we met and went to a private club on Morris Avenue where you had to get a membership to get in. And black folks didn't go there 'cause you were not a member there. But he took me right in, and I sat down with him. And he had another gentleman with him, and we ate. I had good manners 'cause my mama had told me how to use my knives and my fork, and I knew what to do. And he said, "What happens if somebody calls you a nigger?" I said, "Well, that has no influence on me 'cause I'm not what they call me." And so the other guy asked a series of questions. He said look--after the dinner he said to me, "You know, I got one black friend. I'm gonna call him, and I'll let you know something." So he called a Reverend Ed Blankenship [Edward Blankenship]. Ed Blankenship was a Methodist minister, and he was on the city council of Birmingham. And Ed said, "Now whoa." He said, "I got a young black guy that's been working doing some promotion with Ms. Black Alabama and some other things. James Roberson's a man you need to hire." He said, "That's who I'm talking to." He said, "You need to hire him." So Blaine Brownell called me and said, "Come in. I want to talk to you. I'm gonna get some slack out of the automobile dealers in Birmingham, but I'm hiring you as the first black. And anything I can help you to do to be a success, I'll do it." So I went to work. And now I'm teaching school during the day, and I'm coming to the dealership in the evening time. First (unclear) didn't like that, 'cause now he's teaching school, and he's gonna come and work here and make the money that we make. And so I knew Tall Paul [Paul Dudley White] on one of the local radio stations. We announced a promotion together. I knew Shelley the Playboy [Shelley Stewart]. I knew a lot of the guys, so they got on the air and gave me some free time. "I got a buddy friend of mine selling cars at Brownell Pontiac [Birmingham, Alabama]. Y'all need to go over there and check him. Tell him I said hello. He's black too. He's a colored boy too (laughter)." And so all of a sudden my business increased tremendously, and I became one of the top salesmen. But I was gonna--had a lot of difficulty. The white salesmen would hide the keys on my cars. They would take cars I had sold and put them on the street a block away. They would change the numbers of them so I'd write down the wrong serial number. And, but I didn't, I didn't complain. So one day in a meeting, Blaine Brownell got up, the owner, and said, "I want to say one thing: I want to commend James Roberson for his leadership and what he's done for this dealership. He has sold more cars than some of you guys here all day long. And he has done a good job, and I have not heard him complain about anything." An Italian guy named Louis Pecane [ph.] said, "Mr. Brownell, I want to say something." He said, "James has been here, and he has gone through so many hardships." And Blaine said, "Hardships?" He said, "Yes sir, and I've been a part of some of them. They've thrown keys away. They've hid cars from him. They have misnumbered cars for him. And I want to apologize." He said, "James, I want to apologize to you. You're a better man than I am, and I want you to forgive me." And it was like a church service (laughter). Mr. Kelso [ph.] got up, and he said, "I want to say you're the best I've ever seen, and I love you to death." And from that day forward, I had a good relationship at that dealership.

Larry Brown

Larry Thomas Brown, president of Ottawa Ford-Lincoln-Mercury and Kia of Ottawa, Illinois, and former owner of Star Toyota in Merrillville, Indiana and Landmark Ford in Niles, Illinois, is one of the first of two African Americans to serve on the National Automobile Dealers Association’s board of directors. Brown was born in Inkster, Michigan on April 21, 1947 to Mattie Lewis Brown and Nander Brown, a mechanic and preacher. Early in Brown’s life, the family moved to Detroit, Michigan where Brown began his education in the public school system.

After graduating from Western High School in Detroit, Brown served as sergeant in the United States Air Force from 1965 to 1969. He then returned to Michigan where he attended Wayne County Community College in Detroit while working at Ford Motor Company. In August of 1971, he married Angelina Caldwell Brown. He continued his education during the first years of his marriage, receiving his B.S. degree from Wayne State University in Detroit in 1973. Brown earned his M.A. degree in management and supervision from Central Michigan University in Mount Pleasant, Michigan in 1979 and also graduated from the Ford Motor Company Dealer Training Program. He left Ford Motor Company to start his own dealership in 1985.

In addition to serving on the National Automobile Dealers Association’s board of directors, Brown served as chairman of its Dealership Operations and Industry Relations Committees and the Executive Board and Public Affairs Committees. Brown also served Ford-Lincoln-Mercury Minority Dealers Association as president, chairman, vice president of Ford Division, vice president of Customer Service Division and as treasurer. He is past president and chairman of National Association of Minority Automobile Dealerships and remains a board member.

Brown’s awards and honors include Operation PUSH’s Crystal Spirit Award, the National Association of Minority Automobile Dealership’s Jesse Jones Vision Award, Dollars and Sense magazine’s America’s Best and Brightest Award, and America’s Outstanding Dealer Award. He was inducted into Western High School’s Hall of Fame in 1994.

Accession Number

A2005.193

Sex

Male

Interview Date

8/10/2005

Last Name

Brown

Maker Category
Schools

Western High School

Western International High School

Chaney Elementary School

Condon Intermediate School

Wayne State University

Speakers Bureau

Yes

Speakers Bureau Availability

Any

First Name

Larry

Birth City, State, Country

Inkster

HM ID

BRO29

Speakers Bureau Honorarium

Only if travel is required - Negotiable

Favorite Season

Summer

State

Michigan

Favorite Vacation Destination

Europe, Arizona

Favorite Quote

Be What You Want To Be, Believe In Yourself, Do Not Accept 'No' As An Answer, And Just Do It.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Birth Date

4/21/1947

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Chicago

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Blueberries

Short Description

Auto sales entrepreneur Larry Brown (1947 - ) is president of Ottawa Ford-Lincoln-Mercury and Kia in Ottawa, Illinois. He is also one of the first two African Americans to serve on the National Automobile Dealers Association’s board of directors.

Employment

Ford Motor Company

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Larry Brown's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Larry Brown lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Larry Brown describes his mother's family background, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Larry Brown describes his mother's childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Larry Brown describes his parent's relationship

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Larry Brown describes his father's childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Larry Brown describes his parents and how he resembles them

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Larry Brown describes his siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Larry Brown describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Larry Brown lists the schools he attended

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Larry Brown describes his paper route

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Larry Brown remembers living near Briggs Stadium in Detroit, Michigan

Tape: 1 Story: 13 - Larry Brown describes himself as a young boy

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Larry Brown describes his mother's family background, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Larry Brown recalls his experience in school

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Larry Brown remembers attending his father's church

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Larry Brown remembers Thanksgiving celebrations in Detroit, Michigan

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Larry Brown remembers losing weight as a teenager

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Larry Brown describes his activities at Detroit's Western High School

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Larry Brown remembers joining the U.S. Air Force

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Larry Brown remembers his time in the U.S. Air Force

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Larry Brown remembers Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s assassination

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Larry Brown remembers attending Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Larry Brown describes his aspirations as a young man

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Larry Brown explains why he left journalism for the automobile industry

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Larry Brown remembers being accepted to the Ford Minority Dealer Training Program

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Larry Brown describes the Ford Minority Dealer Training Program

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Larry Brown remembers earning his master's degree from Central Michigan University

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Larry Brown remembers his first dealership

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Larry Brown describes the Ottawa, Illinois area

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Larry Brown lists the car dealerships he has owned

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Larry Brown reflects upon his experience in the automobile industry

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Larry Brown remembers being elected as a director for the National Automotive Dealers Association

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Larry Brown lists his role models

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Larry Brown shares advice for aspiring automobile dealers

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Larry Brown describes his concerns for the African American community

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Larry Brown offers advice to young people

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Larry Brown reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Larry Brown describes his family

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Larry Brown reflects upon the progress of black dealers in the automotive industry

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Larry Brown describes how he would like to be remembered

DASession

1$1

DATape

1$3

DAStory

11$2

DATitle
Larry Brown describes his paper route
Larry Brown explains why he left journalism for the automobile industry
Transcript
And the sights and sounds, I always had a paper route I had a paper route at the age of twelve and I kept that paper route until I was eighteen. And with that, that was how I really kind of grew up to develop into a responsible, sort of of a entrepreneur kind of thinking individual. The smell is at the time you know you had the Detroit Tigers you know we used really be into the Tigers and the Lions [Detroit Lions]. The Pistons [Detroit Pistons] weren't a force then and hockey was not something that we were interes- but it was mostly the Detroit Tigers. So I kind of grew around, grew up around the paper station. You know where I had the guys that you would throw your papers and then you would meet back at the station. So kind of how I grew up in Detroit [Michigan]. And by doing that I allowed me to sort of develop an independent sense of, of having my own money, you know. Coming from a family again of thirteen, I didn't have to go to my father [Nander Brown] and say okay do, do I have any allowance money, 'cause we didn't get allowance. So I was able to have my own money and sort of spend the way that I wanted to without having any restrictions. So therefore that was something that I truly, truly enjoyed as growing up. And other boys would have paper routes as well, you know we kind of had our own little club. You know where we could buy our own bikes at the time, and buy a baseball glove, 'cause these were the things that were extra that my family just couldn't afford. So with a paper route it allowed me to do those kinds of things.$So how did it go, I mean you were in journalism, you're not a journalist now, so what happened along the way?$$Well, I, I did do some radio at the Wayne State [Wayne State University, Detroit, Michigan] radio station and I also worked a while at the, at the Michigan Chronicle, so.$$Now did you do news on the radio?$$I did news, right and I think it was WDET [WDET Radio, Detroit, Michigan], I think whatever Wayne's local stations call letters were. And I did, did some news reporting for the Michigan Chronicle.$$Okay.$$And along the way as, as I indicated as I was going to school I was also working at Ford Motor Company [Dearborn, Michigan]. And some opportunity prevailed for me there. And so that's sort of how I got involved in automobile business. And kind of shied away from the journalism piece of it.$$Okay, now was the, is it--what happened first did you, did you decide to go into business first or did the opportunities present themselves at Ford first?$$Well it simultaneously I was working at Ford while I was going to school, I was part-time. And so I got married [to Angelina Caldwell] 1971 and they had kept asking me did I want to go full time when positions became available. And I kept saying no but and then we I got married in '71 [1971] I said I gotta get something a little more stable. And at that time that's when I decided to go full-time and be a full-time employee with Ford Motor Company. And I was hired by the Dealer Computer Services Division, which at the time they sold computer systems to Ford-Lincoln-Mercury dealers throughout the United States. So I was sort of like worked in the administrative office analyzing data that would come over the--this system. So that I was a system analyst at the time, computer I analyzed data. So I stayed in that position with Ford until 1979.$$Now you were systems analyst for?$$Basically for dealer computer services, I, I analyzed data that came from the computer system that was that were in the Ford-Lincoln-Mercury dealerships. It was not like a typical system analyst that you would recognize a system analyst. But that was sort, sort of what I did, and I stayed with them 'til '79 [1979].

Mel Farr, Sr.

Mel Farr enjoyed success on and off the football field. Farr was an All American and All Pro running back, and then later shot to the top of the African American business world when the Mel Farr Auto Group grossed a staggering $596.6 million dollars in 1998. Farr was born November 3, 1944 in Beaumont, Texas, to Miller Farr, Sr. and Doretha Farr.

A natural athlete, Farr excelled in baseball, basketball, track and football. It was football that captured Farr's imagination, as he was inspired by an outstanding collection of local heroes. Al LaBlanc, Bubba Smith, Buck Buchannan, Jerry LeVias, Warren Wells and other football greats all came from the "Golden Triangle" area around Beaumont. Farr was widely recruited from black Hebert High School in 1963, choosing the University of California, Los Angeles. At UCLA, Farr was a consensus All American from 1963 to 1967. He was also NFL Rookie of the Year in 1967 with the Detroit Lions and made the All Pro Team in 1967 and 1972. Plagued by injuries, Farr retired in 1973, ready to make the transition from football hero to businessman.

Determined to have a career beyond the gridiron, Farr completed his degree at the University of Detroit while still in the National Football League. He worked during the off-season for the Ford Motor Company in its management program. In 1975, Mel Farr Ford opened at 2470 Greenfield Road in Oak Park, Michigan. Targeting the inner-city population with its high credit risk, but its need for automobiles and ready financing, Farr employed a variety of creative marketing and management approaches. Purchasing additional dealerships beginning in 1986, Farr's empire grew to over thirteen dealerships and a Seven-Up Bottling Plant. By 1998, the Mel Farr Auto Group was the top African American business in the country and the thirty-third largest auto dealership in the United States.

Farr passed away on August 3, 2015.

Accession Number

A2002.151

Sex

Male

Interview Date

8/21/2002

Last Name

Farr

Maker Category
Organizations
Schools

Odom Elementary School

Hebert High School

University of California, Los Angeles

University of Detroit Mercy

Odom Academy

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Melvin

Birth City, State, Country

Beaumont

HM ID

FAR01

Favorite Season

Spring

State

Texas

Favorite Vacation Destination

Bahamas

Favorite Quote

You only gonna earn today what your skills and efforts allow you to and no more.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Michigan

Birth Date

11/3/1944

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Detroit

Country

United States

Favorite Food

None

Death Date

8/3/2015

Short Description

Auto sales entrepreneur and football player Mel Farr, Sr. (1944 - 2015 ) owns a number of car dealerships. The Mel Farr Auto Group was recognized as the the top African American business in the country in 1998. Before his business career, Farr was also NFL Rookie of the Year in 1967 with the Detroit Lions, and made the All Pro Team in 1967 and 1972 as a running back.

Employment

NFL- Detroit Lions

Ford Motor Company

Mel Farr Automotive

Triple M Financing Company

Seven-Up Bottling Plant

Favorite Color

Yellow

Timing Pairs
0,0:3528,61:9185,119:9445,124:10745,149:11005,154:16422,218:32600,400:48993,576:49923,588:73063,860:81529,1068:82608,1088:87588,1212:103110,1417:103635,1425:104085,1432:106260,1495:109035,1554:109335,1559:111135,1590:111735,1600:113160,1615:115335,1687:119835,1746:126729,1769:137115,1905:137340,1911:137700,1919:149710,2115:156854,2257:163056,2319$0,0:17065,190:23164,334:31452,471:32118,480:32710,487:47680,662:52972,752:53560,760:57424,848:58012,858:61456,926:81694,1254:82064,1261:82730,1276:83174,1284:83470,1289:85246,1326:87170,1352:92819,1388:95305,1410:96145,1419:115047,1581:116682,1593:117772,1604:126180,1681:134719,1758:135735,1783:147988,1940:148816,1952:149368,1961:153646,2045:156080,2061:156380,2066:156755,2072:157280,2081:158555,2102:159230,2112:159530,2117:160505,2133:160955,2141:161780,2155:163580,2185:164030,2192:164330,2197:173450,2266:174066,2274:176530,2309:177234,2315:179962,2377:180754,2388:181370,2396:182250,2408:182954,2417:183834,2428:187818,2472:192102,2568:195210,2618:196638,2640:197478,2656:198150,2665:200502,2704:203358,2726:203694,2732:211790,2811:212110,2816:213150,2832:221470,2970:231225,3003:246251,3167:255908,3388:262607,3487:269486,3516:270228,3538:272070,3563
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Mel Farr interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Mel Farr's favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Mel Farr remembers his parents

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Mel Farr discusses his father's background

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Mel Farr discusses his mother's family and recalls visits to their farm

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Mel Farr describes his parents' focus on the future, not the past

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Mel Farr recalls segregation and a racist killing near his hometown, Beaumont, Texas

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Mel Farr remembers early family trips to California and vowing to play in the Coliseum

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Mel Farr recalls racial violence and tension in Beaumont, Texas

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Mel Farr describes the location and climate of Beaumont, Texas

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Mel Farr describes his ambitious, goal-directed childhood personality

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Mel Farr talks about pursuing his goal of becoming a pro football player

Tape: 1 Story: 13 - Mel Farr describes memorable figures from his school years

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Mel Farr describes Beaumont, Texas's football tradition

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Mel Farr recounts playing grade school and high school football

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Mel Farr recalls his experience at UCLA

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Mel Farr discusses football injuries received early in his football career

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Mel Farr recounts playing football at UCLA

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Mel Farr recalls being drafted by the Detroit Lions

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Mel Farr discusses playing football for the Detroit Lions

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Mel Farr recounts his last year playing professional football

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Mel Farr identifies notable Detroit Lions and his family's history in pro football

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Mel Farr remembers beginning his career as a Ford automobile dealer

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Mel Farr discusses achieving success as an automobile dealer

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Mel Farr recalls media criticism of his business success

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Mel Farr discusses the benefit of transportation for the urban poor

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Mel Farr discusses the significance of access to transportation

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Mel Farr explains how the "On Time" device assures automobile payments

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Mel Farr explains using a white stand-in for some commercials

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Mel Farr discusses his decision to focus on selling inexpensive cars to the urban market

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Mel Farr shares his personal philosophy

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Mel Farr discusses the success of Korean auto makers in America

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Mel Farr identifies his additional business endeavors

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Mel Farr shares his concerns for the black community

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Mel Farr discusses his future and his legacy

DASession

1$1

DATape

1$3

DAStory

12$3

DATitle
Mel Farr talks about pursuing his goal of becoming a pro football player
Mel Farr remembers beginning his career as a Ford automobile dealer
Transcript
Where did you go to grade school?$$I went to Odom Elementary School.$$It was a black school, right?$$All black, and my high school, I went to Hebert High School.$$All right. When you were in grade school can--can you remember like what you were most interested in in grade school and what--what subjects and or--or activities you know caught your interest in school?$$Well during grade school I was interested in--sports. I was interested in sports. Absolutely interested in sports. I was interested in being a cowboy, you know cause--I mean all you saw on television was cowboys and Indians. So I wanted to be a cowboy . I wanted to--and--I wanted to be a football player. I watched--the games and I'd see--see my heroes, the Jim Browns and Lenny (unclear) Moores and Ollie Matson and those guys being very successful on the football field and I was a kind of a big guy and I was fast and so I said you know what, I'm going to be a professional football player. So I set a goal when I was twelve years old to be a profess-, professional football player and I just kind of stayed focused on being that professional football player and I know the closer and closer I came to--to being that--accomplishing that goal the happier I was. You know when I made All-State in football and the college coaches started calling me, I'd get letters from the college, I mean I was happy you know, when the college scouts started coming down and recruiting me I was very, very happy. When I went to UCLA and I made All-American, that went-- that gave me one step closer to--to accomplishing my goals and objectives and then being drafted by the Detroit Lions, that was it. It was something that, hey I've set, and then when I got--became twenty-two years old and became a football player--a professional football player I said, hmm, now--I need to set another goal. So in 1968 Ford Motor Company put in its first African American dealer--a guy by the name of Ernie Banks and Bob Nelson in Chicago, Illinois and I was playing ball for the Detroit Lions and the guy who owned the Lions, name was William Clay Ford, the grandson of Henry Ford, so I said, hey, I'm going to go out to Ford Motor Company and get a job. So I got--went out to Ford Motor Company my second year in the league and got a job at Ford Motor Company.$Let's talk about your career with Ford and the--the car dealership. You--you started your car dealership in 1975, right--1975? Okay.$$Yeah, I started working with Ford Motor Company in the off-season, in 1968, right after Ford Motor Company put in its first African American dealer. And the reason why Ford Motor Company put in its first African American dealer was right after the riots, and Henry Ford [Jr.] said, you know, what we are going to do is we are going to open our retail dealerships to African Americans. So, they went out and they put Ernie Banks--the Hall of Fame baseball player, and Bob Nelson into a Ford Dealership in Chicago. Wow, and I just started working with Ford! I said, God. You know my dad was a used car dealer--I'm working here at Ford Motor Company now. I'm going to be a dealer! You know, so I'd set a goal that year that I'm going to work at Ford Motor Company. I'm gonna learn this business and I'm going to be--become an automobile dealer. I retired in '73 [1973]. In '75 [1975] I purchased Mel Farr Ford in Oak Park, Michigan. Now, Mel Farr Ford in Oak Park, Michigan had been bankrupt twice, you know. There were two white guys in there before Mel Farr--they couldn't do it. I bought the store in 1975 with a partner by the name of John Cook. We said--we were partners for about three--three--three years and he and I disagreed on the philosophy on how the business should be--how we should go forward in the business and et cetera and--so I ended up buying him out in 1970--1978 and in 1979, those cars lined up at the service stations in California when they started to having this gas war and in '79 [1979], so my timing was absolutely the worse to buy him out, but I did it--interest rates went up to nineteen percent, twenty percent in 1980. I'm struggling, struggling, struggling as an automobile dealer, and that's when Nate [Nathan] Conyers, Bill [William] Shack and myself--we started the National Association of Minority Automobile Dealers [NAMAD]. We started that association so that we can get some money from the government so we can withstand this downturn in the market, because there were about--President [Jimmy] Carter came here and announced that he had allocated--I think it was two hundred million dollars for automobile dealers for loans through the SBA [Small Business Association] and he allocated twenty two million dollars for minority automobile dealers, and it was through out lobbying in Washington [D.C.] that we were able to get that done through the minority--through the National Association of Minority Automobile Dealers and it allowed me to get two hundred and ten thousand dollars from the SBA and it kept me in business in--in those very, very difficult times, and it was a learning--a learning period for me. I felt very confident in my ability to be a dealer, but there were some things that I had no control over and that was the economy. So, those funds were--were--were really a necessity. It was very necessary for me--for us to survive back in 1980 and '81 [1981], and after that Ford Motor Company came out with some fuel-efficient automobiles like the "Escort", before then we had all of the gas guzzlers, you know,,$$(Simultaneously) The LTDs (laughter)$$Yeah, and we had the "Pinto" and if--if you hit--if you ran into the back of a Pinto, it caught fire, you know, so, we did not have very much to sell, but I was able to with--withstand that downturn, and we--you know grew our business to be--you know the largest [black-owned] business in this country.

Nathan Conyers

Nathan G. Conyers, founder and president of Conyers Riverside-Ford, Inc., was born on July 3, 1932, in Detroit, Michigan's "Black Bottom" community during the Great Depression. Nathan Conyers was the fourth of five children and one of four surviving sons of his parents John Conyers, Sr. -- a factory worker and union organizer -- and Lucille Simpson Conyers. Both parents emphasized education and self-reliance. His eldest brother is Michigan Congressman John Conyers, Jr.

Conyers graduated from Northwestern High School in 1950. A brief stint with the Army made him realize the importance of education. Attending Wayne State University to earn first a bachelor's and then a law degree, Nathan Conyers passed the Michigan Bar in 1959. He served as a special assistant attorney for Michigan's Attorney General, and as a closing attorney for the Veteran's Administration and the Small Business Administration. In 1960, he went into private practice with the firm of Keith, Conyers, Anderson, Brown and Wahls, P.C., a historic firm that championed civil rights and earned a stellar reputation.

Heeding the lifelong wish of his father that a family business be established, in 1970 Nathan Conyers and his brother John launched Conyer's Ford at 2475 West Grand in inner city Detroit with Nathan Conyers as president. At the time, there were only twenty black-owned dealerships in the United States. With the assistance of Reverend Jesse Jackson Sr., Conyers helped forge the National Black Dealers Association and became its first president in 1970. In 1979, Conyers established the Ford Lincoln Mercury Black Dealers Association. In May of that same year, minority dealers met with the goal of leveraging much needed financial support from federal agencies. As a result of this effort, the National Minority Dealership Association was formed. In 1984, Conyers acquired Riverside Ford, Inc. at 1833 East Jefferson and later converted the dealership on West Grand to a body shop.

Known for his thirty-one years of professionalism and distinguished community service, Conyers is the longest serving African American car dealer in the country. He is the recipient of Time Magazine's Quality Dealer Award, and is one of only six businesses to make Black Enterprise Magazine's Top 100 list for the last twenty-five years.

Accession Number

A2002.149

Sex

Male

Interview Date

8/19/2002

Last Name

Conyers

Maker Category
Organizations
Schools

Northwestern High School

Wayne State University

First Name

Nathan

Birth City, State, Country

Detroit

HM ID

CON02

Favorite Season

Fall

Sponsor

Knight Foundation

State

Michigan

Favorite Vacation Destination

St. Martin, Turks, Caicos

Favorite Quote

Ordinary people can do extraordinary things.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Michigan

Birth Date

7/3/1932

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Detroit

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Meat

Short Description

Auto sales entrepreneur Nathan Conyers (1932 - ) owns Conyers' Riverside Ford and Jaguar dealerships and is the longest serving African American car dealer in the country. With the assistance of Reverend Jesse Jackson Sr., Conyers helped forge the National Black Dealers Association and became its first president in 1970.

Employment

Colden, Snowden, Smith & Keith

Kieth, Conyers, Anderson, Brown & Wahls

Conyers Ford

Conyers Riverside-Ford

Main Sponsor
Favorite Color

Red

DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Nathan Conyers interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Nathan Conyers's favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Nathan Conyers gives his parents' names and backgrounds

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Nathan Conyers talks about his father's ancestors

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Nathan Conyers details his father's involvement in the union movement

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Nathan Conyers discusses his mother's leadership role

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Nathan Conyers lists his brothers

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Nathan Conyers remembers his childhood community

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Nathan Conyers explains his neighborhood's solidarity

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Nathan Conyers remembers his childhood personality and aspiration to become a lawyer

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Nathan Conyers describes himself as a high school and college student

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Nathan Conyers recalls his military experience

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Nathan Conyers dissusses mentors and his work in radio sound effects during high school

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Nathan Conyers talks about being a distracted student

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Nathan Conyers talks about law school and the help of his brother John's class notes from the previous year

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Nathan Conyers explains his post-law school experiences

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Nathan Conyers talks about his early experiences working in law

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Nathan Conyers remembers the Keith, Conyers, Anderson, Brown and Wahls law firm and the social climate of 1960s Detroit

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Nathan Conyers recalls the Algiers Motel Incident investigation by the U.S. Justice Department

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Nathan Conyers discusses his firm's involvement in the national Civil Rights Movement

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Nathan Conyers discusses events that led to the Detroit Riots of 1967

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Nathan Conyers explains Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s reasons for coming to Grosse Pointe, Michigan

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Nathan Conyers remembers Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s visit to Michigan in 1968

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Nathan Conyers discusses the Detroit Riots of 1967

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Nathan Conyers talks about changes made by Detroit Mayor Coleman Young

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Nathan Conyers comments on passing life lessons to younger generations

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Nathan Conyers describes how he transitioned into the retail automobile industry

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Nathan Conyers explains how he was chosen to run the family business

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Nathan Conyers recalls reactions to leaving his law firm

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Nathan Conyers tells of his involvement in the National Black Dealers Association

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Nathan Conyers explains how Jimmy Carter aided black-owned car dealerships

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Nathan Conyers talks about racial discrimination in the retail automobile industry

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Nathan Conyers comments on the growth of his car dealership

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Nathan Conyers discusses his family's involvement in his dealerships

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Nathan Conyers describes his hopes for younger blacks in business ownership

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Nathan Conyers discusses white business owners' lack of acceptance of Detroit mayor Coleman Young

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Nathan Conyes talks about the status of Detroit after Coleman Young's administration

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Nathan Conyers comments on his life in Detroit and his love for the city

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Nathan Conyers speaks about Motown's existence in Detroit

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Nathan Conyers considers black Detroit's legacy

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Nathan Conyers shares opinions on how Detroit's black business community could better itself

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Nathan Conyers talks about progress made in the black business world

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Nathan Conyers discusses the influence of brother John Conyers and colleague Damon Keith

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Nathan Conyers talks about differences between his two dealerships

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Nathan Conyers discusses the importance of loyalty in business

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Nathan Conyers explains his hopes and concerns for Detroit's black community

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Nathan Conyers comments on progress made within the black community

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Nathan Conyers reflects on his life and career

Albert W. Johnson

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.

Accession Number

A2002.142

Sex

Male

Interview Date

8/14/2002

Last Name

Johnson

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

W.

Organizations
Schools

Marshall High School

Lincoln University

University of Chicago

First Name

Albert

Birth City, State, Country

St. Louis

HM ID

JOH05

Favorite Season

None

Sponsor

Mark D. Goodman

State

Missouri

Favorite Vacation Destination

Northern California

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Birth Date

2/23/1920

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Chicago

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Grits

Death Date

1/13/2010

Short Description

Auto sales entrepreneur Albert W. Johnson (1920 - 2010 ) is the founder of Al Johnson's Cadillac dealership in Chicago. Johnson is the first African American to own and operate a G.M. dealership.

Employment

General Motors - Oldsmobile

General Motors - Cadillac

Homer G. Phillips Hospital

Main Sponsor
Favorite Color

None

Timing Pairs
0,0:17527,205:188510,1602:194826,1668:196986,1712:197346,1718:199450,1726:208770,1801$0,0:8380,156:9220,164:9700,169:16802,227:18674,248:29805,461:30470,470:35224,519:35572,526:36181,535:41220,600:41456,605:44070,618:52620,668:75739,823:75991,828:77880,845:94496,935:94952,942:95408,950:111480,1070:112305,1084:112605,1089:143360,1334:144008,1343:156807,1444:157588,1457:161556,1503:169824,1581:181479,1756:191685,1883:196058,1984:215272,2217:263776,2656:267340,2710
DAStories

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

DASession

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DATape

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DATitle
Albert W. Johnson talks about his jobs in hospital administration and his decision to become a car salesman
Albert W. Johnson talks about working in Chicago Mayor Harold Washington's administration
Transcript
And I ended up in the hospital first starting out as a receiving room clerk. And then later years making a number of seminars and ended up coming to Chicago [Illinois] to work under the father of hospital administration at Chicago Dr. MacEkren [ph.]. Then that leads into the story when dad [Oscar Johnson] died and gave me an opportunity to wonder, to make my own decisions. And the question then was, "Where do I go from here?" I got a white-collar job that was considered very important in a good field, good income based on those days. And I then as you may read somewhere along the line I was fascinated with cars. So was my dad. And I ended up going around selling cars to people in the hospital field out of a briefcase. And based on reputation, having been in cer- in organizations related to hospital field, likely, first spot I got was the chairman of the hospital personnel directors, and St. Louis as you know is famous as a medical center. And then later I became chairman of the local hospital administrator's group. That gave you--people trusted you. (Unclear) And I started selling cars out of a briefcase to the doctors, to the nurses. I sold more cars in a year than (laughter) any three of our salesman put together. In some of the articles you may have read--I don't have it here. I know, the first month in this business I earned well over $1,100. That was a lot of money on a part-time basis, devoting no more than fifteen, eighteen hours a week. That was a lot of money. And it was earning me (laughter) more money than I was being paid as a hospital administrator full-time. It made me determined. And I felt this. I wanna be in business, and maybe we can crack this thing about our not being able to purchase from another dealer his company. And that maybe we could crack it.$Now when you--this was also probably an exciting time in your life in many ways. It's different--it opened up new vistas in some respects. Right? Okay. Because it's different. You had been successful as a businessman, but this was politics at that level, you know, or being involved sort of. You know, some people say, they'd like to make king. They'd rather be the kingmaker than the king. So in many ways you were the kingmaker. And so I'm wondering what you would say that--what things did you learn out of that? What was exciting to you about it? What, when you look at that period of your life--$$Well first of all, I was never trying to be kingmaker, never. I was--people would say that was my motive, but it wasn't. I--even though I worked at city hall, I tried my very best to be off center stage, but very supportive about what I was doing without fanfare. That's what I tried to do there. We had some exciting people come on board. Professor Robert Mere [ph.]. Rob had so much loyalty to making change and to Harold [Washington] and we worked together as a real good team. Rob and I stayed that close until he died. We were say about the excitement. It was exciting. I was doing something that was mainly--I was there in fact due to the fact that I had a business background, I think my job was to make downtown business community feel safer, and I think I was that businessperson that was part of Chicago United which is the business community, as you know, with all the major corporations. I was the person they could talk to and felt at ease at first. After that, it didn't take long for them to feel comfortable, and they found out that the--things were not like the old days that you had to get it from somebody. Or right from [Richard J.] Daley or--you didn't have to do that with Harold. Those departments would be receptive, and if it was good for Chicago [Illinois], then it could happen. One of the best things--one of the strong things that Harold supported was the expansion of the airport [O'Hare International Airport, Chicago, Illinois]. And when Harold became mayor, Jane [Byrne] had started some of that, and they, the airlines felt that oh my God, we got a new mayor, and he might hamper the progress and our plans that we have on board. And they said it. And then, I never will forget, one of the airlines' rep came to see me, and he kept saying, "Well you're a business man you know, and it isn't just political with you." That kind of approach, and I assured them that Harold then would appoint somebody just on that progress to see that it worked. And that's exactly what he did. And I was sure about many of the projects that Harold worked on.