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George L. Miles, Jr.

George L. Miles, Jr. was born on November 13, 1941 in Orange, New Jersey. He is one of Eula and George Miles’ seven children. In 1963, Miles earned his B.A. degree in accounting from Seton Hall University and his M.B.A. from Fairleigh Dickinson University in 1970. He also became a New Jersey-licensed certified public accountant in 1972.

Following his graduation from Seton Hall University, Miles worked for the Department of Defense for six years in the Defense Audit Agency as a contract auditor during President Kennedy and President Johnson’s terms in office. In 1969, Miles began work with Touche Ross & Company in New York City. In 1972, he left as an audit manager. While at Touche Ross, Miles studied at Fairleigh Dickinson University to earn his M.B.A. He joined KDKA-TV/DKDA-AM/WPNT in 1978, working as a business manager and controller. From 1981 through 1984, Miles served as station manager for WBZ-TV in Boston. In 1983, assigned by Westinghouse Broadcasting, Miles served as Chief Administrative Officer for National Public Radio (NPR), in order to analyze, develop and execute plans and procedures which allowed NPR to obtain relief from fiscal difficulties. Between 1984 and 1994, Miles became Executive Vice President & Chief Operating Officer of WNET/13 in New York. In 1994, Miles was appointed President and CEO of WQED Multimedia, a public broadcasting media company which encompasses WQED-TV, WQEX-TV, WQED-FM and PITTSBURGH magazine.

Miles has received Honorary Doctorates from Robert Morris University, La Roche College and St. Joseph’s College. He is also a recipient of the Pinnacle Award for Outstanding Achievement as an alumnus of Fairleigh Dickinson University. In 2006, The New Pittsburgh Courier named him one of the “Fifty Most Influential African-Americans.” Miles was also the 2007 Recipient of the Point Park University Performing Arts Partnership & Achievement Award.

Miles sits on the boards of American International Group, Inc.; Chester Engineers, Inc.; Equitable Resources, Inc.; Harley-Davidson, Inc.; HFF, Inc. and WESCO International, Inc. He also served as a former Chairman of the Urban League of Pittsburgh.

Miles lives in Pittsburgh and is married to Janet L. Miles. They have a daughter, Tammy and granddaughter, Taylor.

Miles was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on August 12, 2008.

Accession Number

A2008.103

Sex

Male

Interview Date

8/12/2008

Last Name

Miles

Maker Category
Middle Name

L.

Occupation
Organizations
Schools

Orange High School

Oakwood Avenue Community School

Lincoln Avenue School

Orange Preparatory Academy

Seton Hall University

Fairleigh Dickinson University

Search Occupation Category
First Name

George

Birth City, State, Country

Orange

HM ID

MIL07

Favorite Season

Spring

State

New Jersey

Favorite Vacation Destination

Anywhere Warm

Favorite Quote

Wonderful.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Pennsylvania

Interview Description
Birth Date

11/13/1941

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Pittsburgh

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Snack Foods

Short Description

Broadcast executive George L. Miles, Jr. (1941 - ) was the president and CEO of WQED Multimedia, a public broadcasting media company which encompasses WQED-TV, WQEX-TV, WQED-FM and PITTSBURGH magazine.

Employment

WQED Multimedia

Young Men's Christian Association

Otis Elevator Company

Defense Contract Audit Agency

Touche Ross and Co.

KDKA-TV

Westinghouse Broadcasting Company

National Public Radio

WNET-TV

Favorite Color

Red

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/633597">Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of George L. Miles, Jr.'s interview</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/633598">Tape: 1 Story: 2 - George L. Miles, Jr. lists his favorites</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/633599">Tape: 1 Story: 3 - George L. Miles, Jr. describes his mother's family background</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/633600">Tape: 1 Story: 4 - George L. Miles, Jr. talks about the close relationships within his maternal family</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/633601">Tape: 1 Story: 5 - George L. Miles, Jr. remembers his mother's accomplishments</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/633602">Tape: 1 Story: 6 - George L. Miles, Jr. describes his father's family background</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/633603">Tape: 1 Story: 7 - George L. Miles, Jr. recalls lessons from his father</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/633604">Tape: 1 Story: 8 - George L. Miles, Jr. describes his likeness to his parents</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/633605">Tape: 1 Story: 9 - George L. Miles, Jr. talks about how his parents met</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/633606">Tape: 1 Story: 10 - George L. Miles, Jr. describes his earliest childhood memories, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/633607">Tape: 2 Story: 1 - George L. Miles, Jr. describes his earliest childhood memories, pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/633608">Tape: 2 Story: 2 - George L. Miles, Jr. describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/633609">Tape: 2 Story: 3 - George L. Miles, Jr. describes his experiences at the Oakwood Avenue School in Orange, New Jersey</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/633610">Tape: 2 Story: 4 - George L. Miles, Jr. recalls his early work experiences</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/633611">Tape: 2 Story: 5 - George L. Miles, Jr. remembers his teachers at the Oakwood Avenue School</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/633612">Tape: 2 Story: 6 - George L. Miles, Jr. talks about his early interest in sports</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/633613">Tape: 2 Story: 7 - George L. Miles, Jr. talks about his family connections to Dionne Warwick and Cissy Houston</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/633614">Tape: 2 Story: 8 - George L. Miles, Jr. talks about his interest in doo wop music</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/633615">Tape: 3 Story: 1 - George L. Miles, Jr. describes his extracurricular activities at Orange High School in Orange, New Jersey</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/633616">Tape: 3 Story: 2 - George L. Miles, Jr. describes his decision to attend Seton Hall University in South Orange, New Jersey</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/633617">Tape: 3 Story: 3 - George L. Miles, Jr. recalls how he paid his tuition at Seton Hall University</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/633618">Tape: 3 Story: 4 - George L. Miles, Jr. describes his work and study habits at Seton Hall University</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/633619">Tape: 3 Story: 5 - George L. Miles, Jr. recalls his professors and peers at Seton Hall University</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/633620">Tape: 3 Story: 6 - George L. Miles, Jr. describes his struggle to find a position as a certified public accountant</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/633621">Tape: 3 Story: 7 - George L. Miles, Jr. talks about his U.S. Army service in the Vietnam War, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/633622">Tape: 3 Story: 8 - George L. Miles, Jr. talks about his U.S. Army service in the Vietnam War, pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/633623">Tape: 3 Story: 9 - George L. Miles, Jr. describes his position at Touch Ross and Co.</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/633624">Tape: 3 Story: 10 - George L. Miles, Jr. remembers meeting his wife</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/633625">Tape: 4 Story: 1 - George L. Miles, Jr. recalls his introduction to the media industry at KDKA-TV in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/633626">Tape: 4 Story: 2 - George L. Miles, Jr. describes his experiences at the Westinghouse Broadcasting Company</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/633627">Tape: 4 Story: 3 - George L. Miles, Jr. talks about the reorganization of National Public Radio</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/633628">Tape: 4 Story: 4 - George L. Miles, Jr. talks about his operational strategy for public broadcast stations</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/633629">Tape: 4 Story: 5 - George L. Miles, Jr. recalls joining WQED Multimedia in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/633630">Tape: 4 Story: 6 - George L. Miles, Jr. describes his success at WQED-TV</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/633631">Tape: 4 Story: 7 - George L. Miles, Jr. talks about the programming on WQED-TV, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/633632">Tape: 5 Story: 1 - George L. Miles, Jr. recalls the production of 'The War That Made America'</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/633633">Tape: 5 Story: 2 - George L. Miles, Jr. talks about the programming on WQED-TV, pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/633634">Tape: 5 Story: 3 - George L. Miles, Jr. remembers 'Mister Rogers' Neighborhood'</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/633635">Tape: 5 Story: 4 - George L. Miles, Jr. talks about the future of WQED Multimedia</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/633636">Tape: 5 Story: 5 - George L. Miles, Jr. reflects upon his life</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/633637">Tape: 5 Story: 6 - George L. Miles, Jr. describes his role as an advisor for public broadcasting stations</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/633638">Tape: 5 Story: 7 - George L. Miles, Jr. describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/633639">Tape: 5 Story: 8 - George L. Miles, Jr. talks about his daughter</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/633640">Tape: 5 Story: 9 - George L. Miles, Jr. describes how he would like to be remembered</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/633641">Tape: 5 Story: 10 - George L. Miles, Jr. narrates his photographs</a>

DASession

1$1

DATape

4$4

DAStory

3$6

DATitle
George L. Miles, Jr. talks about the reorganization of National Public Radio
George L. Miles, Jr. describes his success at WQED-TV
Transcript
Then one day I got a call from a, the, my boss in New York [New York] asking me if I would go to Washington, D.C. for a six month stint to work for National Public Radio [NPR]. This is 1983. And would I, will I, if I would go and go to Washington, D.C. as a chief administrator officer for National Public Radio. Because they were going, they needed a temporary management team down there, 'cause they were going through these major fiscal crisis (simultaneous).$$(Simultaneous) They were going through a big crisis, yeah.$$Big time crisis.$$Reagan [President Ronald Wilson Reagan] I think cut it 90 percent or something.$$Well, it was about cutting back, but it was also about mismanagement, just mismanagement. A guy named Frank Mankiewicz and, chief financial officer there, and it was just like they had setup these great programs of 'All Things Considered,' 'Morning Edition' and, and there were just no business acumen whatsoever. So I went down there with a team headed up by a gentleman by the name of Ron Bornstein [Ronald Bornstein] out of Wisconsin, I was his chief administrator officer. Went down there for six months to get it back on track, we did a lot things. It gave me, first of all I didn't know anything about public broadcast, I didn't even know where it was on the dial. So that when I left Boston [WBZ-TV, Boston, Massachusetts] a friend of mine had to show me where public broadcasting was on the dial. And I went down to work there 'cause it was something new and, and I worked for six months and we got a lot of things accomplished. You know and they had all sorts of problems. Everybody had credit cards in the company, we had--took credit cards, we had to lay people off, we had to fire the president. We had to fire the chief financial officer, but I got involved with stuff, we had to put a budgeting process in place. I got a chance to, to testify before [U.S.] Congress, and many of Congress. Never would have had that opportunity before, and got to know a whole new business. After we finished, we put in an old, Mel Ming [HistoryMaker H. Melvin Ming] as a matter of fact.$$Yeah Mel--$$Hired Mel Ming, put Mel Ming as the chief financial officer down there with another guy and I left, went back to Boston [Massachusetts]. And I was in, and I was having a good time in Boston, then get a call, then they also, National Public Radio made me the chairman of their finance committee, on the boards. I sat on the board there and I was back up Boston, so now I was like straddling two worlds, I was straddling public broadcasting, I was straddling also public, public, public broadcasting on one side and commercial broadcasting. And I was in and out and I knew, I knew this, I could see the difference. Then one day I get a call from a headhunter in New York, wanted me to take a look at this job in New York as, as the chief operating officer of Channel 13 [WNET-TV] in New York. This company was going through some major fiscal crisis and major working capital deficits, it had all sorts of non- they were just not being run like a business. All, it was a major, hundred million dollar company being run like a mom and pop operation. So I said this is a great opportunity, my wife [Janet Miles] is in New Jersey, New York. I can move back to my house, and move into my house and then move down to this big entity, which I know nothing about and see if we can straighten those problems out. And we did it, came back, one of the persons I, first person I recruited to come up to New York was Mel Ming. Mel, bring him in, brought him out, NPR brought him up here to become my chief financial officer at in New York. And we spent, I spent ten years there, we moved from a company that was working capital deficits of about $7 million to a company that working in the red. To a company that was prospering, to a company that was built an endowment of almost seventy mil- had started an endowment process. Hired a lot of new people, put a whole new memberships in, to the place was really good shape after ten years.$What national programs are being produced here--$$Well--$$--when you--$$Well, you had 'Infinite Voyage' ['The Infinite Voyage']; you had 'Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego,' National Geographic [National Geographic Society] started here. You had--'Mister Rogers' ['Mister Rogers' Neighborhood'] was here, many, many (unclear) people, all big national things had started out as--but what happened in Pittsburgh [Pennsylvania] was a lot of these big corporations had left Pittsburgh, so Pittsburgh didn't have the sort, this station [WQED-TV, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania] didn't have the sort of funding as a New York [New York] or Boston [Massachusetts] or D.C. [Washington, D.C.]. So that's, they, but they were still committed to these big projects, so that's, that's a part of the problem.$$Okay.$$So that's, that's, that's what you're dealing with, so what I had to do, I had to first of all, first of all (laughter), had to do was let everybody know there's a new sheriff in town, that we gonna do business differently. And had to go back to my roots of New Jersey and had to shake it up a little bit, I mean--here the first week and literally fired three people, straightaway. Had to let them know that this is no longer gonna be this quiet station, we're gonna change.$$Were they business, I mean management, management type--$$Yeah.$$Okay, all right, okay.$$Didn't need them, didn't actually didn't need them, they were just here. And so we did that, then we set a direction, we had sit down worked out a plan on where we gonna go. We said we're gonna be the local, we're not gonna be national, we're gonna be local, and then we had to go. Then I had to go out and sell, that's why I brought Mel [HistoryMaker H. Melvin Ming] in, I said, "Mel, you take care of the inside, I'll go take care of the outside." Then I had to go rebuild the creditability, 'cause a lot press had been written about QED [WQED Multimedia, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania] and, and how bad it you know had turned and all the other things that had gone on. Management had kept themselves focusing in on their, on their perks as opposed to their, their organization, didn't keep its eye on the marketplace, but just kept itself on its own self. And that was a problem. So what happened was I had to go back and rebuild the creditability, all sorts of negative stories about this place. So I had to go out and meet a lot of people, I was everywhere, everywhere in this community I was there. "Hi, how you doing, I'm George Miles [HistoryMaker George L. Miles, Jr.], I'm here, I'm the new president of WQ, by the way, I'm here, I was here before. I'm the lo- I was a local guy," so let them know that I'm still part of them, so just started building your credit. You gotta give people to like you, you, get people to understand you.$$Was, was the station seen as elitist or snobbish or, or, I, I don't what, what was the--$$All of the above (simultaneous).$$--(simultaneous) what was the negative, yeah--$$It was lot, I mean it was elitist, it was, it was wasting money, it was, it was not iden- it didn't have the common touch. In fact one of the things I continue to say over and over again that I didn't want this to be your grandfather's publication, public service media, public media company, I wanted this to be a place that belong to the community, the entire community. Not just part of the community on the East End [Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania], this is a, gonna belong to everybody. And the program that we're gonna be developing was about people in the entire community as opposed to folks who were just part of a certain economic class.

Reginald Hudlin

Reginald Alan Hudlin was born on December 15, 1961, in Centreville, Missouri. He was raised in East St. Louis, Illinois, by his parents Warrington W. Hudlin, Sr. and Helen (Cason) Hudlin. In 1983, Hudlin received his B.A. degree from Harvard University where his senior thesis project was the first version of the film, House Party. Hudlin was supported as an artist-in-residence by the Illinois Arts Council from 1984 to 1985.

At the age of seventeen, Hudlin co-founded the non-profit Black Filmmakers Foundation (BFF) with his brother, Warrington Hudlin, Jr., in 1978. The brothers then formed Hudlin Bros., Inc., a production company which made several popular music videos for MCA and Polygram Records for artists like Heavy D and the Boyz, Guy and Blue Magic. In 1990, Hudlin expanded his Harvard thesis project into the full length feature film House Party, starring the rap duo Kid ‘N Play. Hudlin directed the hit movie Boomerang in 1992, starring Eddie Murphy. Later that year, Hudlin co-executive produced Bebe’s Kids, an animated musical comedy based on the comic monologues of the late Robin Harris. In 1994, Hudlin created and directed the animated series Cosmic Slop which combined fantasy and social commentary. He received a Cable Ace Award for his work on Cosmic Slop in 1995.

The Hudlin Brothers then founded Hudlin Bros. Records in 1996 and signed a distribution deal with Epic Records, a division of Sony. Between 1996 and 2002, Hudlin directed or produced a number of films including The Great White Hype (1996), Ride (1998), The Ladies’ Man (2000) and Serving Sara (2002). Starting in 2004, Hudlin began writing the story line for the Marvel Comic series Black Panther, the first modern Black superhero. In 2005, Hudlin co-wrote a comic novel, Birth of a Nation, with The Boondocks creator Aaron McGruder. He also serves as executive producer for the animated version of The Boondocks on the Cartoon Network. On July 12, 2005, Hudlin was named President of Entertainment for Black Entertainment Television (BET) Networks. At BET, Hudlin is chief programming executive in charge of the network’s music, entertainment, specials, sports, news and public affairs, film and program acquisitions, home entertainment and programming development units. Hudlin married Chrisette Suter on November 30, 2002. They have a daughter, Helena Grace, and reside in Los Angeles, California.

Accession Number

A2008.067

Sex

Male

Interview Date

3/31/2008

12/12/2018

Last Name

Hudlin

Maker Category
Schools

Alta Sita Elementary School

St. Francis Xavier School

Assumption Catholic High School

Harvard University

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Reginald

Birth City, State, Country

Centerville

HM ID

HUD05

Sponsor

Black Entertainment Television

State

Missouri

Favorite Vacation Destination

Hawaii

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

California

Interview Description
Birth Date

12/15/1961

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Los Angeles

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Indian Food

Short Description

Film director, broadcast executive, and television director Reginald Hudlin (1961 - ) was the president of entertainment for Black Entertainment Television (BET) Networks. He wrote, produced, executive-produced and directed several films and televisions shows including House Party, Boomerang, The Great White Hype, Cosmic Slop,The Bernie Mac Show, Everybody Hates Chris and The Boondocks.

Employment

Black Entertainment Television

Self Employed

University of Wisconsin--Milwaukee

Ogilvy and Mather

Main Sponsor
Main Sponsor URL
Favorite Color

Orange

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/569388">Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Reginald Hudlin's interview</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/569389">Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Reginald Hudlin lists his favorites</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/569390">Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Reginald Hudlin describes his mother's personality</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/569391">Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Reginald Hudlin describes his mother's family background</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/569392">Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Reginald Hudlin describes his father's family background, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/569393">Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Reginald Hudlin describes his father's family background, pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/569394">Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Reginald Hudlin talks about his paternal aunts and uncles</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/569395">Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Reginald Hudlin describes his father's professions</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/569396">Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Reginald Hudlin describes his earliest childhood memory</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/569397">Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Reginald Hudlin recalls his father's personality and discipline</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/569398">Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Reginald Hudlin describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/569399">Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Reginald Hudlin describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood, pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/569400">Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Reginald Hudlin recalls his neighbors in East St. Louis, Illinois</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/569401">Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Reginald Hudlin remembers his childhood adventures in East St. Louis, Illinois</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/569402">Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Reginald Hudlin describes the Katherine Dunham Centers for Arts and Humanities in East St. Louis, Illinois</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/569403">Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Reginald Hudlin talks about his early education</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/569404">Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Reginald Hudlin describes his relationship with his brothers</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/569405">Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Reginald Hudlin talks about his paternal family's dinnertime activities</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/569406">Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Reginald Hudlin describes his early interest in storytelling and comic books</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/569407">Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Reginald Hudlin describes his brother's academic success</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/569408">Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Reginald Hudlin talks about his experiences in private schools</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/569409">Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Reginald Hudlin remembers Mor Thiam</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/569410">Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Reginald Hudlin describes how he came to attend the Assumption Catholic High School in East St. Louis, Illinois</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/569411">Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Reginald Hudlin describes his early interest in filmmaking</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/569412">Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Reginald Hudlin recalls the television programs of his youth</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/569413">Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Reginald Hudlin describes his decision to enroll at Harvard University</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/569414">Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Reginald Hudlin talks about his introduction to independent filmmaking</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/569415">Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Reginald Hudlin remembers his classmates at Harvard University</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/569416">Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Reginald Hudlin describes his first day at Harvard University</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/569417">Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Reginald Hudlin reflects upon his time at Harvard University</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/569418">Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Reginald Hudlin talks about the black community at Harvard University</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/569419">Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Reginald Hudlin describes his film assignments at Harvard University</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/569420">Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Reginald Hudlin remembers creating his short film, 'House Party'</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/569421">Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Reginald Hudlin talks about his influences as a filmmaker</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/569422">Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Reginald Hudlin recalls his start as an independent filmmaker</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/569423">Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Reginald Hudlin describes his break into the motion picture industry</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/569424">Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Reginald Hudlin recalls New Line Cinema's purchase of 'House Party'</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/569425">Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Reginald Hudlin remembers the Black Filmmaker Foundation's film festivals</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/569426">Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Reginald Hudlin talks about the rise of African American popular culture</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/569427">Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Reginald Hudlin recalls the production of his feature film, 'House Party'</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/569428">Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Reginald Hudlin remembers the cast of 'House Party'</a>

DASession

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Reginald Hudlin remembers his childhood adventures in East St. Louis, Illinois
Reginald Hudlin describes his break into the motion picture industry
Transcript
And, we'd go ride bikes or whatever, and we went to red hill. You know, a lot of the kind of, you know, when you go on kind of a, an adventure trip, kind of a Huck Finn [Huckleberry Finn] type thing with your boys. It was always somewhere profoundly unhealthy (laughter). Because East St. Louis [Illinois] is full of all these bad post-industrial wastelands, right. So, you'd go to red hill, which was some kind of mining thing. So, literally, it was this big hill, or you know, kind of thing you would climb and it was all red. Kind of a red smudge, sand combination. I don't know why it was red. Maybe it was red clay that had been churned or whatever. So, it felt like you were on Mars. And, you'd be walking, then you see these bones. And, you're like, "Where are those bones from?" And, someone would say, "From the pack of wild dogs." Which was, you know, it probably--I mean, or were there wild dogs there? Absolutely (laughter). Were there feral dogs roaming through red hill? Yes. Which of course, for the excitement of going to red hill (laughter). What--was that a leftover bone from one? I don't know. But, it was part of the excitement. Or, it was a big grain factory. Not factory, but, you know, they would store the grains and the trains would come and load up. And, one day that caught fire. And, it was amazing 'cause it was a giant fire. So, of course, everyone comes to watch the fire. And, all of a sudden you heard all the popcorn pop (makes noise). But, like, it sounded like Iraq. And, then the popcorn smell. Then the smell of burnt popcorn which is not so fun. So, what was left of that plant, we'd go rummaging around in, just like an old factory, weed covered, and you'd see a mattress and then somebody would say, "Man, you should bring a girl out there. It's a mattress." And, you'd be like, "How's that supposed to work?" Some mattress in a weedy lot. That's not romantic (laughter). And, then there was a, there was, there was this elaborate sprinkler system, right. And, there's this, and there was water and kids were literally playing in this. And, we were like, "That is chemical water." That's some kind of fertilizer or something. So, like, I don't know what kind of chromosomal damage those kids got from playing in that water, but I knew not to get in it. And, on occasions you'd look down there and a snake would just pop out. We were like, "Ho! It's chemical water and it's a snake" (laughter). We were--they were like, "Whatever, it's all good," (laughter). Or, we would walk down to Lincoln Park [East St. Louis, Illinois], which was the park. And, none of us knew how to swim. But, each of us knew a little bit of how to swim. So, we were determined to teach each other how to swim. And, we each learned as much as three kids who don't know how to swim (laughter) could learn. Eventually, I took real swimming lessons but (laughter). So, yeah, it was, we had--and there were apple trees. So, there'd be apple wars where you know, you go--a big thing full of apples and they're hard apples, they're not ripe yet. So, you throw 'em (gesture), right and they would sting. So, you'd be running through the neighborhood (gesture), you know, hitting people, attacking people, which is, you know--and, that's not nearly as bad a chat war. And, chat are those little smooth stones that you put in a driveway or whatever. And, now that could put your eye out (laughter). So, there would be that kind of action too.$$So, you're describing a typically boy, young, adventuresome boys--?$$(Nods head).$$Playing, playing in the neighborhood.$$I mean, there were some like heavier stuff like, the park I remember, you know, occasionally they'd be like a gang fight and they'd be some people pulling out guns and stuff. So, yeah, it sometimes it would go to another level. But, again, that's before drugs became big. I mean, in the '60s [1960s] it was not the same kind of thing as later when drugs drove the stakes up really high.$And, then 'She's Gotta Have It' came out and everything changes.$$So, tel- that's what I was gonna ask 'cause 'She's Gotta Have It' came out in 1985 [sic. 1986].$$Um-hm.$$Right? So, what does that, what do you mean by everything changes?$$Well, all of sudden Hollywood's like, "Hey, there's another kind of filmmaker that's resonating with the audience. We don't know how to make that. Let's figure out who these people are. Is there another one? Can we buy it?" I remember a big party at Nelson George's house and, you know, Nelson is the hub of all things. In fact, if you haven't done Nelson, you really--$$We haven't done--I don't remember--$$That's the number one person you need to profile in this thing (laughter). It's like what you need, a day (laughter). So, we're at Nelson's house, so [HistoryMaker] Russell Simmons is there. And, I know he's working on--he's planning this movie called 'Tougher Than Leather,' and I'm pleading with him to let him--let me direct 'Tougher Than Leather.' He's like no my partner is gonna direct it. And, later I find out he's just like, "Who's this Harvard [Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts] guy? He doesn't know anything about hip hop and wants to do this movie?" So, I was like--and, Spike [Spike Lee] gives me script. 'Cause Spike lives down the street.$$Now, do you--how did you meet Spike? Like, I mean, do you know him at this point? And, I'm just wondering if he was in the BFF [Black Filmmaker Foundation] circle or not?$$Yeah. What happened was, Warrington [Hudlin's brother, Warrington Hudlin] in 1979, 1980, does this big film conference in New York [New York], and everyone's there. There's filmmakers from Africa, all kinds of folks. [HistoryMaker] Julie Dash is there. Just all kinds of folks are there. And, there is this film student from NYU [New York University, New York, New York], comes in at the last minute. Warrington waives the fee, lets him in. And, he shows his first film, 'The Answer,' which is a student film. He's doing it at NYU. So, that's when I meet Spike. So, Spike's there and he goes, "Yeah, A and M Films want me to do the Otis Redding story. I don't wanna do it. I gave him your name Reggie [HistoryMaker Reginald Hudlin]. Here's the script." So, I'm like, 'Sittin' on the Dock of the Bay' [ph.]. Fine, I'm in." So, I'm so--I call them up--$$Wait, but year is this? I'm sorry.$$Oh, I'm sorry. This was (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) 'Sittin' on the Dock of Bay'? I mean--okay.$$No, no. This was, this was--$$Is this, this is not a--$$This is eighty--what year did 'She's Gotta Have It' come out?$$Eighty-five [1985].$$Yeah. Eighty-five [1985]. It's '85 [1985].$$Okay.$$So, I called them on Sunday. (Laughter) 'Cause I'm like, "Hey, I want a job." So, finally I get a call back. And, they go--I said, "Well, I love Otis Redding." They said, "Okay. But, we're not doing that movie. We're gonna do a movie, 'Janet Jackson and The Time'." I'm like, "Whoa. That beats Otis, Otis Redding any day," (laughter). So, I get my--they fly me out to Hollywood. I get my first Hollywood job writing the movie 'Janet Jackson and The Time,' which never happens. But, the money from writing that script--for, A, I learned how to write a script. I had never written hundred pages of anything--$$Wait a minute, okay. Okay, Spike Lee has success with 'She's Gotta Have It,' okay. Then they contact him, am I--$$About an Otis Redding movie.$$Otis Redding movie.$$So, I--$$But, he doesn't wanna do it?$$No. He says, "You should call Reggie, he's talented." So, I call them, they call me back. They say, "But, great we wanna meet with you but not about the Otis Redding movie. About this movie with Janet Jackson and The Time," which is a hundred times more interesting than Otis Redding. So, they fly me out, and A and M Films has the old Charlie Chaplin Studios [A and M Studios; Jim Henson Company Lot, Los Angeles, California].$$Can I just ask, are you showing anything? I mean, do they wanna see some of your work?$$Yeah. I showed 'em--$$Okay.$$--'House Party,' and you know.$$They like--okay.$$Yeah. Well, it was, you know, one of those people. It's interesting--$$(Laughter).$$--like now, if you've written a black play on the Chitlin' Circuit like Tyler Perry, you can get a job in Hollywood, okay. So, that's what it was for black film in '85 [1985]. So, they were like, like you're a kid, you're paying your tui- like, nothing to lose, right. So, they fly me out, (makes noise) give me the job. I'm like, "How can I write a hundred pages?" If, if you took everything I wrote all together it's not a hundred pages (laughter), right. So, I write this script. It's a hundred and fifty pages of mess. So, the executive works with me and we beat it into shape. And, you know, and it's still not great but, it's a, kind of a movie. But, then you know, it goes nowhere, right. But, with that movie, I have enough money to buy a computer. And, with a computer I can write, I don't have to write longhand and ask some friend of my brother's to type it on a computer. So, I buy a computer, and that's then I write the spec for 'House Party.'$$So, how much did you get paid on that job? That first job, do you remember?$$Forty thousand dollars I think, forty-five thousand, something like that. They just gave me money. I mean, from what I've been living on. You know, 'cause I said, "I can buy a computer and still catch cabs." 'Cause, I always says, "My thing is like, I'm the guy going home with my date at three in the morning on the subway." So, I'm like, "I can catch a subway [sic. cab] late at night." I was living. I was balling out. I could eat in a restaurant. (Laughter) You know, I was balling out.

Dennis Hightower

Broadcast executive and business professor Dennis Fowler Hightower was born on October 28, 1941 in Washington, D.C. to Marvin William Hightower and Virginia Fowler Hightower, an educator. After graduating from McKinley High School in 1958, Hightower attended Howard University where he earned his B.S degree in 1962. In addition to joining Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity and being a college athlete, Hightower was the top graduating cadet of the Army ROTC university program.

After graduating from Howard University, Hightower was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the U.S. Army, where he served as a platoon leader and company commander in the 101st Airborne Division. Afterwards, Hightower was trained as a counterintelligence officer and field operations intelligence officer, working in strategic and operational assignments in the United States and abroad. Hightower also served in Vietnam in the 199th Light Infantry Brigade, where he was promoted to the rank of major. Hightower was awarded two Bronze Star medals, a Purple Heart, three Air Medals, the Joint Service Commendation Medal, five Army Commendation Medals with distinction for valor, the Vietnam Honor Medal First Class, and the Combat Infantryman Badge.

In 1970, Hightower was hired by Xerox as manager of organizational planning. He left his position there in 1972, when he was awarded a fellowship to attend Harvard Business School. He graduated in 1974 with his M.B.A. Hightower then joined McKinsey & Company and worked as a senior associate and engagement manager until 1978, when he was hired by General Electric’s Lighting Business Group. In 1987, Hightower was hired by The Walt Disney Company as vice president of Consumer Products for Europe, based in Paris, France, and later became president of Consumer Products for Europe, Middle East and Africa divisions. In 1995, he was promoted to president of Walt Disney Television and Telecommunications.

Upon his retirement in 1996, Hightower joined the faculty of Harvard Business School, initially as a senior lecturer and then as a professor of management in the M.B.A. program. On August 11, 2009, Hightower was appointed by President Barack Obama as deputy secretary of commerce. Hightower was charged with general management duties until his tenure ended on August 27, 2010.

His numerous awards include the U.S. Department of Commerce Pioneer Award; Harvard Business School Alumni Achievement Award and Bert King Service Award; and an honorary doctorate degree and Alumni Achievement Award for Business from Howard University. He is a board member of Accenture, Ltd., Brown Capital Management, Domino’s Pizza, Inc. and Casey Family Programs, and a former trustee at Howard University.

Dennis Fowler Hightower was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on January 31, 2008.

Accession Number

A2008.004

Sex

Male

Interview Date

1/31/2008

Last Name

Hightower

Maker Category
Marital Status

Divorced

Schools

McKinley Technology High School

Lucretia Mott Elementary School

Benjamin Banneker Academic High School

Harvard Business School

Howard University

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Dennis

Birth City, State, Country

Washington

HM ID

HIG04

State

District of Columbia

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

District of Columbia

Interview Description
Birth Date

10/28/1941

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Washington

Country

USA

Short Description

Business professor and broadcast executive Dennis Hightower (1941 - ) was the president of Walt Disney Television and Communications. As president, he oversaw Disney's acquisition of ABC, ABC Family, ESPN, A&E and Lifetime Networks. Upon his retirement in June 1996, Hightower joined the faculty of Harvard Business School, initially as a senior lecturer and then as a professor of management in the M.B.A. program. He also acted as the Deputy Secretary of Commerce from 2009 to 2010.

Employment

United States Army

Xerox Corporation

McKinsey and Company

G.E. Lightening Business Group

Russell Reynolds Association

Walt Disney Company

White House Administrative Office (U.S.)

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/639249">Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Dennis Hightower describes his parents' family backgrounds</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/639250">Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Dennis Hightower talks about his maternal grandparents' careers</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/639251">Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Dennis Hightower remembers his maternal great-grandparents</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/639252">Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Dennis Hightower describes his paternal grandparents</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/639253">Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Dennis Hightower talks about the military career of his maternal uncle, James Fowler, Sr.</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/639254">Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Dennis Hightower describes his early neighborhood in Washington, D.C.</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/639255">Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Dennis Hightower talks about his mother's teaching career</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/639256">Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Dennis Hightower describes father's career</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/639257">Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Dennis Hightower talks about his experiences at Lucretia Mott Elementary School in Washington, D.C.</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/639258">Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Dennis Hightower remembers his classmates, Charlene Drew Jarvis and Colonel Frederick Drew Gregory</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/639259">Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Dennis Hightower describes his early influences</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/639260">Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Dennis Hightower remembers integrating McKinley Technical High School in Washington, D.C., pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/639261">Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Dennis Hightower describes the African American community in Washington, D.C. during segregation</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/639262">Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Dennis Hightower talks about the intellectual African American community of Washington, D.C.</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/639263">Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Dennis Hightower remembers integrating McKinley Technical High School in Washington, D.C., pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/639264">Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Dennis Hightower recalls his appointment to the United State Military Academy Preparatory School in West Point, New York</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/639265">Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Dennis Hightower remembers his high school principal, Charles E. Bish</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/639266">Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Dennis Hightower describes his decision to attend Howard University in Washington, D.C.</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/639267">Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Dennis Hightower talks about his experiences at Howard University</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/639268">Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Dennis Hightower recalls his social activities at Howard University</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/639269">Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Dennis Hightower remembers his classmates at Howard University</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/639270">Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Dennis Hightower describes Howard University's social hierarchy</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/639271">Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Dennis Hightower talks about Eddie C. Brown</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/639272">Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Dennis Hightower recalls working for his father as a college student</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/639273">Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Dennis Hightower remembers the civil rights activities at Howard University</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/639274">Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Dennis Hightower recalls the debate between Malcolm X and Bayard Rustin at Howard University</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/639275">Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Dennis Hightower talks about his wife, Denia Stukes Hightower</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/639276">Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Dennis Hightower describes his early career in the U.S. Army</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/639277">Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Dennis Hightower talks about his knowledge of the Civil Rights Movement during his military service</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/639278">Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Dennis Hightower recalls serving in the Vietnam War</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/639279">Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Dennis Hightower talks about his decision to leave the military</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/639280">Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Dennis Hightower remembers applying to Harvard Business School in Boston, Massachusetts, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/639281">Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Dennis Hightower remembers applying to Harvard Business School in Boston, Massachusetts, pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/639282">Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Dennis Hightower talks about the African American alumni of Harvard Business School</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/639283">Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Dennis Hightower recalls his classes at Harvard Business School</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/639284">Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Dennis Hightower remembers his classmates at Harvard Business School</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/639285">Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Dennis Hightower describes the political climate at Harvard Business School</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/639286">Tape: 4 Story: 11 - Dennis Hightower remembers prominent African American business executives</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/639287">Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Dennis Hightower describes the start of his career at McKinsey and Company and General Electric</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/639288">Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Dennis Hightower remembers General Electric CEO Jack Welch</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/639289">Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Dennis Hightower recalls facing racial discrimination as a businessman</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/639290">Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Dennis Hightower talks about the restructuring of Mattel, Inc.'s business</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/639291">Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Dennis Hightower describes his work at Russell Reynolds Associates, Inc.</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/639292">Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Dennis Hightower talks about his working relationship with Frank Wells at The Walt Disney Company</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/639293">Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Dennis Hightower recalls the changes to Disney characters in different countries</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/639294">Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Dennis Hightower remembers his first impressions of Soweto, South Africa</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/639295">Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Dennis Hightower recalls meeting Desmond Tutu, Winnie Mandela and Nelson Mandela</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/639296">Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Dennis Hightower recalls meeting with European royalty</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/639297">Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Dennis Hightower talks about the success of The Walt Disney Company throughout Europe</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/639298">Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Dennis Hightower remembers Michael Eisner's leadership of The Walt Disney Company</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/639299">Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Dennis Hightower talks about his disagreements with Michael Eisner</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/639300">Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Dennis Hightower recalls debating with Michael Eisner over television programming</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/639301">Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Dennis Hightower remembers protesting the re-release of 'Songs of the South'</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/639302">Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Dennis Hightower describes his discontent with Disney channel programming during his tenure</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/639303">Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Dennis Hightower talks about his decision to teach at Harvard Business School in Boston, Massachusetts</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/639304">Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Dennis Hightower describes his teaching experiences at Harvard Business School</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/639305">Tape: 6 Story: 10 - Dennis Hightower talks about his career after leaving Harvard Business School</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/639306">Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Dennis Hightower reflects upon his life</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/639307">Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Dennis Hightower shares a message to future generations</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/639308">Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Dennis Hightower reflects upon his legacy</a>

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5$2

DATitle
Dennis Hightower remembers integrating McKinley Technical High School in Washington, D.C., pt. 1
Dennis Hightower talks about the success of The Walt Disney Company throughout Europe
Transcript
And, of course, in my ninth grade--that's when the Brown decision [Brown V. Board of Education of Topeka, 1954] was passed. So instead of going to Dunbar [Paul Laurence Dunbar High School; Paul Laurence Dunbar Senior High School, Washington, D.C.] like everybody else in my family and all of our other friends who would have gone to Dunbar, we tested for different schools. And most of us ended up testing, like Paul [J. Paul Reason], myself and Leona Fitzhugh [J. Idorenyin Jamar] whose father [H. Naylor Fitzhugh] was the second or third grad, black to graduate from Harvard Business School [Boston, Massachusetts] in 1933. All of us tested into McKinley [McKinley Technical High School; McKinley Technology High School, Washington, D.C.] which was more science and technology. So I tested into their pre-engineering program. And, again, we got to McKinley, and there it was very clear, early on, that the white teachers were not happy that we were there, and particularly, because we were bright. And the thing that we then felt and understood more clearly than we had ever before was how well prepared we really were. And there was a struggle, frankly, because many of the students, many of the teachers--there was a track system in D.C. [Washington, D.C.] at the time. There were four tracks. Track one was the top track, which they called college prep, and then track two, I forgot, I forgot what it was called. But then track three and track four were basically training you to be a secretary or to be a, you know, a trades person, whatever. So they tried to keep most of us out of track one, but it didn't work because our work was track one work, so those of us who did well, we ended up after the first semester in all track one, which would be AP [advanced placement] today. And we showed what we can do. And then what we realized was that these white kids weren't all that smart (laughter).$$What was the percentage of black students at McKinley?$$It changed. It was very interesting over that three years from '55 [1955] to '58 [1958]. I would say we had about 350 in our class. Going in, let's say 15 percent, 20 percent at the max were, were black. By the time we graduated, 75 percent were black. That's when the white flight occurred. Everyone who didn't really believe that educat- that integration was the right thing, that's when people moved to Silver Spring [Maryland], to Bethesda [Maryland], to Chevy Chase [Maryland]. That's when the white flight occurred.$And I'll give you an example. Michael Eisner and I were in Moscow [Russia] the day that McDonald's [McDonald's Corporation] opened their first restaurant in, near Pushkin Square [Pushkinskaya Square], in Moscow. We were there because we were gonna see Yeltsin [Boris Yeltsin] and (unclear) about a Disney Store, in Russia, in Moscow. The problem was, they wanted us to put it right next to the KGB headquarters in Detskiy Mir which was a children's store in Russia. It's, you don't want me to get into that. But, yeah, we were at Pushkin Square. And Michael said, "Dennis [HistoryMaker Dennis Hightower], what's going on there?" I said, "That's the opening of the store," and, you know, McDonald's was our promotional partner, like they are in the U.S. for all the animated films. There were like thousands of people ringing this small store. I said, "Michael, I want you to look and I want you to observe what's happening." I said, "Here is entrepreneurialism in its purest form." What you will see is that they were letting people in. No restrictions on how many could go in at a time. People were coming out with their bags of whatever, hamburgers, French fries, whatever. And they were selling it to the people who were in line. I said, "That tells you that we can do business here. So despite the repression that people had gone through and lived under," I said, "there are a lot of rubles stuck literally in mattresses waiting to be used. There's pent up demand here, Michael." And sure enough, that's exactly what happened. So when we actually, you know, moved in there and got set up with publishing and some of the other things we did (makes sound), we just took off because the money was there. And the money was there because my deal with Frank was that I would not (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Frank?$$Frank Wells. I was not gonna put Disney [The Disney Company, Burbank, California] at risk. So when my key publisher wanted to come in from Denmark 'cause they had done a lot of business there as well, they had to pay me in German, in Deutsche marks because that was the strongest currency at the time, that they took the currency risk when we brought Nestle [Nestle S.A.], Mattel [Mattel, Inc.] and other, our other major product partners in, they would pay us in the currency of choice that their contract was under, not in rubles. The advertisers, the same way. So even though my plan said we weren't gonna make money for five years, we made money in the first two years of getting it started up because we shipped at risk. And Disney's great for OPM, using other people's money (laughter) you know. But that's again the pound, the brand, you know.$$Were you equally successful in countries like Spain?$$Yeah, I mean those countries had been there. Those were the, those were sort of the core countries. What we did, we took it to another level, took it to another level in terms of product design, product quality, distribution, marketing, taking more control of the brand as Disney whereas before, the licensees basically took charge of the brand. And I said, "Now, we're, you know, that stops today." We started doing value analysis and saying where along the value chain can we stop and bring it back in house and, 'cause we were just leaving too much money on the table, and we were putting the brand at risk 'cause nobody was basically minding the store or minding the brand. So, you know, I ended up buying up almost all of my publishers, and I became the publisher. We set up factories that did clothing where we controlled the design, especially the high end stuff that was several thousand dollars of, you know, in price, and in price points, retail price points. And then we'd get, you know, like Hennes and Mauritz [H and M Hennes and Mauritz A.B.] or CNA [CNA Financial Corporation] or some of the other big retailers, El Corte Ingles [El Corte Ingles S.A.] in Spain to the, sort of the midlines which then complimented the other lines in their business and they also gave us space, two hundred to three hundred square meters of space within their stores so even though I didn't run the Disney stores, I had the special permission from Frank and Michael to set up shop within shops. They weren't stand alones like the Disney Store. They were three hundred square meters where we then controlled the merchandise mix.

Sheila C. Johnson

Entrepreneur Sheila Crump Johnson was born on January 25, 1949, in Pennsylvania. Her father, George P. Crump, was a prominent neurosurgeon, and her mother, Marie Iris Crump, was an accountant. During her early years, her father’s practice at Veterans Administration hospitals took the family from town to town. Johnson’s family then relocated to Maywood, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago, where she attended Irving High School, and then graduated from Proviso High School in 1966. During this time, Johnson found her first love, music; she went on to become a concert violinist and the first African American to win a statewide violin competition in Illinois. After high school, Johnson enrolled in the University of Illinois where she met her now-former husband and business partner, Robert Johnson (divorced 2002).

In 1969, Johnson married Robert Johnson, and in 1970, graduated from the University of Illinois with her B.A. degree in music. After graduation, Johnson worked as a music teacher at the private school, Sidwell Friends. In 1975, she founded a 140-member youth orchestra, Young Strings in Action. The group was invited to perform in the Middle Eastern nation of Jordan, where she was given the country’s top educational award by Jordan’s King Hussein.

In 1980, Johnson and her husband co-founded Black Entertainment Television (BET), a cable network geared towards African American audiences. Johnson became BET’s executive vice president for corporate affairs, focusing on issues affecting the communities that BET served. In 1989, Johnson created Teen Summit, a show that dealt with the everyday issues of teens and attempted to motivate the teen viewers.

In 1999, Johnson left BET to pursue her own interests and to guide her daughter’s equestrian career. In 2002, Johnson became head of the Washington International Horse Show. Johnson purchased a farm in Northern Virginia in Middleburg and turned the 350 acre estate into the Salamander Inn & Spa, an 85,000-square-foot French country resort. Johnson also formed Salamander Hospitality, a hotel resort and spa management firm, in order to achieve those goals.

Johnson became involved in the Washington Mystics WNBA franchise, and in 2005 purchased it from former owner, Abe Pollin; this and similar moves in relation to the Washington Capitals (NHL) and the Washington Wizards (NBA), earned her the distinction of being the first woman to be a stakeholder in three professional sports franchises. In 2005, Johnson married William T. Newman, Jr., a judge in Arlington, Virginia. In July of 2007, Johnson purchased Innisbrook Golf Resort and its four golf courses outside of Tampa, Florida. Johnson expanded her portfolio to include film in 2008, when she was the executive producer of A Powerful Noise. Johnson is the mother of two children, Paige Johnson and Brett Johnson.

Accession Number

A2007.222

Sex

Female

Interview Date

8/1/2007

Last Name

Johnson

Maker Category
Middle Name

C.

Schools

Proviso East High School

Irving Elem School

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Sheila

HM ID

JOH31

Favorite Season

Fall

State

Pennsylvania

Favorite Vacation Destination

Italy

Favorite Quote

Always Do Your Best.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

District of Columbia

Interview Description
Birth Date

1/25/1949

Speakers Bureau Region City

Washington

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Chicken

Short Description

Entrepreneur Sheila C. Johnson (1949 - ) was the co-founder of Black Entertainment Television (BET). As the owner of the Washington Mystics, Johnson was the first African American woman to own a professional basketball team; her involvement with the Washington Wizards and Washington Capitals earned her the distinction of being the first woman to be a stakeholder in three professional sports franchises. Johnsonalso owned Salamander Resort & Spa and Salamander Hospitality.

Employment

Princeton Day School

Sidwell Friends School

BET

Salamander Resort and Spa

Washington International Horse Show

Washington Mystic

National Music Conservatory

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/411747">Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Sheila C. Johnson's interview</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/411748">Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Sheila C. Johnson lists her favorites</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/411749">Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Sheila C. Johnson describes her father's family background</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/411750">Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Sheila Johnson describes her mother's family background</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/411751">Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Sheila C. Johnson describes her earliest childhood memory</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/411752">Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Sheila C. Johnson recalls moving often during her childhood</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/411753">Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Sheila C. Johnson describes the sights, sounds and smells of her childhood</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/411754">Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Sheila C. Johnson talks about her younger brother</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/411755">Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Sheila C. Johnson recalls her piano lessons in Chicago, Illinois</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/411756">Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Sheila C. Johnson describes her early personality</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/411757">Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Sheila C. Johnson describes the community of Maywood, Illinois</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/411758">Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Sheila C. Johnson recalls playing first chair violin in the Illinois All-State Orchestra</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/411759">Tape: 1 Story: 13 - Sheila C. Johnson recalls the deaths of Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. and President John Fitzgerald Kennedy</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/411760">Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Sheila C. Johnson describes Proviso East High School in Maywood, Illinois</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/411761">Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Sheila C. Johnson recalls her violin performances</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/411762">Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Sheila C. Johnson remembers being a cheerleader</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/411763">Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Sheila C. Johnson recalls her decision to attend the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/411764">Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Sheila C. Johnson describes the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/411765">Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Sheila C. Johnson describes her extracurricular activities</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/411766">Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Sheila C. Johnson describes her experiences at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/411767">Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Sheila C. Johnson recalls marrying BET founder Robert L. Johnson</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/411768">Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Sheila C. Johnson recalls the early years of her marriage</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/411769">Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Sheila C. Johnson recalls graduating from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/411770">Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Sheila C. Johnson remembers her summer in Brussels, Belgium</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/411771">Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Sheila C. Johnson recalls teaching at the Sidwell Friends School in Washington, D.C.</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/411772">Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Sheila C. Johnson recalls founding the Young Strings in Action orchestra</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/411773">Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Sheila C. Johnson recalls operating Young Strings in Action from her home</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/411774">Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Sheila C. Johnson recalls founding Black Entertainment Television</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/411775">Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Sheila C. Johnson recalls finding advertisers for BET</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/411776">Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Sheila C. Johnson remembers her decision to retire from teaching</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/411777">Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Sheila C. Johnson remembers performing in Jordan with Young Strings in Action</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/412012">Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Sheila C. Johnson remembers the success of Young Strings in Action</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/412013">Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Sheila C. Johnson recalls Young Strings in Action's performance in Jordan, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/412014">Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Sheila C. Johnson recalls Young Strings in Action's performance in Jordan, pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/412015">Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Sheila C. Johnson remembers creating the National Music Conservatory in Amman, Jordan</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/412016">Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Sheila C. Johnson talks about Young Strings in Action</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/412017">Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Sheila C. Johnson recalls working full time at BET</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/412018">Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Sheila C. Johnson describes the 'Teen Summit' program on BET</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/412019">Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Shelia C. Johnson describes BET's production company</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/412020">Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Sheila C. Johnson remembers the success of BET's 'Teen Summit'</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/412021">Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Sheila C. Johnson talks about the BET Awards</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/412022">Tape: 4 Story: 11 - Sheila C. Johnson describes her children's education</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/412023">Tape: 4 Story: 12 - Sheila C. Johnson describes her daughter's interest in equestrianism</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/411790">Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Sheila C. Johnson recalls learning about the horse show industry</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/411791">Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Sheila C. Johnson describes Salamander Farm</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/411792">Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Sheila C. Johnson describes her children's interests</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/411793">Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Sheila C. Johnson recalls her presidency of the Washington International Horse Show</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/411794">Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Sheila C. Johnson describes her business ventures in Middleburg, Virginia</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/411795">Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Sheila C. Johnson talks about her work in the hospitality industry</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/411796">Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Sheila C. Johnson recalls becoming an owner of the Washington Mystics</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/411797">Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Sheila C. Johnson describes her goals for the Washington Mystics WNBA team</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/411798">Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Sheila C. Johnson talks about Sheila's I Am Powerful Challenge</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/411799">Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Sheila C. Johnson describes her hopes and concerns for the African American community</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/411800">Tape: 5 Story: 11 - Sheila C. Johnson reflects upon her legacy and how she would like to be remembered</a>

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$5

DAStory

7$7

DATitle
Sheila C. Johnson recalls finding advertisers for BET
Sheila C. Johnson recalls becoming an owner of the Washington Mystics
Transcript
Can you describe those early years of BET [Black Entertainment Television]?$$Oh, yes. They were tough because to get a network on the air, you gotta get advertising to keep it on there. And nobody believed in us, even the African American community. Ebony magazine, we would go to them to help. We wanted to, you know, help with the advertising. Nobody. We couldn't even get the hair care companies behind us, so it was tough. It--I, I cannot begin to tell you how tough it was. And even when we were taking cameras around to, you know, try to film things. I remember at one point I think Bob [Johnson's ex-husband, Robert L. Johnson] and a group of camera people were down in New Orleans [Louisiana] and they swore that--because he was always hiring a lot of women. They thought he was running a prostitution ring, you know. So then that got cleaned up and then--it, it was the usual stuff. And it, it was just tough, just getting people to believe in our vision and in our--and in what we were doing.$$Well, let's, you know, set some of the whole thing. First of all, the industry back in 1979, 1980 is still very new. And you haven't entered--really there's been the urban markets haven't really come on.$$Right.$$Right, so for BET really to get, to get started it needed the urban areas.$$Yeah, and that's where we were trying to get into, you know. The programing as such was not what our African American community wanted to see. You know, we, we had Petey Greene all the way up to his death. And I don't know if you remember the Petey Greene show ['Petey Greene's Washington'] when he'd be sitting up there eating chitlins and watermelons, and this is how you eat a pork chop. We got more phone calls, they called it garbage programming, and I have to say, that is not the programming I wanted. I figured if were gonna start an African American network, we wanted something that we were gonna be proud of. I didn't want it to be Ebony magazine, I wanted it to be more critical in the sense of let's bring the real stories in there. Let's talk about, let's dialog, let's communicate on issues within the African American community. The problem was, is the African American community were not supporting those programs. So that's when the video market starting coming in. We were able--BET could not turn a corner until videos came on.$$In what year do you remember that being (simultaneous)?$$(Simultaneous) I do not remember that; I would say it's within the fifth year.$$Okay.$$'Cause I remember that's when the books started to balance. And suddenly we got this younger audience to watch BET, and then that's where the advertisers we had to start marketing too. It's that eighteen and thirty-five-year old range. And to this day, that is a critical part of the audience of BET.$$So that was a critical decision made in that, in that within that first five years that you were gonna change the focus to, to focus on the, the-$$We had to make money. We weren't making money. MTV [Music Television; MTV] would not--they started the video market, but they would not put on any African American videos, so then when Michael Jackson was our first guy that came and he says, "Play my videos." And, and then the audience transferred from MTV to BET because we were, you know, a lot of white folks like Michael Jackson too. So we were starting to get more of an audience base and that way we were able to the advertiser were then like okay, well, we'll support it or we'll, you know, buy time on the network.$$So this was good in that you didn't have to pay for the videos, so you got--you didn't have (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Yeah, all the videos are free. They're just looking for an outlet, and so that became a basic part of the programming and it still is to this day. And we did try to put newsworthy programming on. You know, if you look at all the African Americans out there, BET really gave African Americans that were going in the media their launch in life. [HistoryMaker] Tavis Smiley was on there, Ed Gordon [HistoryMaker Ed Gordon, III]. I mean I can name lots of people who got their start in television through BET.$How did the Mystics [Washington Mystics] come into being? You know, because I hear you're really big on the hospitality industry in many ways and horsing (simultaneous).$$(Simultaneous) Yes, I am. Yeah, and this is one of those sidebar surprises. I was asked by Abe Pollin to show up in his office one day and I thought he was gonna want me to help him do some charity work. And he says, "I wanna offer you the Washington Mystics." And I said, "Offer to you?" And he says, "No, I want you to buy the Washington Mystics." And I said, "Why me?" And he says, "Why not you?" And he talked to me about it, he says, "I'm getting old," he says, "I can't do all this anymore." He says, "I'm gonna keep the Wizards [Washington Wizards]," he says, "but I just can't do all of this." So I said, "Well, let me think about it." And he says, "Well, you think about it." And the more--it couldn't have been fifteen minutes before I left his office and I realized the magnitude of what he was offering me. I was being let into an old boys' network, where women first of all, don't ever get into. Secondly, an African American woman, forget it. So I got in the car and I called my attorney, he says, "You don't wanna buy a team they lose money and everything." And I'm like, "But Sandy [ph.], if you were offered a team, would you buy?" He says, "Well, I don't know maybe, maybe not." I said, "Do you realize what this means? I'm a woman, I'm an African American woman. I'm getting let into something that nobody would ever get into." He says, "Well, let's talk." And so I went straight over to his office and I talked to him about it. And then I realized there is this company called Lincoln Holdings [Monumental Sports and Entertainment, Washington, D.C.], and that's the holding company for the Washington Capitals and 45 percent of the Wizards. And I said, "Do you think that they would let me into that holding company?" He says, "Well, let's give it a shot." He calls Ted Leonsis and Ted talks about it. And I said, "Look, I'll not only buy the Mystics but I wanna buy into the company just like the rest of them." And Ted thinks about it, and I get let into this company. Well, there's ten other men and we're talking like a Richard Fairbanks [Richard D. Fairbank], we're talking Ted Leonsis, we're talking Dick Patrick, we're talking about some very financially well-off, powerful men. And they let me in. So that not only gives me access to the Mystics, I'm also with the Capitals and 45 percent owner of the Wizards. So that puts me in a unique category and the first woman to be ownership into three sports teams. Now the way this works is when Abe Pollin passes, we get first right of refusal to everything which means we will take over the Wizards, we already have control of two of the other two teams. We take the building, we take the Patriots Center [Patriot Center; EagleBank Arena, Fairfax, Virginia], Ticketmaster. That, that puts this group of Lincoln Holdings as one of the wealthiest sports franchises in the country and I'll be part of it.$$That's pretty amazing and so how had you come to meet Mr. Pollin?$$Pollin? I've known Abe Pollin for years. Yeah, in fact, he's a neighbor.

Willie D. Davis

Broadcast executive and football player Willie D. Davis was born on July 24, 1934, in Lisbon, Louisiana to Nodie Bell and David Davis. Recruited to Grambling College (now Grambling State University) by football coach Eddie Robinson, Davis captained the football team and was a student on the dean’s list for two years. In 1956, he graduated from Grambling with his B.S. degree in math and industrial arts.

Davis was drafted by the Cleveland Browns in the seventeenth round of the 1956 National Football League Draft. However, that same year, Davis was also drafted into the U.S. Army and was unable to begin his NFL career until 1958. After two years with the Browns, Davis was traded to the Green Bay Packers. For ten seasons, Davis played 138 consecutive regular season games and was a member of all five of Vince Lombardi’s NFL title-winning teams, playing in Super Bowls I and II. In his career with the Green Bay Packers, Davis recovered twenty-one fumbles, setting a team record, never missing any of the 162 games in his twelve-year tenure. Davis was awarded the Associated Press’ All-Pro honors in 1962 and from 1964 to 1967. During the last two years of his football career, Davis studied at the University of Chicago, earning his M.B.A degree in 1968. The following year, the Packers honored Davis’ retirement with Willie Davis Day. That same year, Davis purchased the West Coast Beverage Company and served as its president for eighteen years, while also working as a color commentator on the NFL telecasts for NBC in the early 1970s. Since 1976, Davis has been the president and chief executive officer of All Pro Broadcasting, Inc., a Los Angeles broadcasting company which owns radio stations in the Midwest and Southern California. In 1981, he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Davis served as the director of the 1984 Olympics Committee in Los Angeles in 1984. That same year, President Reagan appointed him to the President’s Commission on the Executive Exchange.

Davis has served on the boards of the Sara Lee Corporation, the National Association of Broadcasters, Dow Chemical Company, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Johnson Controls, MGM Mirage, Manpower, Fidelity National Financial, Wisconsin Energy, Strong Management Fund, Mattel Toys, Schlitz Brewing Company, Fireman’s Fund Insurance, Bassett Furniture, Alliance Bank, the Green Bay Packers, the Kauffman Foundation, Occidental College and K-Mart. Davis is also an Emeritus Trustee for the University of Chicago and a Trustee at Marquette University. In 2001, Davis co-chaired and founded the Vince Lombardi Titletown Legends, a charitable organization created to assist various charities throughout Wisconsin. Davis was named the Walter Camp Man of the Year, was ranked 69th on The Sporting News’ list of the 100 Greatest Football Players and was given the Career Achievement Award from the NFL Alumni. Davis and his wife Ann have a son, Duane, and a daughter, Lori.

Willie D. Davis was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on July 9, 2007.

Accession Number

A2007.200

Sex

Male

Interview Date

7/9/2007

Last Name

Davis

Middle Name

D

Schools

Washington High School

Grambling State University

University of Chicago

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Willie

Birth City, State, Country

Lisbon

HM ID

DAV20

Favorite Season

Spring

State

Louisiana

Favorite Vacation Destination

U.S. Virgin Islands

Favorite Quote

Early Start Beats Fast Running.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

California

Interview Description
Birth Date

7/24/1934

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Los Angeles

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Steak, Collard Greens

Short Description

Broadcast executive, football player, and entrepreneur Willie D. Davis (1934 - ) played for the Cleveland Browns and Green Bay Packers, winning Super Bowls I and II. In 1981, Davis was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He was also the president and chief executive officer of All Pro Broadcasting, Inc.

Employment

All Pro Broadcasting

West Coast Beverage Company

NBC

Green Bay Packers (Football team)

Cleveland Browns (Football team : 1946-1995)

United States Army

Favorite Color

Blue, Green

Timing Pairs
0,0:7690,209:10927,253:12421,280:12753,285:36078,617:48870,733:58712,868:59370,876:59840,882:60404,889:66326,988:70650,1059:74410,1109:97300,1312:119392,1573:119966,1583:120950,1599:124148,1649:128904,1712:136940,1849:147044,1904:147434,1910:148058,1919:148370,1924:158267,2014:164591,2035:164939,2040:165287,2045:167562,2058:173488,2115:174734,2136:181042,2208:181978,2222:182602,2232:199722,2386:207701,2487:210350,2503$0,0:2511,55:6915,117:22440,344:23340,359:32126,447:32678,454:34150,509:34518,535:41754,590:53880,720:63346,790:64354,804:73426,971:106555,1343:114718,1408:118334,1454:120863,1495:122354,1500:123561,1531:132340,1600:135490,1646:137905,1682:138430,1688:139165,1698:143050,1747:167427,1983:168139,1992:172678,2055:173390,2064:177766,2087:179110,2101:185242,2183:185662,2189:187846,2214:188182,2219:188938,2233:189358,2239:193670,2251:203560,2335:204169,2343:207776,2373:214028,2462:214791,2472:216971,2504:226330,2614
DAStories

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/443875">Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Willie D. Davis' interview</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/443876">Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Willie D. Davis lists his favorites</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/443877">Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Willie D. Davis describes his mother</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/443878">Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Willie D. Davis remembers his mother's religious involvement and career</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/443879">Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Willie D. Davis recalls his decision to play football</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/443880">Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Willie D. Davis describes his father</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/443881">Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Willie D. Davis recalls his relationship with his father as an adult</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/443882">Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Willie D. Davis remembers his maternal grandparents</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/443883">Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Willie D. Davis describes his paternal grandparents</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/443884">Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Willie D. Davis recalls his early childhood in Lisbon, Louisiana</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/443885">Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Willie D. Davis describes his earliest memories of Texarkana, Arkansas</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/443886">Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Willie D. Davis recalls his family life</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/443887">Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Willie D. Davis remembers his community in Texarkana, Arkansas</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/443888">Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Willie D. Davis describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/443889">Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Willie D. Davis describes his elementary school experiences</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/443890">Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Willie D. Davis recalls his personality in elementary school</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/443891">Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Willie D. Davis talks about his early aspirations</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/443892">Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Willie D. Davis describes the role of religion in his childhood</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/443893">Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Willie D. Davis remembers his junior high school experiences</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/443894">Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Willie D. Davis recalls teachers and friends at Booker T. Washington High School</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/443895">Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Willie D. Davis describes his high school activities and aspirations</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/443896">Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Willie D. Davis recalls the football team at Booker T. Washington High School</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/443897">Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Willie D. Davis describes his decision to attend Grambling College</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/443898">Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Willie D. Davis recalls meeting Coach Eddie Robinson</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/443899">Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Willie D. Davis talks about his hesitation to attend Grambling College</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/443900">Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Willie D. Davis shares his first impressions of the Grambling football team</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/443901">Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Willie D. Davis recalls his attempt to leave Grambling College</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/443902">Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Willie D. Davis remembers his college girlfriend</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/443903">Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Willie D. Davis recalls becoming comfortable at Grambling College</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/443540">Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Willie D. Davis recalls a memorable football game at Grambling College</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/443541">Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Willie D. Davis talks about being drafted by the Cleveland Browns</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/443542">Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Willie D. Davis remembers his service in the U.S. Army</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/443543">Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Willie D. Davis recalls playing for the Cleveland Browns</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/443544">Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Willie D. Davis remembers being traded to the Green Bay Packers</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/443545">Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Willie D. Davis describes his offseason job as a substitute teacher</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/443546">Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Willie D. Davis recalls playing for the Green Bay Packers</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/443904">Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Willie D. Davis recalls winning NFL championships with the Green Bay Packers</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/443905">Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Willie D. Davis remembers earning his M.B.A. from the University of Chicago</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/443906">Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Willie D. Davis talks about why he pursued his M.B.A. degree</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/443907">Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Willie D. Davis recalls working in the beverage industry</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/443908">Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Willie D. Davis remembers his service on corporate boards</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/443909">Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Willie D. Davis talks about his work in the television and radio industries</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/443910">Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Willie D. Davis reflects upon his life</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/443911">Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Willie D. Davis describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/443912">Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Willie D. Davis describes how he would like to be remembered</a>

DASession

1$1

DATape

5$6

DAStory

1$1

DATitle
Willie D. Davis recalls a memorable football game at Grambling College
Willie D. Davis recalls winning NFL championships with the Green Bay Packers
Transcript
Okay, Mr. Davis [HistoryMaker Willie D. Davis], the year is about 1956 now. You're getting ready to graduate from Grambling [Grambling College; Grambling State University, Grambling, Louisiana], and there are offers coming around now.$$After one of the greatest games we probably ever played, we were crowned the mythical like champions of the country. We beat Florida A&M [Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University, Tallahassee, Florida] in what they call the Hollywood Bowl [sic. Orange Blossom Classic] or something down in Florida. I never will forget this as long as I live. The paper in Florida had the next day Paul Brown, the everything coach of the Cleveland Browns, came to Florida to see--or was in Florida and he came to see the game. It said he came to see Willie Galimore and a guy by the name of Adolphus Frazier [Al Frazier], and he went away talking about Willie Davis and Ed Murray [Edward Murray], which was my teammate at Grambling. I guess I had credit for about twenty-seven tackles that night and, you know, just one of those crazy nights where everything worked for me. And probably was really my entree into the National Football League [NFL].$$So, did you flash back over your career at Grambling that night? Did everything flash over for you?$$(Laughter) I, yeah, I--well, what had been interesting is we stopped on the way down to Florida, and their running back, Adolphus Frazier, said, "Well, hey you guys." We ate dinner on campus and he said, "Well, you guys, you better touch me now because you won't see me in the game." You know, I'm always up for a challenge. And when he said--what I remember from that game probably will stick with me for as long as I--what I remember about that game. I hit Frazier and knocked him out of his shoes, up out of his shoes. And I looked at him and said, "Well, is this you?" (Laughter) It was a night. Murray ran for about three or four touchdowns and it was our great moment. It's so interesting because as I've said to many people today, I have been very fortunate to play on teams that won the championship at every level I ever played, and the other one that I was either captain or defensive captain of every team, including the Green Bay Packers.$$Since junior high school?$$Since junior high. I say it all the time, not to brag, but I say it as an example of leadership that I think I have been blessed with all my life. Through every year in football and through today in dealing with the corporate world.$Okay, so you're in Green Bay [Wisconsin] now under the great Vince Lombardi. You're there, now can you give us some highlights or, maybe first of all, anecdotes of Vince Lombardi. Anything that he did or said that really shaped you into your maturity as a player and a person?$$There are so many Lombardi quotes, starting with, "How you play this game is a reflection of how you'll live the rest of your life." Something that resonates with me almost every day now in business. And I think Coach Lombardi said this was the example that we had to somehow live through. And, I tell you, that one in particular because he indeed hit something when he said the way you play this game is the way you'll live the rest of your life in some ways. But the Green Bay Packer [Green Bay Packers] situation was just a great experience to me. Today there're eight players off of that team that's in the Hall of Fame [Pro Football Hall of Fame, Canton, Ohio], and with Lombardi, nine people.$$Can you name some of those, including yourself?$$Well, it's Jimmy Taylor [Jim Taylor], Bart Starr, Forrest Gregg, Jim Ringo, Herb Adderley, Willie Wood, Ray Nitschke and Henry Jordan and--$$--and Willie Davis [HistoryMaker Willie D. Davis].$$Yes, and Willie Davis. One of the proudest moments of my life. Never will forget it. I'm in Canton, Ohio and I'm standing up there being introduced by Coach Eddie Robinson. The situation was emotional, and I look out at my mother [Nodie Allen Archie]. It was the last event, big event she saw in my life. And I'm thinking and I remember I looked out and I said, "Mom, this is a long way from Texarkana, and no one ever assured us that we were on the right road, but today (laughter) it was the right road." And at that, she blew up. And you're up there and they've already taken bets on whether you can get through it without breaking down. And I said, when I saw that, I said, "Aw, they got me."$$That's beautiful.$$But it was absolute one of the greatest moments in my life. Being inducted into the Hall of Fame is a personal achievement but what I resonate well with is the six championship games we played at Green Bay, and we were five times world champions, including the last team that win three consecutive championships. All of those things to me, I look at now and say, you know, and the thought that somehow in your mind the first thing Green Bay was gonna be was your downfall. So, you never know in life, and I said, the best thing I've ever done in my life is to try to make the best out of every situation where you have an opportunity. Because you never know.

Curtis Symonds

Corporate executive Curtis Symonds was born on August 12, 1955 in Bermuda to Barbara and Norman Symonds. His family moved to Wilberforce, Ohio when he was two years old. Symonds attended the local Xenia High School, graduating in 1973, and he went on to receive his B.S. degree from Central State University in 1978.

Upon graduation from college, Symonds began working for Continental Cablevision in Ohio in 1979 as system manager. In 1983, he moved to Chicago, Illinois to work for ESPN as a local advertising sales consultant. He was later promoted to Director of Affiliate Marketing for the Midwest region. Symonds remained at ESPN for five years before joining Black Entertainment Television (BET) in 1988 as Executive Vice President of Affiliate Sales and Affiliate Marketing. In 1992, Symonds became President and Chief Operating Officer of BET Action Pay-Per-View and BET International. Symonds served as Executive Vice President of BET on Jazz in 1996 and remained in that position until his retirement in 2001. During his tenure, he helped BET build its subscriber base from 18.8 million to 65 million homes.

In 2005, Sheila C. Johnson, President of the Washington Mystics, a professional women’s basketball team in the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA), appointed Symonds Chief Operating Officer of the Washington Mystics. He is responsible for the organization’s day-to-day operations. In 2006, Symonds opened a privately funded indoor basketball facility called Hoop Magic in Chantilly, Virginia.

Symonds has also served as the President of the T. Howard Foundation, a non-profit organization devoted to promoting women and people of color in entertainment and multimedia platforms. He is a recipient of the 1998 National Cable Television Association (NCTA) Vanguard Award for marketing excellence, the highest award for marketing in the cable industry.

Symonds resides in McLean, Virginia with his wife, Pat, and their three children.

Symonds was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on April 23, 2007.

Accession Number

A2007.154

Sex

Male

Interview Date

4/23/2007

Last Name

Symonds

Maker Category
Schools

Saint Joseph College

Xenia High School

Cook Elementary School

Central State University

Warner Middle School

Search Occupation Category
Speakers Bureau

Yes

Speakers Bureau Availability

Any

First Name

Curtis

Birth City, State, Country

Bermuda

HM ID

SYM01

Speakers Bureau Preferred Audience

Any

Speakers Bureau Honorarium

Yes - $1,000 - $5,000

Favorite Season

All Seasons

Speaker Bureau Notes

Preferred Audience: Any

Favorite Vacation Destination

Bermuda

Favorite Quote

Doing The Right Thing.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

District of Columbia

Interview Description
Birth Date

8/12/1955

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Washington

Country

Bermuda

Favorite Food

Shrimp

Short Description

Broadcast executive and sports executive Curtis Symonds (1955 - ) worked for ESPN and then BET in marketing and sales, eventually becoming Executive Vice President of BET on Jazz. He helped BET build its subscriber base from 18.8 million to 65 million homes. He was also COO of the Washington Mystics WNBA team.

Employment

Paxton's Sporting Goods

Time Warner Cable

Continental Cablevision, Inc.

Satellite News Channel

Entertainment and Sports Programming Networks

Black Entertainment Television

Symonds Synergy Group

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
0,0:5561,32:20042,237:26122,348:28326,425:32734,510:37142,640:37598,647:45935,741:47170,884:47430,889:55580,989:63536,1107:65006,1131:75310,1215:82585,1258:83260,1268:83860,1280:85285,1303:109115,1845:109715,1880:121700,2026$0,0:4068,68:4746,75:7458,241:20236,309:31167,464:35523,549:39770,575:41110,616:50918,741:64470,1085:64822,1090:69310,1192:70630,1271:79891,1317:93950,1507:96400,1560:107783,1692:125444,1840:125712,1986:125980,1991:126985,2014:127387,2021:137847,2246:138669,2253:141135,2271:147460,2382:147860,2388:154820,2548:167235,2707:172951,2793:183026,2965:183370,2970:186810,3012:193742,3073:196472,3108:203934,3252:207483,3317:208029,3354:218924,3464:219476,3472:220028,3479:225088,3551:229030,3569:231067,3594:232276,3609:235723,3636:237062,3656:245817,3825:246435,3832:253686,3910:254442,3920:257298,3964:261162,4040:263262,4069:263934,4078:264438,4085:281365,4288:282055,4299:284750,4320
DAStories

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/551144">Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Curtis Symonds's interview</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/551145">Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Curtis Symonds lists his favorites</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/551146">Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Curtis Symonds recalls visiting his maternal grandmother in Bermuda</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/551147">Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Curtis Symonds describes his mother's family background</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/551148">Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Curtis Symonds describes his mother's personality</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/551149">Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Curtis Symonds describes his father's background and personality</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/551150">Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Curtis Symonds lists his adopted sisters</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/551151">Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Curtis Symonds describes his earliest childhood memory</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/551152">Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Curtis Symonds describes his neighborhood in Wilberforce, Ohio</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/551153">Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Curtis Symonds describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/551154">Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Curtis Symonds remembers Lucinda Cook Elementary School in Wilberforce, Ohio</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/551155">Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Curtis Symonds remembers his influences at Lucinda Cook Elementary School in Wilberforce, Ohio</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/551156">Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Curtis Symonds describes the African American community in Wilberforce, Ohio</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/551157">Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Curtis Symonds remembers his teachers at Lucinda Cook Elementary School</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/551158">Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Curtis Symonds describes his early interest in football and basketball</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/551159">Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Curtis Symonds describes his experiences at Warner Junior High School in Xenia, Ohio</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/551160">Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Curtis Symonds describes his decision to attend Saint Joseph's College in Rensselaer, Indiana</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/551161">Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Curtis Symonds recalls his experiences at Saint Joseph's College</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/551162">Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Curtis Symonds talks about his experiences of racial discrimination</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/551163">Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Curtis Symonds talks about college athletic recruitment</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/551164">Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Curtis Symonds describes his decision to transfer to Central State University in Wilberforce, Ohio</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/551165">Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Curtis Symonds recalls his experiences at Central State University</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/551166">Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Curtis Symonds talks about the compensation of college athletes</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/551167">Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Curtis Symonds recalls his decision to pursue a career in the cable television industry</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/551168">Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Curtis Symonds describes his role at Continental Cablevision, Inc.</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/551169">Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Curtis Symonds recalls Ted Turner's acquisition of the Satellite News Channel</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/551170">Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Curtis Symonds describes his positions at ESPN and BET</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/551171">Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Curtis Symonds describes the growth of Black Entertainment Television</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/551172">Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Curtis Symonds remembers Black Entertainment Television's initial public offering</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/551173">Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Curtis Symonds describes the creation of BET2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/551174">Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Curtis Symonds talks about BET's audience demographics</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/551175">Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Curtis Symonds reflects upon his career at Black Entertainment Television</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/551176">Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Curtis Symonds talks about Black Entertainment Television's expanded networks</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/551177">Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Curtis Symonds talks about his wife and children</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/551178">Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Curtis Symonds describes his role at the BET on Jazz television network</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/551179">Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Curtis Symonds describes his activities during retirement</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/551180">Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Curtis Symonds describes his presidency of the T. Howard Foundation</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/551181">Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Curtis Symonds describes how he came to be COO of the Washington Mystics</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/551182">Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Curtis Symonds reflects upon the perceptions of women's basketball</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/551183">Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Curtis Symonds reflects upon the racist remarks of Jimmy Snyder and Don Imus</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/551184">Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Curtis Symonds describes his plans for the Washington Mystics</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/551185">Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Curtis Symonds reflects upon his life</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/551186">Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Curtis Symonds shares his advice to future generations</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/551187">Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Curtis Symonds reflects upon his legacy</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/551188">Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Curtis Symonds describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community</a>

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$5

DAStory

6$2

DATitle
Curtis Symonds recalls Ted Turner's acquisition of the Satellite News Channel
Curtis Symonds describes how he came to be COO of the Washington Mystics
Transcript
And then, then it was satellite cablevision, I mean satellite television rather, I'm sorry. That's when Ted Turner came in about three months later and bought the network out. And that was a rude awakening, you know, because that was my first real glimpse of Corporate America because we begi- it was funny, the Satellite News Channel was owned by Westinghouse [Westinghouse Broadcasting Company] and ABC, so you would think these two big dogs would not let this happen, you know, and they kept telling us how they weren't going to let it happen, that everything was under control, but we were hearing rumbles in the street, and I remember coming into a cable operator's office in Iowa, just like you walk in the door right here. He had his back to me, his feet up, he was reading Wall Street [The Wall Street Journal], and he said, "Curtis [HistoryMaker Curtis Symonds], did you see Wall Street today?" I'm like, "No, why?" He said, "I think you better read this." So he turns around, he hands it to me. It just says in the caption, "Satellite News Channel just been bought by Ted Turner." So I called our office and everybody is like, in no mood to talk, but it's done. I'm like wow. So that was the beginning of that. And then--$$With that, talking about different systems and different parts of the country now, Ted Turner is in Atlanta [Georgia] (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) He's in Atlanta.$$--and there's no cable in Atlanta yet.$$Right.$$I think it comes in '82 [1982]. In 1982 was when cable--Atlanta first got cable.$$Yeah, yeah, it started coming, it was on the outsides of Atlanta, it wasn't so much in the city.$$It wasn't in metro Atlanta at all.$$It was on the outside of Atlanta at the time.$$Okay.$$You know, 'cause the big cities didn't start getting wired until the mid-'80s [1980s].$$Okay.$$You know, that's, that's when that happened, you know. But I was able to luckily spin off from Satellite News Channel and get on with ESPN.$$Okay.$$And that's really where my game became to really start rolling.$So what happens next?$$Well, I was, I always stayed in contact with Sheila Johnson [HistoryMaker Sheila C. Johnson], Bob Johnson's [Robert L. Johnson] ex-wife now, and we, me and my wife [Pat Symonds] always ate dinner, was eating, we had a like a little once a month type deal with her, with her and her, at that time, fiance, which is now her husband, Judge Newman [William T. Newman], and at one of the dinners she pulled me to the side and tells me about this idea of looking at a WNBA [Women's National Basketball Association] franchise, and I just told her that if you decide to do it, with all the basketball that I love, I'd like to be a part of it. So this went on for about six or seven months, maybe a short period, maybe four or five months, she was having her people do due diligence and all the other stuff and she called me one day, I happened to be in Ohio, and said, "Look, you might want to come in town, you'd better be here the next day. They're getting ready to make the announcement that I'm getting ready to take over the Washington Mystics," and so I flew back that night and sure enough, the next morning I went to the press conference and she announced that she was taking over the Washington Mystics. And I thought it was outstanding, you know that this market's a great market for women's basketball, and I thought it was, makes a lot of sense. So then we kept conversation and she kept telling me, "I'm going to have you do something with me, blah, blah, blah," and never in my life did I think she would call me back and say, you know, she did one day, and say I'd like you to run this, and I thought running meaning, I'm a marketing guy, so I figured that she, that I would be just running her marketing area. She said, "No, I'm talking about all, I want you to be the new COO of the Washington Mystics." And that was exciting because for me and my last hurrah, you know, I'm thinking the, right now, of the entrepreneurship. It was very exciting to have this opportunity and now, I always wanted to get in the NBA [National Basketball Association], but this just gives me the opportunity, great opportunity to take a step forward by getting into the WNBA. And it's been a great ride so far, you know. We're in our second season going into season, I actually came in the midseason. I've been with 'em, almost like two and one half year now. I came my first season, I was in midseason and we were on a playoff run that year and we ended missing out by one game. Last year, we had the best record in the history of the franchise. We were 18 and 16 and we made the playoffs and got bumped out in the first round. And this year we have aspirations for bigger and better. We think that we got a good nucleus. I definitely believe we have a great team and the goal in three years is to win a national world championship here, bring one back. So I think we're gonna, we're gonna be close on the ride, you know, and, you know, it's just fun, it's just fun. It's really fun. And it's, it's also a pleasure to work for a boss who's so committed to the operation. I mean she is very, she goes out, you know, she puts her neck on the line to help us get sponsorship. She's in the arena almost at every game, cheering and hugging her girls and supporting her girls in every way possible. She's very public about, you know, her feelings about women's sports and why it needs more attention, you know, and the need to get more men into the gym. So she's a strong advocate for women's sports and I think she's a great, great, you know, ambassador of the sport. And so to have an opportunity to work for someone with that drive, you know, is nonstop. It's contagious, you know, to be, to say the least, you know, so I, it really is, it's been enjoyable, it's been an enjoyable round, I'm looking forward to our season coming up and just seeing how good we do. And, you know, I also, built a gym, gymnasium complex in Chantilly, Virginia, called Hoop Magic, and that's my last piece of my dream that I'm trying to do in giving back because it's sixty-five thousand square feet, it's seven basketball courts in one building, and that's something that me and my wife wanted to do. And so to have an opportunity to run the Mystics and also to own my own gym and be able to give back, it's just a nice marriage.

John Heidelberg

Broadcasting entrepreneur, John Henry Heidelberg was born on February 19, 1944, in Shubuta, Mississippi, to Lillian Bounds and K.P. Heidelberg. He attended his family’s Spring Hill Church School, Shubuta School, McGill Junior High School, and Riverview High School in Waynesboro, Mississippi. Joining the United States Air Force in 1962, Heidelberg was stationed in Saigon, Vietnam.

Returning home in 1965, Heidelberg enrolled in Jackson County Junior College while working at Ingalls Shipbuilding. Heidelberg attended the Tennessee Association of Broadcasters on the G.I. Bill and later entered Tennessee State University; he was hired by Nashville’s WVOL-AM as a part-time disc jockey in 1969. Six months later, Heidelberg earned a full-time job; working daily, he played urban music. In 1970, as acting program director, he gave some air time to East High School student, Oprah Winfrey, whom he eventually hired to read news broadcasts for the station.

In 1983, Heidelberg joined Nashville’s 50,000 watt WSM-AM, a station famous as the voice of country music; there, he became one of the first African American country disc jockeys. In April of 2000, Heidelberg purchased WVOL-AM stereo from Dickie Brothers Broadcasting. Under Heidelberg Broadcasting, the format of “The Mighty 147” became urban contemporary gospel and talk shows during the day and jazz at night. In 2002, Heidelberg opened John Henry’s Restaurant and Showcase on historic Jefferson Street in North Nashville; the restaurant, no longer in business, featured fine dining with a taste of soul and southern jazz with a full size bar and a dance floor.

Heidelberg was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on March 15, 2007.

Accession Number

A2007.091

Sex

Male

Archival Photo 1
Interview Date

3/15/2007

Last Name

Heidelberg

Maker Category
Organizations
Schools

Riverview High School

Spring Hill Church School

Shubuta School

McGill School

Search Occupation Category
Archival Photo 2
First Name

John

Birth City, State, Country

Shubuta

HM ID

HEI03

Favorite Season

Spring

State

Mississippi

Favorite Vacation Destination

Paris, France, Hawaii

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Tennessee

Interview Description
Birth Date

2/19/1944

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Nashville

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Steak, Fish

Short Description

Broadcast entrepreneur and radio dj John Heidelberg (1944 - ) owned WVOL-AM in Nashville, Tennessee, and was credited with giving Oprah Winfrey her first job in broadcasting.

Employment

WVOL-AM

WSM-AM

John Henry's Restaurant and Showcase

Ingal's Shipyard

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/536550">Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of John Heidelberg's interview</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/536551">Tape: 1 Story: 2 - John Heidelberg lists his favorites</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/536552">Tape: 1 Story: 3 - John Heidelberg describes his mother's family background</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/536553">Tape: 1 Story: 4 - John Heidelberg remembers meeting his paternal great-great-grandmother</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/536554">Tape: 1 Story: 5 - John Heidelberg describes his mother's upbringing</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/536555">Tape: 1 Story: 6 - John Heidelberg describes his father's upbringing</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/536556">Tape: 1 Story: 7 - John Heidelberg describes his paternal great-grandparents</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/536557">Tape: 1 Story: 8 - John Heidelberg describes his likeness to his parents and great-grandparents</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/536558">Tape: 1 Story: 9 - John Heidelberg talks about his siblings</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/536559">Tape: 1 Story: 10 - John Heidelberg describes his earliest childhood memories</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/536560">Tape: 1 Story: 11 - John Heidelberg describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/536561">Tape: 1 Story: 12 - John Heidelberg describes his work on his great-grandparents' farm</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/536562">Tape: 1 Story: 13 - John Heidelberg remembers his early interest in radio</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/536563">Tape: 2 Story: 1 - John Heidelberg remembers listening to John Richbourg on WLAC Radio</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/536564">Tape: 2 Story: 2 - John Heidelberg describes his early education</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/536565">Tape: 2 Story: 3 - John Heidelberg recalls his paternal great-grandmother's commitment to education</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/536566">Tape: 2 Story: 4 - John Heidelberg remembers the racial violence in Mississippi</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/536567">Tape: 2 Story: 5 - John Heidelberg remembers a white neighbor's interference with his mail</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/536568">Tape: 2 Story: 6 - John Heidelberg describes the culture of the segregated South</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/536569">Tape: 2 Story: 7 - John Heidelberg remembers McGill Junior High School and Riverview High School</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/536570">Tape: 2 Story: 8 - John Heidelberg describes his interest in history</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/536571">Tape: 2 Story: 9 - John Heidelberg explains his reasons for joining the U.S. military, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/536572">Tape: 2 Story: 10 - John Heidelberg describes his early political views</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/536573">Tape: 2 Story: 11 - John Heidelberg remembers the pastimes of his youth</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/536574">Tape: 3 Story: 1 - John Heidelberg explains his reasons for joining the U.S. military, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/536575">Tape: 3 Story: 2 - John Heidelberg recalls his service in the U.S. Air Force</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/536576">Tape: 3 Story: 3 - John Heidelberg remembers his decision to become a disc jockey</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/536577">Tape: 3 Story: 4 - John Heidelburg recalls attending a radio school in Nashville, Tennessee</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/536578">Tape: 3 Story: 5 - John Heidelberg remembers his early interest in elocution</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/536579">Tape: 3 Story: 6 - John Heidelberg recalls confusion over his dialect</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/536580">Tape: 3 Story: 7 - John Heidelberg remembers becoming a disc jockey at WVOL Radio</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/536581">Tape: 3 Story: 8 - John Heidelberg describes his show on WVOL Radio</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/536582">Tape: 3 Story: 9 - John Heidelberg recalls his colleagues at WVOL Radio</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/536583">Tape: 3 Story: 10 - John Heidelberg describes his style as a radio disc jockey</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/536584">Tape: 3 Story: 11 - John Heidelberg describes his roles at WVOL Radio</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/536585">Tape: 4 Story: 1 - John Heidelberg remembers hiring Oprah Winfrey at WVOL Radio</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/536586">Tape: 4 Story: 2 - John Heidelberg talks about the female employees of WVOL Radio</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/536587">Tape: 4 Story: 3 - John Heidelberg recalls Oprah Winfrey's hiring as a newscaster on WLAC-TV</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/536588">Tape: 4 Story: 4 - John Heidelberg recalls the changes in the southern culture</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/536589">Tape: 4 Story: 5 - John Heidelberg talks about his contributions to black radio</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/536590">Tape: 4 Story: 6 - John Heidelberg remembers being hired by WSM Radio</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/536591">Tape: 4 Story: 7 - John Heidelberg describes his career at WSM Radio</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/536592">Tape: 4 Story: 8 - John Heidelberg talks about the African American origins of country music</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/536593">Tape: 4 Story: 9 - John Heidelberg describes his experiences at WSM Radio</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/536594">Tape: 5 Story: 1 - John Heidelberg describes the misperceptions about radio personalities</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/536595">Tape: 5 Story: 2 - John Heidelberg talks about his ineptitude at dancing</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/536596">Tape: 5 Story: 3 - John Heidelberg remembers his experiences in sports broadcasting</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/536597">Tape: 5 Story: 4 - John Heidelberg remembers purchasing the WVOL Radio station</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/536598">Tape: 5 Story: 5 - John Heidelberg describes his vision for WVOL Radio</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/536599">Tape: 5 Story: 6 - John Heidelberg talks about the Arbitron rating system for radio stations</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/536600">Tape: 5 Story: 7 - John Heidelberg describes his advertising partners</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/536601">Tape: 5 Story: 8 - John Heidelberg talks about the changes in the broadcasting industry</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/536602">Tape: 5 Story: 9 - John Heidelberg describes his accomplishments at WVOL Radio</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/536603">Tape: 5 Story: 10 - John Heidelberg talks about the importance of independent radio stations</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/536604">Tape: 5 Story: 11 - John Heidelberg remembers opening a restaurant in Nashville, Tennessee</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/536605">Tape: 5 Story: 12 - John Heidelberg describes his plans for his restaurant</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/536606">Tape: 5 Story: 13 - John Heidelberg recalls the celebrity patrons of his restaurant</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/536607">Tape: 6 Story: 1 - John Heidelberg describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/536608">Tape: 6 Story: 2 - John Heidelberg reflects upon his career in the radio industry, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/536609">Tape: 6 Story: 3 - John Heidelberg reflects upon his restaurant business</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/536610">Tape: 6 Story: 4 - John Heidelberg reflects upon his career in the radio industry, pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/536611">Tape: 6 Story: 5 - John Heidelberg reflects upon his legacy</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/536612">Tape: 6 Story: 6 - John Heidelberg reflects upon his impact on the radio industry</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/536613">Tape: 6 Story: 7 - John Heidelberg talks about his family</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/536614">Tape: 6 Story: 8 - John Heidelberg talks about the challenges facing small radio station owners</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/536615">Tape: 6 Story: 9 - John Heidelberg talks about the trends in political talk radio</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/536616">Tape: 6 Story: 10 - John Heidelberg describes how he would like to be remembered</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/536617">Tape: 6 Story: 11 - John Heidelberg narrates his photographs</a>

DASession

1$1

DATape

4$5

DAStory

1$9

DATitle
John Heidelberg remembers hiring Oprah Winfrey at WVOL Radio
John Heidelberg describes his accomplishments at WVOL Radio
Transcript
Now, you mentioned a strange name, Oprah Winfrey; what kind of name is that for a person, and where did--$$Oprah said that they spelled it wrong.$$Okay.$$(Laughter) They were meant to say it some other way, but they spelled it wrong.$$Okay.$$Yeah.$$So you met her?$$I discovered her (simultaneous).$$(Simultaneous) Now, she was a student at what, Tennessee State [Tennessee State University, Nashville, Tennessee]?$$No, she was a--she was a student in East High School [East Nashville High School; East Nashville Magnet High School, Nashville, Tennessee] when I first met her.$$East High School? Okay.$$I, I gave Oprah her start.$$All right.$$Yeah.$$Well, tell us about it; what happened?$$Are we on now?$$Yes.$$Well, what first happened was Oprah came here [WVOL Radio, Berry Hill, Tennessee], I believe it was in 1971, and she and a couple of other people, and she was looking for someone to sponsor her in the March of Dimes walkathon. And I had been out. I don't know if I was--had gone to lunch or whatever, but I came back and she was just getting ready to leave when the receptionist says, "Here's the guy. Here's [HistoryMaker] John Heidelberg, and he'll help you." And so and I spoke with her and she says, "Well, look, here's what I want, and if you will help me. I'm, I'm--I've entered into the March of Dimes walkathon. And, and we pay--," I don't know how many cents it was, maybe a dime a mile or whatever it was. "And however many miles I walk, you pay me a dime a mile for that and this goes to the March of Dimes." And I says, "Okay. I'll do that." And so I was getting ready for my shift, afternoon shift and so she left and a few--about a month or so later she came back and said I owed her about eighteen, nineteen dollars or whatever it was. (Laughter) And I was married making about a hundred dollars a week, so eighteen dollars, that was a lot of money for me, you know, but I had promised to give it to her, so I gave it to her. So while she was here, I started talking with her and she said--and, and she was very articulate. I mean, this, this young lady's just, just talented, just--and, and her, and her dad [Vernon Winfrey] had done a wonderful job of molding her and, and her stepmom [Barbara Winfrey] and, and, and they made her read books and so you could, you could tell that she was well read. And I was very impressed with her, and I started asking her about herself. And she said she was from Mississippi. And I says, "Well, so am I." And so talking to her further, I says--I asked her had she ever been interested in getting into radio and she says no. And her favorite thing was at home watching 'Leave It to Beaver.' And so I said, "You know what, I think you'd be very good in radio, and I think you'd make a very good newsperson." And her father was a very strict man, so she told me I'd have to ask her father to let her do that. And so I came in and, and spoke with Noble Blackwell, who was the general manager at the time, and I asked--I told him that we've got a very talented young lady out here and I think she'd make a very good newsperson. And like I said, I blaze trails, I knocked down doors that weren't open. And he says--and Noble, in his own gentle way said, "Well, you handle it. You take care of it." So I went into the newsroom and, and some had followed me and, and, and we had UP--what is it, UPI [United Press International]? Whatever was teletype, and I got some copy and asked her to read the stuff. And then I asked some other people, you know, "Hey, listen to this young lady. This--she is so talented." Everybody came in just to hear her read, and she did very well. And so I started talking to Noble, I started talking to Mr. Blackwell's secretary [Ollie Pearson (ph.)]. She was a sweet white lady in the back and she said, "Well, John, you know, let's just get in touch and, and talk with her dad and see if we can get her out here." And so after about a couple weeks, we talked him into letting her come out and she would, you know, after school 'cause she was a senior in high school. And she would come out and fill in and, and do stories and whatnot; and then eventually, she got to be the, the anchor. She started doing newscasts, and she was very good and we would work with her, I would work with her a lot. And, and during that--$$This is while she was still in school?$$Um-hm.$$Okay.$$And so eventually, you know, when she got of age, I think they let her come--they--she was eighteen at the time when they had to hire--when they hired her. And so there was some times that people didn't want her doing that because people felt like they had paid their dues. I've been in this business a long time and it's a male, you know, bastion, it's a male field and we just don't let women come off the street and get a job in here; we don't do that, you know. And so she would come to me sometimes and I'd tell her, "Don't worry about it. I'll take the heat; you just do the job." And I did it, I took the heat. And there was always something said or somebody's doing something or maybe a memo was written or something and I says, "Don't you worry about it, I'll take the heat," and I took the heat.$What's your most popular show right now?$$We've got some good shows. We have what we call 'The BLUES Cafe' that we run on Saturdays and we, we try to do blues all day from si- we were doing it from six A.M. 'til seven P.M. and people love blues. Believe it or not, they love the blues and as long as you do traditional blues, not the contemporary stuff 'cause a lot of that is--doesn't sound very good, to be honest with you. But the, you know, Bobby Bland and John Lee Hooker and Johnnie Taylor and all those guys, Z.Z. Hill, those kind of songs and even Ray Charles and all of that, that's good blues. But some of the other stuff, it's so so, a few songs, good songs, but for the most part, it's, it's not like the old style and I'm a stickler for the old style.$$So you've got a niche there?$$Yeah, you got a niche. So we do the blues things on Saturday and then we have a talk show, as I say, we call it 'Open Forum' from twelve A.M. 'til three P.M. Monday through Friday and we just let the callers call in. We don't even ask them their name or anything else, you know. And we make sure that they know, hey, we want you to talk, but you got to keep it clean, you got to protect my license, you got to do all this other stuff, and they call in and talk about different things. And then, and then this is very popular because we get not only black listeners, but we get white listeners as well, and we even get white males. Believe it or not, a lot of white males listen and call and so we know we're getting a lot more people that are listening that do not call. And a lot of people tell us, "I would call, but I--somebody may recognize my voice, so I'd, I'd rather not do that." And they'll listen. And sometimes we, we got this, this sound effect where we flush people, yeah. Oh, yeah, what you're saying is--let's flush that and so he does little things, you know. And sometimes he'll raise his voice and say something when somebody gets on there and starts talking crazy or whatnot and then--and sometimes he has fun with it and then we have--we get very serious or we may have the, the mayor or anybody else on some serious issue. And we've been talking about immigration, illegal immigration, those type things. We talk about politics and, and this is the buckle of the Bible Belt, so you're naturally gonna get religion and everybody's got an opinion about religion in this town. So we talk about those things. And the guy [T.J. Graham] that does the show is a minister, he's an ordained minister, so he gets to talk about it and people don't agree and they don't agree with each other, but they listen to the show every day. That's why we know we should be doing well in the ratings but, you know, it doesn't show, but, but if you were to listen to these people, then we know we got people listening. And then when we go out and, and when we get a new client, they can play three commercials and they get results. Those people toll out, our listening audience said, "If we hear your commercial on VOL [WVOL Radio, Berry Hill, Tennessee], we will patronize your business," and they do. We've had businesses that weren't doing very well, now they're doing well. It's just convincing people that--to come to AM. They just don't believe that AM's gonna reach out there, but we do, you know, we do a good job of getting customers into these businesses, and it's just--well, maybe we just got to do a better job of telling him about it.$$Yeah, I think the power of--$$Yeah.$$--black talk radio is really growing and growing--$$Yeah. Yeah.$$--the last twenty years or so.$$Yeah.$$Loyal audience.$$Yeah.$$I mean, every city's got a--$$We, we, we got people that turn on VOL and don't turn it off. And we were streaming and people couldn't get on. You have to pay for all the amount of people that stream. You know, you're going all over the world, but people are leaving their computers on, so we don't have the computer that kicks them off after a while, they just leave it on all the time. They go back the next day, people downtown in offices keep it on, you know. Just about the water company, the electric company, all these places, we know that these people are listening and we're thinking why aren't they getting diaries, you know. Why aren't they getting diaries? And you ask them, "Do you ever get a diary? No." Well, where are the diaries going is my question.$$It's a good question.$$Um-hm. Yeah, where are they going?

Marv Dyson

Radio executive Marv Dyson was born November 28, 1937 in Chicago, Illinois to Florence Dyson and Richard Dyson, both of whom were radio announcers. In the early 1940s, Dyson attended McCosh Elementary School in the West Woodlawn neighborhood of Chicago and Parker High School, graduating in 1955.

Dyson attended the College of Emporia in Emporia, Kansas, graduating in 1959. In 1968, Dyson began working for Johnson Publishing Company’s legendary WJPC-FM radio station in Chicago, where he became president and general manager. In the mid-1970s, Dyson discovered radio disc jockey Tom Joyner, who was working in radio in Montgomery, Alabama, and convinced him to work for WJPC-FM, where Joyner would stay until the mid-1980s.

In 1978, Dyson left WJPC and began working for Clear Channel’s WGCI-FM and WVAZ-FM as a sales account executive. He became general manager of the station in 1981, hiring Kevin Wagner, the future founder of Urban Radio Communications, out of high school to be the station’s account executive. Another discovery of Dyson’s was on-air personality Doug Banks, who began his radio show with WGCI-FM in 1986. He also gave comedian Steve Harvey his first break in the radio broadcasting industry.

Dyson was promoted to President of WGCI-FM in 1994 after leading the station to Chicago’s highest audience ratings. In 1998, Dyson received a lifetime achievement award at the third annual March of Dimes Achievement Radio Awards. In 2003, Dyson was honored by Chicago Mayor Richard Daley and the radio community as the Broadcast Advertising Club of Chicago’s Person of the Year. That same year, Dyson retired as general manager of Clear Channel’s urban radio station group after thirty-five years. Dyson was an early investor in Urban Radio Communications, and, in 2005, Goldman Sachs Urban Investment Fund infused $17 million into the company, doubling the group’s properties and making it the second-largest African American-owned radio company in the country. Dyson co-owns thirteen radio stations, and he is the director of operations at Kennedy King College’s radio station, 89.3 WKKC-FM.

Dyson was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on January 20, 2007.

Accession Number

A2007.021

Sex

Male

Interview Date

1/20/2007

Last Name

Dyson

Maker Category
Occupation
Schools

Paul Robeson High School

St. Anselm's School

McCosh Elementary School

University of Chicago

Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania

Kennedy–King College

College of Emporia

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Marv

Birth City, State, Country

Chicago

HM ID

DYS01

Favorite Season

Summer

Sponsor

State Farm

State

Illinois

Favorite Vacation Destination

Mexico

Favorite Quote

Everything's Hard Until It's Easy.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Interview Description
Birth Date

11/28/1937

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Chicago

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Breakfast Foods

Short Description

Broadcast executive Marv Dyson (1937 - ) was the co-owner of thirteen radio stations, and he was the director of operations of Kennedy-King College's radio station, 89.3 WKKC-FM in Chicago. He was the former president of WGCI-FM in Chicago, where he discovered Tom Joyner, hired Doug Banks and gave Steve Harvey his first break in radio broadcasting.

Employment

WGCI Radio

WNTD Radio

McCosh Elementary School

Post Office

Chicago Transit Authority

Urban Radio Broadcasting, LLC

Wilson Sporting Goods Company

Main Sponsor
Main Sponsor URL
Favorite Color

Purple

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/533342">Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Marv Dyson's interview</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/533343">Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Marv Dyson lists his favorites</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/533344">Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Marv Dyson remembers his maternal grandmother</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/533345">Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Marv Dyson describes his parents' careers in radio broadcasting</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/533346">Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Marv Dyson talks about his parents and brothers</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/533347">Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Marv Dyson recalls the Englewood neighborhood of Chicago, Illinois</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/533348">Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Marv Dyson recalls his experiences at Parker High School in Chicago, Illinois</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/533349">Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Marv Dyson talks about his siblings and children</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/533350">Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Marv Dyson remembers meeting his second wife</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/533351">Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Marv Dyson recalls his high school classmates</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/533352">Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Marv Dyson remembers his early activities</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/533353">Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Marv Dyson describes his children's professions</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/533354">Tape: 1 Story: 13 - Marv Dyson describes his family's religious involvement</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/533355">Tape: 1 Story: 14 - Marv Dyson reflects upon his parents' influence</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/533356">Tape: 1 Story: 15 - Marv Dyson talks about his hobbies</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/533357">Tape: 1 Story: 16 - Marv Dyson describes how he began his radio career</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/533358">Tape: 1 Story: 17 - Marv Dyson remembers his work at WJPC Radio in Chicago, Illinois</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/533359">Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Marv Dyson describes his parents' radio shows in Chicago, Illinois</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/533360">Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Marv Dyson describes his mother's radio show, 'Listen Ladies'</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/533361">Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Marv Dyson describes his college education and early work experiences</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/533362">Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Marv Dyson recalls his sales position at WAAF Radio in Chicago, Illinois</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/533363">Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Marv Dyson describes the radio industry of the 1970s</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/533364">Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Marv Dyson remembers the African American radio personalities in Chicago, Illinois</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/533365">Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Marv Dyson remembers hiring Tom Joyner at WGCI Radio in Chicago, Illinois</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/533366">Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Marv Dyson recalls Steve Harvey's first radio show</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/533367">Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Marv Dyson talks about urban radio</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/533368">Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Marv Dyson lists the radio stations where he worked</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/533369">Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Marv Dyson describes the African American radio stations of the 1960s</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/533370">Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Marv Dyson describes his experiences of racial discrimination as a radio salesman</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/533371">Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Marv Dyson remembers the election of Mayor Harold Washington</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/533372">Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Marv Dyson recalls the role of black radio stations in fundraising for Girl X</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/533373">Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Marv Dyson describes the radio program at Kennedy-King College in Chicago, Illinois</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/533374">Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Marv Dyson remembers Bob Wall</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/533375">Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Marv Dyson remembers Herb Kent</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/533376">Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Marv Dyson recalls his accomplishments at WGCI Radio in Chicago, Illinois</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/533377">Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Marv Dyson remembers Elroy Smith</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/533378">Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Marv Dyson talks about his hiring philosophy</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/533379">Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Marv Dyson remembers his retirement from WGCI Radio</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/533380">Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Marv Dyson describes his transition to radio station ownership</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/533381">Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Marv Dyson talks about the advertising on gospel radio stations</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/533382">Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Marv Dyson recalls his acquaintance with African American celebrities</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/533383">Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Marv Dyson talks about his retirement</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/533384">Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Marv Dyson shares his advice to aspiring radio professionals</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/533385">Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Marv Dyson describes his role at Kennedy-King College's WKKC Radio</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/533386">Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Marv Dyson reflects upon his life</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/533387">Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Marv Dyson describes his hopes for the African American community</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/533388">Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Marv Dyson narrates his photographs, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/533389">Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Marv Dyson narrates his photographs, pt. 2</a>

DASession

1$1

DATape

1$3

DAStory

16$4

DATitle
Marv Dyson describes how he began his radio career
Marv Dyson describes his experiences of racial discrimination as a radio salesman
Transcript
Before we talk about how--your radio stations--how did you get into radio?$$I was working for Wilson Sporting Goods and Meat Packing [Wilson Sporting Goods Company] because my dad [Richard Dyson, Sr.] had retired from there and he got me a job there. And I was working for them and I had a cousin--or a friend of mine who was really interested in getting into radio and my younger brother, Lon [Lon Dyson], was working at the radio station at the time, it was WAAF [WAAF Radio; WNTD Radio, Chicago, Illinois], Daddy-O Daylie [HistoryMaker Holmes "Daddy-O" Daylie] was on and Marty Faye and Al Benson. This goes back a lot of years. And he was really interested in getting into radio this friend of mine, so I called my brother because he was working at WAAF and at the precise moment I was calling him, he was calling me. And I was getting ready to take a job in Detroit [Michigan] at the time and--$$In radio?$$No, it was in sales, in sales for Parker House Sausage Company [Chicago, Illinois], which is actually here but the guy that was running the company then, Daryl Grisham had offered me an opportunity to go to Detroit and kind of head up a sales force there for Parker House Sausage. And I was getting ready to really go there and do that but then I made this call to the radio station. My brother answered the phone at the precise moment, actually, the phone didn't ring. My brother was calling me and I heard him say, "Damn." And I said, "Lon," and he said, "Yeah." I said, "This is Marv [HistoryMaker Marv Dyson]," I said, "I'd really like to set up an appointment for a friend of mine who really wants to get into radio." And my brother said, "Marv, they're looking for a salesperson here and I really think you'd be good at this. Why don't you come down and at least interview?" And I thought, well, I didn't have anything to lose and it was just a (unclear) really and I said, "Okay I'll go." And I went down and there was a guy named Dick Eichner and he said--he put an ash tray on the table and said, "Sell me that ash tray." I have no idea what I said, but whatever it was, it convinced him that I could sell and he offered me a job in the sales department there. And I passed up on the job to go to Detroit because it was an opportunity to stay in Chicago [Illinois], and the money at the time seemed pretty cool. I think it was like $35,000 a year and that's more money than I'd ever made in my life.$$And that was what year?$$That was in 19--god, '67 [1967], '65 [1965], '67 [1967] somewhere in there. And I remember the first year I made $35,000 and I spent every dime of it, bought a new Corvette, had hot and cold running women. I say that all the time. Had an apartment in Lake Meadows [Lake Meadows Apartments, Chicago, Illinois], I was living large, ah, it was crazy. And at the end of that first year, my dad pulled me aside and said, "So do you have any money saved?" And I said, "No." And he said, "You really got to get your life together." And I went and took some courses in sales at the University of Chicago [Chicago, Illinois], I went to the Wharton business school [Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania] and took some courses in management and sales there. And really got serious about radio because I didn't want to be an embarrassment to my parents who had been in radio. And I started at WAAF and Daddy-O Daylie was really one of my mentors. And I was gonna get out of radio and Daddy-O told me, "You're good at this you need to stay in it." And then John Johnson [HistoryMaker John H. Johnson] bought the radio station and it became W--it was WGRT [WGRT Radio] from WAAF and then when Johnson bought it was WGRT and he called the call letters to WJPC [WJPC Radio] and I ran those radio stations for him.$One of my other experiences, I was trying to sell Chrysler [Chrysler Corporation; FCA US LLC] on advertising on WGCI [WGCI Radio, Chicago, Illinois] and Chrysler just wasn't having it. They're going, "Well, we don't have any dealerships in black areas and black people, as far as we know, they can't afford these cars." I went to the advertising agency, made a presentation, and they were just so vehement about not advertising on our radio station I went back to the radio station, got another appointment because John Johnson, back in the day [HistoryMaker] John H. Johnson who owned Ebony magazine and he was the first guy I worked for in radio, he told me, "Marv [HistoryMaker Marv Dyson], when the client says no, no more Mr. Nice Guy. You have nothing to lose at that point." So I got another appointment with the whole media department at a company called--I think it was Lee King [ph.], and they were handling Chrysler. I went in and did the presentation walking up and down on their conference room table. And they still said no. And I had all kinds of statistics to show them that black people would buy their cars and would drive to their showrooms to see them. They weren't having it. I wrote Lee Iacocca a letter and explained to him what I was going through. He sent me a letter for a lease that I could buy--drive a new Chrysler. He fired that advertising agency, hired another advertising agency, and they started advertising on black radio as a result of that. But that's the kind of stuff that black radio stations had to go through to get business. We couldn't just go to an agency, we literally had to go to the top to get people to understand that, if you don't do this, you are blowing a whole lot of money.$$I think that--what was that Pontiac dealer?$$Chappelle Pontiac [Chicago, Illinois]? Oh, Al Abrams.$$Al Abrams, he understood though (simultaneous).$$(Simultaneous) Al Abrams Pontiac [Al Abrams Motor Sales Inc., Chicago, Illinois]. He understood it because he was in the heart of the black community. He was at 47th [Street] I think it was. And he used to sell all those pink and chartreuse cars and stuff. But he was a very smart businessman, but after he moved out of the neighborhood and the black auto dealers all kind of went away, they just weren't advertising with us. But I put--when I was at JPC [WJPC Radio; WNTD Radio, Chicago, Illinois], Johnson Publishing Company [Chicago, Illinois], I got all seven of the black automobile dealers to advertise as a group. And we used the theme music from 'The Magnificent Seven' movie under the background, and we did--I wrote a series of commercials. And their business jumped 2000 percent as a result of them coming together and advertising. So, those are, those are some of the fun things I did when I was in radio. And some of the kind of innovative things also, but back then we had to come up with innovative things because one individual auto dealer couldn't afford to advertise.$$Right.$$But as a group they could.

Sheryl Riley Gripper

Sheryl Riley Gripper is the founder of the Black Women Film Preservation Project and is Vice President of Community Relations at WXIA-TV, Channel 11, an NBC affiliate in Atlanta, Georgia. Originally from Waco, Texas, Gripper was born on December 16, 1951, the first of two children born to Samuel L. and Dolores Posey Harris, Jr., Spelman and Morehouse College graduates. Gripper attended J.H. Hines Elementary School in Waco where her maternal grandmother was one of her teachers and later became her principal. Gripper graduated from A.J. Moore High School two years ahead of her class and entered her mother’s alma mater, Spelman College, where she obtained her B.A. degree in english. She took enough courses for a minor in journalism.

A successful internship at a major Houston, Texas newspaper, while still a student at Spelman College, played a major part in Gripper’s decision to choose journalism over a career in music. As a contralto singer, she aspired to grace the stage of the Metropolitan Opera. This internship set the stage for her to become the Manager of Promotions at WETV, Channel 30 and WABE-FM, a position that she held from 1975 to 1981. In 1977, she earned her M.A. degree in education from Georgia State University, and in 2000, she was awarded her M.A. degree in film. Gripper founded the Black Women Film Preservation Project in 1997. This organization hosts an annual awards/scholarship luncheon, which highlights the career of women who have made significant contributions to the industry and the annual “Black Women in Film Festival” in Atlanta.

Gripper is the recipient of four Emmy Awards, one for the 11 Alive Community Service Awards, an awards show that has honored volunteers for thirty-one years. She also created The Bronze Jubilee Awards, a program that honored Black culture while at WETV and WABE. As Vice President of Community Relations at WXIA-TV, she serves as the executive producer for the 11 Alive Community Service Awards. Gripper has been with Channel 11 since 1981.

Gripper is married to Jeffery Gripper, Atlanta’s first world karate champion, and is the mother of three sons, Edward Riley, Jr., Jeffery Gripper, Jr., and Ellis Gripper. She is also a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. and is the corporate campaign cabinet of the United Negro College Fund.

Accession Number

A2005.266

Sex

Female

Interview Date

12/19/2005

Last Name

Gripper

Maker Category
Middle Name

Riley

Occupation
Schools

A.J. Moore Academy

J.H. Hines Elementary School

Spelman College

Georgia State University

Search Occupation Category
Speakers Bureau

Yes

Speakers Bureau Availability

Depends on Schedule

First Name

Sheryl

Birth City, State, Country

Waco

HM ID

GRI05

Speakers Bureau Preferred Audience

Adults, Students interested in Media

Speakers Bureau Honorarium

No

Favorite Season

Holiday Season

Speaker Bureau Notes

Availability Specifics: Quarterly as lunch time
Preferred Audience: Adults, Students interested in Media

State

Texas

Favorite Vacation Destination

Beaches

Favorite Quote

We Have To Pray.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Georgia

Interview Description
Birth Date

12/16/1951

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Atlanta

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Shrimp

Short Description

Broadcast executive Sheryl Riley Gripper (1951 - ) founded the Black Women Film Preservation and is Vice President of Community Relations at WXIA-Channel 11 (CBS affiliate in Atlanta, Georgia).

Employment

WXIA-TV

WETV (PBS)

The Houston Post

Atlanta Daily World

Favorite Color

Red

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/305454">Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Sheryl Riley Gripper's interview</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/305455">Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Sheryl Riley Gripper lists her favorites</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/305456">Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Sheryl Riley Gripper talks about her maternal grandparents</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/305457">Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Shirley Riley Gripper describes her maternal grandfather</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/305458">Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Shirley Riley Gripper describes her mother</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/305459">Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Sheryl Riley Gripper describes her father's side of the family, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/305460">Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Sheryl Riley Gripper describes her father's time at Morehouse College</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/305461">Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Sheryl Riley Gripper describes Morehouse College's Miss Maroon and White tradition</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/305462">Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Sheryl Riley Gripper describes her father</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/305463">Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Sheryl Riley Gripper describes her mother's side of the family, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/305464">Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Sheryl Riley Gripper describes her mother's side of the family, pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/305465">Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Sheryl Riley Gripper describes her father's side of the family, pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/303284">Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Sheryl Riley Gripper describes her father's side of the family, pt. 3</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/303285">Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Sheryl Riley Gripper describes her earliest childhood memories</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/303286">Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Sheryl Riley Gripper remembers growing up in Waco, Texas</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/303287">Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Sheryl Riley Gripper describes Waco's South Tenth Street Community Club</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/303288">Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Sheryl Riley Gripper describes her neighborhood in Waco, Texas</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/303289">Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Sheryl Riley Gripper describes the sights, sounds and smells of growing up</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/303290">Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Sheryl Riley Gripper describes her church and education</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/303291">Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Sheryl Riley Gripper remembers her early interest in writing</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/305466">Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Sheryl Riley Gripper remembers her choir director, Vivienne Malone-Mayes</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/305467">Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Sheryl Riley Gripper talks about her father's half-brother</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/305468">Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Sheryl Riley Gripper describes her early musical interests, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/305469">Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Sheryl Riley Gripper describes her early musical interests, pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/305470">Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Sheryl Riley Gripper describes her activities at Waco's A.J. Moore High School</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/305471">Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Sheryl Riley Gripper describes her interests at Waco's A.J. Moore High School</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/305472">Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Sheryl Riley Gripper describes her time at Spelman College, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/305473">Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Sheryl Riley Gripper describes her early journalism experiences</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/305474">Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Sheryl Riley Gripper recalls the first sororities at Spelman College</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/303301">Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Sheryl Riley Gripper describes her time at Spelman College, pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/303302">Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Sheryl Riley Gripper recalls the Pentagon Papers and applying for jobs in Atlanta</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/303303">Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Sheryl Riley Gripper describes her work at WETV in Atlanta, Georgia</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/303304">Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Sheryl Riley Gripper describes the Bronze Jubilee Awards</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/303305">Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Sheryl Riley Gripper describes her work at Atlanta's Channel 11, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/303306">Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Sheryl Riley Gripper describes her work at Atlanta's Channel 11, pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/303307">Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Sheryl Riley Gripper describes the Black Women Film Preservation Project</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/303308">Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Sheryl Riley Gripper talks about African American women in film, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/303309">Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Sheryl Riley Gripper talks about African American women in film, pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/305475">Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Sheryl Riley Gripper recalls TV and film producer HistoryMaker Jennifer Lawson</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/305476">Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Sheryl Riley Gripper describes her family and how she met her second husband, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/305477">Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Sheryl Riley Gripper describes her family and how she met her second husband, pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/305478">Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Sheryl Riley Gripper describes her film about the Negro League and her wedding</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/305479">Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Sheryl Riley Gripper talks about her spirituality</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/305480">Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Sheryl Riley Gripper reflects upon her life</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/305481">Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Sheryl Riley Gripper shares her advice for aspiring journalists</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/305482">Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Sheryl Riley Gripper describes her hopes for the African American community</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/305483">Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Sheryl Riley Gripper reflects upon her legacy and how she would like to be remembered</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/303319">Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Sheryl Riley Gripper narrates her photographs, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/303320">Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Sheryl Riley Gripper narrates her photographs, pt. 2</a>

DASession

1$1

DATape

4$4

DAStory

4$7

DATitle
Sheryl Riley Gripper describes the Bronze Jubilee Awards
Sheryl Riley Gripper describes the Black Women Film Preservation Project
Transcript
With a group of people at the TV station I came up with an idea for a--an awards program called the Bronze Jubilee Awards, which was like a Oscars [Academy Awards] for black culture. And we honored persons in music, dance, drama, theater, communicative arts and long-term contribution to the arts and arts educators. And we did this show on public TV at the Morehouse Chapel [Martin Luther King Jr. International Chapel, Morehouse College, Atlanta, Georgia]. And that program started in 1978. And as a result of doing that program, he [Richard Holcomb] made me promotion manager of the TV stations and the radio station there. So I was promotion manager for WETV [WPBA-TV, Atlanta, Georgia] and WABE Radio [Atlanta, Georgia]. The program was televised live on--on public broadcasting, WETV, and we were able to bring in hosts through the years like [HistoryMaker] Freda Payne, Peabo Bryson then performed on it. We went and got artists from other areas where public television was that I could get 'em. I got Richmond Barthe who was a sculptor in--living in--in--in California. We brought him in to get an award. We brought in people from New Orleans [Louisiana] who were artists and--and--to--to get awards. So we--we didn't just focus on the Atlanta [Georgia] area.$$So you had a budget--$$Yes.$$--that you worked with, too?$$I had to raise the money. Sears [Sears, Roebuck and Co.] was one of my first sponsors and the Atlanta Coca-Cola Bottling Company. And we had a budget with the TV station and with the sponsors that enabled us to--to do this.$$Okay, and do--do you have, I mean, the television station have clips of those that you actually did the--the shows of.$$Um-hm.$$Okay.$$And that was--that program ran from 1978 to 1990. And I left the TV station in 1981, 1981, yeah, 1981 to go to Channel 11 [WXIA-TV, Atlanta, Georgia], which is the NBC affiliate.$So what is a typical day like for you as VP of community relations [at Channel 11; WXIA-TV, Atlanta, Georgia]?$$The good thing is there is no typical day. That when I get to work today--when I go in this afternoon, I don't know what is gonna be awaiting me, which means that you kind of have to be, at this point, a jack of all trades. It could be that the news department needs something from me. It could be that my boss needs me to do something. But I plan to be working on Black History Month because I'm gonna get sponsors to do vignettes for that. That's my plan. But when I get there I may have to divert from that plan. As a result of being in TV for so many years I realize that what I really enjoy doing is being creative. So I went back to school after I got the--I got a--the degree at Spelman [Spelman College, Atlanta, Georgia] in English in '72 [1972], and then I got a master's [degree] in education in '77 [1977] because my mother [Dolores Posey Harris] and [maternal] grandmother [Ollie Nickerson Posey] were in education, so you always have to have that to fall back on. Well in 2000, I got a master's in film and video at Georgia State [Georgia State University, Atlanta, Georgia]--$$Okay.$$--so that I would have the opportunity to be creative. While there, I realized there were no black women in any of my classes. And I started an organization, the Black Women Film Preservation Project [Black Women Film Preservation Project, Inc.; Black Women Film Network] to increase the numbers of women that are in film or related areas. And also to honor, because my background was award shows, to salute women who have blazed a trail in film. And my first honoree was the woman [HistoryMaker Jennifer Lawson], who is now the head of the communications department [sic. WHUT-TV] at Howard University [Washington D.C.], who is a filmmaker.$$And her name is?$$I'm gonna have to come up with that (laughter).$$Okay, all right, that's fine.$$And the second honoree was Sheryl Lee Ralph, the actress and filmmaker 'cause she has done a film called 'Secrets' and does a film festival [Jamerican Film Festival] in Jamaica. And last year we honored Xernona Clayton Brady [HistoryMaker Xernona Clayton] who does the Trumpet Awards because she has focused on so many African American women. And I do this just so women can get their props, but at the same time so that somebody else can see these women and feel like I can do the same thing. And then we give out these scholarships to the girls and we've given--last year we gave 'em to girls at North Carolina A&T [North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, Greensboro, North Carolina], at Spelman, Clark [Clark Atlanta University, Atlanta, Georgia], and one of the girls is one of the--$$Joyce--Jocelyn--$$Yeah Jocelyn Delk.$$--Jocelyn Delk one of The HistoryMaker employees was a recipient and she was at Clark Atlanta.$$Right, so she was one of our recipients. And it's just exciting to me to see what the recipients are doing because Jocelyn would send me letters about working--doing movies with Jennifer Lopez and working with Judge Mathis [HistoryMaker Gregory Mathis] in Chicago [Illinois]. So it's just--and last year for the first time we did a film festival in conjunction with the awards and scholarships, and this year will be our fifth luncheon where we present scholarships, and we will be doing our second annual film festival at the Regal Cinema at Atlantic Station [Regal Atlantic Station, Atlanta, Georgia].

Barbara L. Thomas

Barbara Louise Thomas was the president and CEO of the Chicago based National Black Master of Business Administration Association (NBMBAA). Thomas was born on December 5, 1947, in Dublin, Georgia, one of Jerrie Lee Tart and Horace Sanders’s thirteen children. Thomas was raised by foster parents Georgia and George Monroe in Dublin, where she attended segregated public schools and graduated from Oconee High School. In 1965, Thomas moved to New York City with her birth mother and took a job at Harlem Youth Opportunities Unlimited - Associated Community Teams (HARYOU-ACT) where she met her husband. Thomas went on to receive her B.A. degree from New York's Bernard Baruch College in 1970 and her M.B.A. degree from Columbia University in 1973.

While a university student, Thomas clerked at CBS’s Radio Division. After completing her education, Thomas moved into the CBS television division and managed network cut-ins, a position she credits with opening the door to her twenty-five year career at CBS. Eventually Thomas was the first African American woman to attend CBS’s School of Management. Thomas later became director of finance and administration for CBS, and left the network in 1989 after serving as the first African American woman to act as a senior vice-president.

Moving on from CBS to function as chief financial officer for various health care organizations and other non-profit groups, Thomas moved to Chicago in 2001 and spent two years as the chief financial officer for the NBMBAA. The board of directors of the NBMBAA appointed Thomas as president in 2003.

Citing her faith as a major sustaining force in her life, Thomas remained active in her church. Thomas raised two daughters and had five grandchildren.

Accession Number

A2005.169

Sex

Female

Interview Date

7/21/2005

Last Name

Thomas

Maker Category
Middle Name

L.

Schools

Oconee High School

City University of New York

Baruch College

Columbia University

Susie Dasher Elementary School

CBS School of Management

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Barbara

Birth City, State, Country

Dublin

HM ID

THO09

Favorite Season

All Seasons

Sponsor

The Jay Pritzker Foundation

State

Georgia

Favorite Vacation Destination

Beaches

Favorite Quote

I'm Blessed.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Interview Description
Birth Date

12/5/1947

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Chicago

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Donuts (Krispy Kreme)

Short Description

Association executive and broadcast executive Barbara L. Thomas (1947 - ) was appointed president of the National Black Master of Business Administration Association in 2003.

Employment

National Black MBA Association

Harlem United Activists for Community

CBS Radio

CBS Television Division

CBS Television Finance Division

Main Sponsor
Favorite Color

Purple

Timing Pairs
0,0:1144,11:2728,30:3080,35:9504,161:13376,225:13816,230:14168,236:15312,253:16104,264:24130,319:25850,343:26796,359:27398,368:33645,429:34375,440:35251,458:35616,464:37076,496:40221,524:41094,534:44370,564:47450,614:47978,621:52202,719:53698,744:54578,755:55458,769:56338,780:57482,797:63210,841:67185,929:67560,935:78164,1101:81042,1117:81862,1128:83092,1150:83830,1161:91935,1284:93660,1306:93960,1311:95985,1358:100767,1417:105240,1526:109704,1585:110644,1598:111490,1609:111960,1615:112806,1632:115234,1653:120994,1792:127618,1959:128122,1968:133700,2031:137832,2084:138180,2089:138963,2101:146097,2230:151737,2273:152664,2285:153282,2292:156475,2370:157093,2378:161218,2394:165310,2428$0,0:736,13:8224,214:9004,226:10174,243:10486,248:14542,319:14854,324:15166,329:16180,350:17740,380:18520,395:24134,422:26420,442:27122,452:28136,463:29306,484:31022,511:31568,520:32894,549:33518,559:38888,593:39455,604:39707,609:40085,616:40526,627:40778,632:42542,668:43172,680:44558,704:45629,731:46385,748:50417,844:50669,849:51236,861:51488,866:52433,892:52874,901:62054,983:62678,992:62990,997:67124,1076:82140,1159:83850,1180:84420,1187:90595,1279:95373,1301:95870,1311:96722,1325:97006,1330:98142,1353:98710,1362:99278,1372:113246,1498:114311,1517:121624,1657:122121,1665:122831,1680:123967,1708:124393,1715:125600,1734:126097,1743:126807,1756:127091,1761:127801,1776:128440,1788:129079,1798:130073,1815:134590,1828:134998,1835:135406,1842:136086,1858:137514,1883:140266,1919:140994,1929:142268,1961:146523,1975:147020,1984:147446,1991:151990,2048:153130,2073:153662,2082:153966,2087:158222,2192:158526,2197:160046,2232:160578,2240:161414,2263:161794,2276:168163,2317:168678,2323:182633,2494:183712,2591:184376,2601:188674,2614:189514,2628:196250,2705:199860,2740
DAStories

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/296499">Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Barbara L. Thomas' interview</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/296500">Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Barbara L. Thomas lists her favorites</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/296501">Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Barbara L. Thomas describes her mother's family background</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/296502">Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Barbara L. Thomas describes her father's family background</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/296503">Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Barbara L. Thomas describes her parents' occupations</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/296504">Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Barbara L. Thomas describes her earliest childhood memory</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/296505">Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Barbara L. Thomas describes her father and how she resembles him</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/296506">Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Barbara L. Thomas describes the sights, sounds and smells of her childhood</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/296507">Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Barbara L. Thomas recalls Susie Dasher Elementary School and Oconee High School, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/296508">Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Barbara L. Thomas recalls Susie Dasher Elementary School and Oconee High School, pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/296509">Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Barbara L. Thomas recalls her experiences at Oconee High School</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/296510">Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Barbara L. Thomas describes her extracurricular activities in high school</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/296511">Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Barbara L. Thomas recounts her civil rights activity in Dublin, Georgia</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/296512">Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Barbara L. Thomas recalls her favorite television shows growing up</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/296513">Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Barbara L. Thomas talks about attending college and moving to New York City</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/296514">Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Barbara L. Thomas recalls working for HARYOU-ACT</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/296515">Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Barbara L. Thomas recalls meeting her husband and their marriage in 1967</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/296516">Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Barbara L. Thomas recalls studying finance and obtaining her M.B.A. degree from Columbia University</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/296517">Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Barbara L. Thomas recalls her various promotions at CBS</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/296518">Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Barbara L. Thomas recounts her experiences at the CBS School of Management</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/296519">Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Barbara L. Thomas describes her retirement from CBS and subsequent roles</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/296520">Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Barbara L. Thomas recounts the history of the National Black MBA Association</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/296521">Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Barbara L. Thomas describes the activities of the National Black MBA Association</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/296522">Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Barbara L. Thomas describes the current climate for young black people with M.B.A.s</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/296523">Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Barbara L. Thomas details the National Black MBA Association's future plans</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/296524">Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Barbara L. Thomas describes her involvement with her church</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/296525">Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Barbara L. Thomas describes her hopes and concerns for the African American community</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/296526">Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Barbara L. Thomas reflects upon her life</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/296527">Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Barbara L. Thomas reflects upon her legacy</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/296528">Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Barbara L. Thomas reflects upon her family</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/296529">Tape: 3 Story: 12 - Barbara L. Thomas describes how she would like to be remembered</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/296530">Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Barbara L. Thomas describes how she would like to be remembered</a>

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Barbara L. Thomas recounts her civil rights activity in Dublin, Georgia
Barbara L. Thomas recounts her experiences at the CBS School of Management
Transcript
Okay. And when you, well, in that part of Georgia was there any civil rights activity going on there?$$Oh, yeah, I was a naughty little girl (laughter). I did have one experience and it was really an accident. And Georgia gets very, very hot and you walk every place. I mean, you know, teenagers didn't drive their parents' cars, you, you walked. And we were not allowed to go into any of the white restaurants. And in the department stores there is a water fountain and it would say what, white and colored. But our water was always hot and it would never come up to high but the white fountains water was always high and icy cold.$$In the cooler--$$And, yeah.$$--or water cooler.$$Oh, yeah. And so one day we were cutting through the department store, Belk's Department Store on our way home and it was hot and I wanted a drink of water and I just figured no one was watching so I thought I'd steal some water from the white fountain and next thing I know the sheriff had me by the shoulders (laughter).$$The, the sheriff himself?$$The sheriff, right. He just happened to be in the, in the store. Like, I really got quite a lashing. But because he knew my father [Horace Sanders] I didn't get thrown in jail but I probably would have. So I thought since I got away with that I could get away with something else. So then there was, we used to have a drugstore and it had a soda fountain but we weren't allowed, I mean, we could go in and order if we wanted to but you had to stand over in the back, you weren't allowed to sit. And I decided one day to sit down. Well, that was the time I got taken down to the jail house. I didn't get locked up but it frightened me enough to know that I dare not do those things again. But there was a lot of picketing, you know, a lot of protesting and it started back in the '60s [1960s].$$Now did you keep up--$$In Dublin [Georgia].$$--with civil rights activity?$$Yeah, you know, as far as reading and what was going on. And I was, of course, very anxious to, you know, to participate in it but, you know. You didn't have as much going on in Dublin as you did in Atlanta [Georgia] or Macon [Georgia], the larger cities that surrounded us, you know. But our voices were, their voices were heard, you know. But my parents and foster parents [George Monroe and Georgia Monroe], you know, at that time I was back with my parents, didn't allow us to participate, you know.$Well tell us about the CBS School of Management [New York, New York]. You know, is CBS the only network to have its own school of management?$$I, I don't know. I don't know if other networks had it. But I, I, I remember us going to the old Ford mansion up in upstate New York, I can't even remember where, but I was just very surprised that I was selected and again it was the same gentleman Donald Bryan [ph.] who had watched me. And he basically said to me that he saw a lot of potential in me and he was going to help me, you know, learn the ropes and make my way up the ladder. And I received a memo saying that I had been selected to go to the CBS School of Management, which was a total shock because first of all I was black, and to me that was a very prestigious place and you didn't, you know, you didn't get to go in there. But what they did is they selected people that they felt had potential and the company wanted to invest in because they saw you as a long term employee that they could truly see the return on their investment. CBS School of Management basically taught you how to dress, how to speak, which pieces of silverware to use when you're out on a client meeting, you know. We did simulations, but with the simulations then back, if you were the president of CBS, you know, how would you run this company. So you had a full day where you were the president. These are things people are doing now that CBS was doing way back, you know, in the '60s [1960s]. It, I guess, in its, one could say that it brainwashed you because I went out and bought more pinstripe, black and blue pinstriped suits than I ever knew in my life because that was what, that was the dress. But it really prepared you to be ready to step out and meet with their key clients and negotiate business for the company. So that's really what it was all about, preparing you for that.$$Okay. So, so an emphasis on style and culture and how to--$$Exactly. Exactly. But very few people were selected to attend this, go through this. So I was very, very privileged to have had that opportunity. And it was a, you know, it was much, much more intense and I'm sort of giving you the, the high level of it but there was a lot of intense time. We were up very early in the morning, you know, to very late at night going through trainings that they had provided for us.$$How long did it last?$$I think it was about two and a half weeks of--$$And--$$--just intense. And you didn't go home to your family.$$And about what, what year was this (simultaneous)?$$(Simultaneous) That's what I'm trying to remember. I believe, if I remember it was in 1973, I have to look at my, my award, my, that I received from them.$$All right.$$My diploma.