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Ben Johnson

Government official Robert Benjamin (Ben) Johnson was born on July 14, 1944 in Marion, Arkansas to Robert and Willie Johnson. Johnson was raised in South Bend, Indiana, where he graduated from high school. He went on to attend the Indiana Military Academy and was commissioned into the U.S. Army as a 2nd Lieutenant in 1967.

From 1967 to 1968, Johnson worked for WSBT-TV, where he became the first black television news reporter in South Bend, Indiana. Johnson then served as director of employment services for ACTION Inc., the St. Joseph County anti-poverty agency, and as managing director of the St. Joseph County Community Federal Credit Union. In 1975, he was the first African American to mount a serious campaign for mayor of South Bend, but was not elected. Two years later, in 1977, Johnson left South Bend for Washington, D.C., where he became director of the National Center for Urban Ethnic Affairs Credit Union Institute, and served as special assistant to the chairman of the board of the National Credit Union Administration.

In 1979, Johnson joined President Jimmy Carter’s Administration as director of consumer programs and special assistant to Esther Peterson. From 1983 to 1987, he worked as the administrator of the Business Regulation Administration, where he oversaw the governing of corporations that conducted business in the District of Columbia. In 1988, Johnson was appointed administrator of the Housing and Environmental Administration and directed enforcement and compliance of housing and environmental laws in Washington, D.C. He was then named director of the District of Columbia's Department of Public Assisted Housing, where he worked until 1993, when he joined President Bill Clinton’s White House staff as an associate director in the Office of Public Liaison. Johnson then served as special assistant to the President, and was responsible for all areas of outreach to the African American community. He later served as deputy assistant to the President; and, in 1999, was appointed assistant to the president and director of the White House Office on the President's Initiative for One America, where he oversaw the first free-standing White House office in history to help close the opportunity gaps that exist for minorities in the United States.

Johnson has also served as senior counselor to Porter Novelli, Ogilvy, the National Cancer Institute and Spectrum Sciences, among others. He has spoken at many institutions and organizations including Harvard University, the Brookings Institute, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and the Aspen Institute. Johnson chaired the board of the One America Foundation, and served on the board of directors of the AFLAC Corporation. He was also a deputy chairman of the Democratic National Committee, and served on the DNC’s Rules and the Bylaws Committee. His many awards include an honorary doctorate degree from Morgan State University and the Washington, D.C. Distinguished Government Service Award.

Johnson lives in Upper Marlboro, Maryland with his wife, Jacqueline. They have five children and eleven grandchildren.

Ben Johnson was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on March 19, 2014.

Accession Number

A2014.085

Sex

Male

Interview Date

3/19/2014 |and| 5/21/2014

Last Name

Johnson

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

Benjamin

Occupation
Schools

Indiana Military Academy

First Name

Robert

Birth City, State, Country

Marion

HM ID

JOH47

State

Arkansas

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

District of Columbia

Birth Date

7/14/1944

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Washington

Country

United States

Short Description

Presidential aide Ben Johnson (1944 - ) served in both the Carter and Clinton White House Administrations. He was appointed by President Bill Clinton as assistant to the president and director of the White House Office on the President's Initiative for One America.

Employment

ACTION, Inc.

St. Joseph County Community Federal Credit Union

National Center for Urban Ethnic Affairs Credit Union

National Credit Union Administration

United States Government

Business Regulation Adminstration

Housing and Environmental Administration

District of Columbia's Department of Public Assisted Housing

White House Staff

President's Initiative for One America

William Norman, Sr.

William Stanley Norman was born on April 27, 1938, in Roper, North Carolina. His mother was a homemaker and domestic and his father was a builder. During early childhood, the family relocated to Norfolk, Virginia, where Norman attended Booker T. Washington High School. Norman was active in the band, honor society and student government and earned his high school diploma in 1956. Norman earned his B.S. degree in chemistry and math in 1960 from West Virginia Wesleyan College. That same year, he traveled to the Soviet Union as an exchange student. Shortly after beginning a teaching career in the Norfolk, Virginia, public school system, Norman was drafted. In 1962, he joined the United States Navy’s Aviation Candidate Program.

During his eleven years of service, Norman served as a naval flight officer, taught at the U.S. Naval Academy and served as an aide to the White House in the Johnson and Nixon administrations. He earned his masters degree from American University in 1967. After his military service, Norman joined the Cummins Engine Company, where he held a number of management positions between 1973 and 1979. Norman then worked for the National Railroad Passenger Corporation (AMTRAK) in 1979 and served as vice president of marketing and was then promoted to group vice president. When he left AMTRAK in 1994, he was the number two corporate officer at the company. In 1994, Norman served as president and chief executive officer of the Travel Industry Association of America (TIA). TIA is a national umbrella organization which represents all segments of the U.S. travel industry.

Norman holds leadership positions and serves on the board of directors of many private and public sector organizations. He and his wife, Elizabeth split their time between their homes in Orlando, Florida and McLean, Virginia. They have two grown children.

Accession Number

A2004.265

Sex

Male

Interview Date

12/16/2004

Last Name

Norman

Middle Name

S.

Schools

Booker T. Washington High School

American University

West Virginia Wesleyan College

Stanford University

First Name

William

Birth City, State, Country

Roper

HM ID

NOR02

Favorite Season

None

State

North Carolina

Favorite Vacation Destination

America

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

District of Columbia

Birth Date

4/27/1938

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Washington

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Chicken

Short Description

Association chief executive, presidential aide, and transportation executive William Norman, Sr. (1938 - ) became the second-ranked corporate officer at Amtrak and then later became CEO of Travel Industry Association of America. Norman devoted eleven years of service in U.S. Navy and also taught at the U.S. Naval Academy.

Employment

Travel Industry Association of America

Amtrak

Cummins Engine Company

United States. Navy.

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of William Norman interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - William Norman's favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - William Norman remembers his mother

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - William Norman describes his father

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - William Norman details his parents' courtship

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - William Norman remembers his grandmother

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - William Norman recalls his childhood environs, Norfolk, Virginia

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - William Norman recounts holidays in his household

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - William Norman describes his childhood activities

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - William Norman names his siblings and gives their birth order

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - William Norman talks about the smells, sounds and sights of his childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - William Norman discusses his childhood activities

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - William Norman talks about his early educational experience

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - William Norman recalls some highlights from his childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - William Norman talks about his childhood expectations for a career

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - William Norman details his father's carpentry skills

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - William Norman recollects the different disciplinary methods employed by his mother and father and the balance of power in their relationship

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - William Norman recalls attending both of his parents churches as a child

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - William Norman describes his father's church as the focal point of his rural community

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - William Norman recalls experiences at his segregated junior high school

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - William Norman continues discussing a tenuous relationship with a mentor

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - William Norman talks about the traits of individuals who he looked up to in junior high

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - William Norman recounts his high school experience and his preparation for college

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - William Norman relates the way he selected the college that he attended

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - William Norman talks about campus life at West Virginia Wesleyan College

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - William Norman describes his notion of a career path following his college degree in chemistry and math

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - William Norman describes the pivotal shift in career plans

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - William Norman decides to quit teaching and join the Navy

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - William Norman recounts his experiences with racism in the Navy during the 1960s

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - William Norman details his experiences as a White House Aide

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - William Norman talks about being profiled in a book on military racism

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - William Norman describes his experience as a Naval officer in Viet Nam

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - William Norman explains his affiliation with Cummins Engine Company

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - William Norman discusses his Congressianal testimony on race problems in the Navy

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - William Norman is surprised bythe corporate diversity at Cummins Engine Company

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - William Norman recalls his 14 year tenure at Amtrak

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - William Norman excels while at Amtrak

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - William Norman describes his transition from Amtrak to the Travel Industry Association of America in 1994

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - William Norman describes the devistating impact of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - William Norman details travel industry recovery plan after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - William Norman details tourism industry challenges since 9/11

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - William Norman addresses the safety of United States travel

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - William Norman shares his formula for success

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - William Norman finds great value in a Naval career

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - William Norman disdains the value systems of young black men

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - William Norman repsonds to a question about what Irving Klein would think of his success

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - William Norman shares his delight in being a HistoryMaker

DASession

1$1

DATape

5$5

DAStory

3$7

DATitle
William Norman explains his affiliation with Cummins Engine Company
William Norman excels while at Amtrak
Transcript
When you left the Navy in 1973, you went to work with Cummins Engine Company?$$Yes, and that's an interesting one, because I--I as I was doing this--as I said, the life of that of that and so on. If I had decided to stay in the Navy with him--I mean he had given me the kind of performance ratings and pushed me that there was no way in which I could not have been highly successful at moving along within that time, but he also and as I said we became very close friends after I got out, but one of the things that happened is that I'd come up with an idea in the Navy and--and the whole idea in which the Navy had had this particular program is to take the--the resources of the Navy and do some things to improve conditions and community and there was this person called Erwin Miller who was chairman and CEO of Cummins Engine Company and he had their--had decided that they were gonna give five percent of their pre-tax profits to philanthropy and this was one of the really enlightened companies that you ever want to find and they had this idea and he had the head of his foundation there--their personal fortune of some-I don't know what it is, hundreds of millions of dollars and the head of the foundation was an African American by the names of James Joseph--Jim Joseph, who is now Ambassador to South Africa. But we had this idea and that what we would do, there was a community in California and in--in which the arsenic content of the wells, and it was an old African American group that had lived there for years, and the didn't want to leave and they--but the arsenic content of the wells was such that it was solely poisoning and so what we thought we would do is an arrangement by which Cummins and Company--we had the local people here to get all and take care of all the--the details. The Navy would supply the CBs and all the others that would get it done and Cummins Engine and Company would pay for it. So this (tri part-time?) arrangement was going to be a model of how the community, the military and the private corporations could all work together and--and we started this thing and we're doing. That's how I got to know Erwin Miller and so at the time when things--and I can go in depths in terms of what happened in the Navy, but I think the important there was that's how I met him and they had started to ask me if I ever decided to want to leave the Navy come there. While I--business was not something I ever thought about except back to those days of Irvine B. Klein. I always said that's a place I which I really ought to go, and to make a long story short they made me an offer and I was going to accept.$Were you starting to develop an interest in the travel industry when you went to Amtrak?$$I would wish that I could tell you that my life has been such that I've been plotting what I'm gonna do next and so on.$$But were you finding the travel industry interesting?$$I found--I--I really have found many things of which I'd gotten in there because I've always had this philosophy that whatever I was gonna do, I was gonna do well and was going to excel in it. So, it wasn't so much that it--it was in the travel industry--I--if serendipity I had--it had been another kind of industry the same thing might have occurred. I do believe that that is true. However, I do want to emphasize that I did enjoy it very much. It--I--I enjoyed the environment. I enjoyed travel. I got immediately on as fate would have it because I was the chief marketing officer there at the time. The Travel Industry Association of America for which I am today had this organization of chief marketing officers from all the major corporations around and it was an interesting one because I ended up chairing that and--and there was not a world in which--it was basically the travel industry (unclear) essentially at that level, particularly in marketing there were white males and I mean it--trust me and those--those kinds of terms, but I became interested and I actually was elected to the Board of the Travel Industry Association for which I am now here and not only was I elected to the Board and on the Executive Committee, but I was elected by the membership as the National Chair, so even though it never crossed my mind that I would end up being over here, I'd become very interested in travel and tourism and its impact on the social, economic and cultural fiber of this nation and--and Amtrak given my particular role and what I had there, I was able to have a--a leadership role within the industry and so asking me in terms of what it is I--I think if you look in terms of the accomplishment of what it--and what it means, Amtrak was--was always to me the little train that can. It was the job at which I'm gonna do this one more year because there is such herculean tasks and if I can just finish this and the bar kept moving and moving and suddenly I found myself--my--maybe I was not bright enough or smart enough--maybe it took me fourteen years what I should have been able to do in the three years, but I did--I kept doing one more year.