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

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 |and| 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

Favorite Season

None

Sponsor

Black Entertainment Television

State

Missouri

Favorite Vacation Destination

Hawaii

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

California

Birth Date

12/15/1961

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Los Angeles

Country

United States

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
0,0:23123,386:36338,620:51383,751:65043,999:68336,1069:78720,1186:81690,1231:83220,1259:90892,1320:95242,1430:100480,1476:101962,1498:102760,1509:104584,1542:110050,1590:110610,1599:111090,1607:111410,1612:112130,1627:112850,1637:115090,1679:126948,1815:128828,1937:130050,1948:135592,1973:136384,1983:136912,1991:141312,2091:146435,2130:147540,2172:150005,2223:150430,2229:151535,2254:151875,2259:154850,2341:155275,2353:156040,2375:167910,2534:168230,2567:170630,2626:178739,2740:179342,2751:187413,2919:187808,2925:190968,3095:207604,3317:217960,3425:224160,3490:226899,3543:228393,3592:230966,3626:234701,3708:238480,3713:241840,3786:242400,3794:244240,3827:247360,3888:250800,3937:251520,3954:255400,3959$0,0:2475,75:2925,82:4650,117:5025,123:8400,182:8700,187:9000,192:10200,218:10950,229:19880,380:28112,496:28784,505:35168,669:36092,688:43820,940:66350,1208:68270,1305:73390,1410:89638,1670:91839,1732:92549,1748:93046,1757:94182,1806:99507,1945:109865,2060:114474,2131:121635,2389:129625,2515:130135,2532:153912,2866:155148,2925:164046,3055:165099,3075:172886,3153:173366,3159:173750,3164:174422,3172:180949,3302:184598,3368:186111,3389:190383,3486:200202,3696:212236,3815:217494,3940:219132,3976:230638,4309:256766,4629:262500,4729:264944,4775:274032,4865:275688,4906:279549,4928:286568,5055:294225,5201:294745,5210:304539,5371:322510,5685
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Reginald Hudlin's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Reginald Hudlin lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Reginald Hudlin describes his mother's personality

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Reginald Hudlin describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Reginald Hudlin describes his father's family background, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Reginald Hudlin describes his father's family background, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Reginald Hudlin talks about his paternal aunts and uncles

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Reginald Hudlin describes his father's professions

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Reginald Hudlin describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Reginald Hudlin recalls his father's personality and discipline

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Reginald Hudlin describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood, pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Reginald Hudlin describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Reginald Hudlin recalls his neighbors in East St. Louis, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Reginald Hudlin remembers his childhood adventures in East St. Louis, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Reginald Hudlin describes the Katherine Dunham Centers for Arts and Humanities in East St. Louis, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Reginald Hudlin talks about his early education

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Reginald Hudlin describes his relationship with his brothers

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Reginald Hudlin talks about his paternal family's dinnertime activities

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Reginald Hudlin describes his early interest in storytelling and comic books

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Reginald Hudlin describes his brother's academic success

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Reginald Hudlin talks about his experiences in private schools

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Reginald Hudlin remembers Mor Thiam

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Reginald Hudlin describes how he came to attend the Assumption Catholic High School in East St. Louis, Illinois

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Reginald Hudlin describes his early interest in filmmaking

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Reginald Hudlin recalls the television programs of his youth

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Reginald Hudlin describes his decision to enroll at Harvard University

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Reginald Hudlin talks about his introduction to independent filmmaking

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Reginald Hudlin remembers his classmates at Harvard University

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Reginald Hudlin describes his first day at Harvard University

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Reginald Hudlin reflects upon his time at Harvard University

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Reginald Hudlin talks about the black community at Harvard University

Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Reginald Hudlin describes his film assignments at Harvard University

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Reginald Hudlin remembers creating his short film, 'House Party'

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Reginald Hudlin talks about his influences as a filmmaker

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Reginald Hudlin recalls his start as an independent filmmaker

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Reginald Hudlin describes his break into the motion picture industry

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Reginald Hudlin recalls New Line Cinema's purchase of 'House Party'

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Reginald Hudlin remembers the Black Filmmaker Foundation's film festivals

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Reginald Hudlin talks about the rise of African American popular culture

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Reginald Hudlin recalls the production of his feature film, 'House Party'

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Reginald Hudlin remembers the cast of 'House Party'

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$4

DAStory

3$4

DATitle
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.

Sheila C. Johnson

Business and civic leader, 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

Birth Date

1/25/1949

Speakers Bureau Region City

Washington

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Chicken

Short Description

Hospitality entrepreneur and broadcast executive 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
0,0:4000,97:4500,103:13874,192:15280,215:15798,224:16390,232:16982,241:18092,259:19572,292:24454,351:26182,395:29328,426:32562,491:33255,509:33717,516:34256,524:36489,557:42446,659:42890,666:45184,719:48514,797:49106,807:49994,820:56430,890:56830,896:59920,919:60710,936:61263,944:61895,954:62843,969:66240,1043:72007,1118:72402,1124:75088,1184:75483,1190:80302,1271:80855,1282:91935,1387:94030,1400:94562,1409:95094,1417:95702,1426:105810,1690:106114,1695:107026,1709:107330,1714:107710,1720:114270,1769:114945,1782:115545,1798:119145,1854:119745,1862:124095,1962:128520,2041:129570,2066:129870,2071:132795,2131:133395,2139:133995,2148:139415,2184:140010,2192:143155,2267:143580,2273:144685,2289:146942,2304:152045,2456:154070,2496:156257,2550:161270,2596:161886,2604:162766,2616:173866,2756:175712,2776:176320,2785:177004,2797:177992,2818:182324,2881:183008,2892:189470,2977:190350,2996:190830,3003:191550,3039:192510,3055:194110,3085:194430,3090:200102,3149:201489,3173:204628,3243:205796,3264:206672,3280:209227,3328:209519,3333:210030,3341:215146,3393:216438,3411:216894,3423:217198,3428:222366,3544:227686,3711:228598,3726:229814,3741:230118,3746:234890,3755:235220,3761:235814,3773:236738,3792:237332,3804:240245,3837:241035,3848:243405,3898:243958,3906:244906,3920:245933,3931:246407,3938:246723,3943:247276,3951:248224,3971:249014,3984:257270,4111:258781,4116:259243,4124:259936,4139:260321,4145:260860,4154:262920,4177$0,0:8134,208:9047,223:10126,237:12118,278:12699,293:37398,698:38962,754:39234,759:42370,775:44890,850:47060,885:49160,938:50490,964:51680,989:52870,1009:69690,1179:70354,1192:72346,1236:77020,1299:90100,1509:90460,1516:97263,1646:98115,1671:98399,1676:98896,1684:107914,1876:108199,1882:109909,1915:110308,1923:114185,1966:125618,2085:126059,2094:126500,2102:126752,2107:127193,2116:132981,2171:133273,2176:135755,2223:136120,2229:148575,2392:155748,2454:156639,2468:161175,2545:163767,2587:166521,2626:167007,2633:170218,2653:178081,2735:178416,2741:178885,2750:179153,2755:183890,2826:184562,2837:188540,2868:189508,2938:190564,2953:191180,2959:193116,2983:193732,2991:195580,3025:197956,3070:210170,3224
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Sheila C. Johnson's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Sheila C. Johnson lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Sheila C. Johnson describes her father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Sheila Johnson describes her mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Sheila C. Johnson describes her earliest childhood memory

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Sheila C. Johnson recalls moving often during her childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Sheila C. Johnson describes the sights, sounds and smells of her childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Sheila C. Johnson talks about her younger brother

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Sheila C. Johnson recalls her piano lessons in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Sheila C. Johnson describes her early personality

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Sheila C. Johnson describes the community of Maywood, Illinois

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Sheila C. Johnson recalls playing first chair violin in the Illinois All-State Orchestra

Tape: 1 Story: 13 - Sheila C. Johnson recalls the deaths of Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. and President John Fitzgerald Kennedy

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Sheila C. Johnson describes Proviso East High School in Maywood, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Sheila C. Johnson recalls her violin performances

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Sheila C. Johnson remembers being a cheerleader

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Sheila C. Johnson recalls her decision to attend the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Sheila C. Johnson describes the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Sheila C. Johnson describes her extracurricular activities

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Sheila C. Johnson describes her experiences at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Sheila C. Johnson recalls marrying BET founder Robert L. Johnson

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Sheila C. Johnson recalls the early years of her marriage

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Sheila C. Johnson recalls graduating from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Sheila C. Johnson remembers her summer in Brussels, Belgium

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Sheila C. Johnson recalls teaching at the Sidwell Friends School in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Sheila C. Johnson recalls founding the Young Strings in Action orchestra

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Sheila C. Johnson recalls operating Young Strings in Action from her home

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Sheila C. Johnson recalls founding Black Entertainment Television

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Sheila C. Johnson recalls finding advertisers for BET

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Sheila C. Johnson remembers her decision to retire from teaching

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Sheila C. Johnson remembers performing in Jordan with Young Strings in Action

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Sheila C. Johnson remembers the success of Young Strings in Action

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Sheila C. Johnson recalls Young Strings in Action's performance in Jordan, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Sheila C. Johnson recalls Young Strings in Action's performance in Jordan, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Sheila C. Johnson remembers creating the National Music Conservatory in Amman, Jordan

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Sheila C. Johnson talks about Young Strings in Action

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Sheila C. Johnson recalls working full time at BET

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Sheila C. Johnson describes the 'Teen Summit' program on BET

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Shelia C. Johnson describes BET's production company

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Sheila C. Johnson remembers the success of BET's 'Teen Summit'

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Sheila C. Johnson talks about the BET Awards

Tape: 4 Story: 11 - Sheila C. Johnson describes her children's education

Tape: 4 Story: 12 - Sheila C. Johnson describes her daughter's interest in equestrianism

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Sheila C. Johnson recalls learning about the horse show industry

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Sheila C. Johnson describes Salamander Farm

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Sheila C. Johnson describes her children's interests

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Sheila C. Johnson recalls her presidency of the Washington International Horse Show

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Sheila C. Johnson describes her business ventures in Middleburg, Virginia

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Sheila C. Johnson talks about her work in the hospitality industry

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Sheila C. Johnson recalls becoming an owner of the Washington Mystics

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Sheila C. Johnson describes her goals for the Washington Mystics WNBA team

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Sheila C. Johnson talks about Sheila's I Am Powerful Challenge

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Sheila C. Johnson describes her hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 5 Story: 11 - Sheila C. Johnson reflects upon her legacy and how she would like to be remembered

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.

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

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

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Curtis Symonds's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Curtis Symonds lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Curtis Symonds recalls visiting his maternal grandmother in Bermuda

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Curtis Symonds describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Curtis Symonds describes his mother's personality

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Curtis Symonds describes his father's background and personality

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Curtis Symonds lists his adopted sisters

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Curtis Symonds describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Curtis Symonds describes his neighborhood in Wilberforce, Ohio

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Curtis Symonds describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Curtis Symonds remembers Lucinda Cook Elementary School in Wilberforce, Ohio

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Curtis Symonds remembers his influences at Lucinda Cook Elementary School in Wilberforce, Ohio

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Curtis Symonds describes the African American community in Wilberforce, Ohio

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Curtis Symonds remembers his teachers at Lucinda Cook Elementary School

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Curtis Symonds describes his early interest in football and basketball

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Curtis Symonds describes his experiences at Warner Junior High School in Xenia, Ohio

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Curtis Symonds describes his decision to attend Saint Joseph's College in Rensselaer, Indiana

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Curtis Symonds recalls his experiences at Saint Joseph's College

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Curtis Symonds talks about his experiences of racial discrimination

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Curtis Symonds talks about college athletic recruitment

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Curtis Symonds describes his decision to transfer to Central State University in Wilberforce, Ohio

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Curtis Symonds recalls his experiences at Central State University

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Curtis Symonds talks about the compensation of college athletes

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Curtis Symonds recalls his decision to pursue a career in the cable television industry

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Curtis Symonds describes his role at Continental Cablevision, Inc.

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Curtis Symonds recalls Ted Turner's acquisition of the Satellite News Channel

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Curtis Symonds describes his positions at ESPN and BET

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Curtis Symonds describes the growth of Black Entertainment Television

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Curtis Symonds remembers Black Entertainment Television's initial public offering

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Curtis Symonds describes the creation of BET2

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Curtis Symonds talks about BET's audience demographics

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Curtis Symonds reflects upon his career at Black Entertainment Television

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Curtis Symonds talks about Black Entertainment Television's expanded networks

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Curtis Symonds talks about his wife and children

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Curtis Symonds describes his role at the BET on Jazz television network

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Curtis Symonds describes his activities during retirement

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Curtis Symonds describes his presidency of the T. Howard Foundation

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Curtis Symonds describes how he came to be COO of the Washington Mystics

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Curtis Symonds reflects upon the perceptions of women's basketball

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Curtis Symonds reflects upon the racist remarks of Jimmy Snyder and Don Imus

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Curtis Symonds describes his plans for the Washington Mystics

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Curtis Symonds reflects upon his life

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Curtis Symonds shares his advice to future generations

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Curtis Symonds reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Curtis Symonds describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community

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.