What It Takes

Johnny Taylor Jr.


Johnny Taylor Jr. has built a career by going left when people expected him to go right. Educated in public schools in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., he graduated from the University of Miami before heading to Drake University and frigid Des Moines winters. By 23, he had earned his master's and law degrees and went to work at one of the largest law firms in Florida as a labor and employment lawyer. After two years, he was recruited by Blockbuster Entertainment founder Wayne Huizenga to work as a corporate counsel and then as a vice president for human resources. He later worked for Viacom, Paramount and a U.K.-based food services company in human resources administration. A year ago, he received a call from the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, which already listed him as a board member.

Since April, he has headed the nonprofit organization, which secures scholarships for students attending the nation's 47 public historically black colleges and universities and six law schools. He spends three days a week in the agency's Washington office and two in New York City, then weekends in Charlotte with his fiancé, Francine Quitugua, and 5-month-old daughter, Taylor Dee.

Why he's successful: "Part of it that I feel so strongly about is that I had an amazing [kindergarten] through 12 experience. It prepared me with my reading, writing and arithmetic, but I was also convinced that I could be anything I wanted to be. We underestimate what that means. You take a young man and tell him for the first eight or nine years of his life that he can't [achieve] and [he] will believe it. My K-12 experience gave me the confidence to believe that I could do anything I wanted to do. ... Also, I have a dogged determination for what I want to do. I was valedictorian of my high school class. I went through the University of Miami in three years and got a bachelor's degree. I completed a bachelor's, masters and JD by the time I was 23 years old."

Biggest obstacle: "In my career, it was my youth. ... I don't need glasses, but I bought some and grew facial hair so that I would look older. I had several experiences where I was told that I was too young. I would walk into an office and I could see them thinking, 'He's ... too inexperienced.' Life is funny -- you are either too young or too old. People who crest between 45 and 55 are considered normal, but those who are successful early are considered too young."

First job: Taylor's father, Johnny Sr., is a real estate contractor and his mother, Dee, is a nurse. His first job was selling subscriptions to the Miami Herald. "I started when I was 13 and sold them until I went off to college. I made a lot of money and that contributed to my love of journalism."

Best job: "Working at Blockbuster Entertainment. We were growing something. It was a Wall Street darling at the time. It had a great brand and the work was so interesting. All of us were really young, so here I was, at 27 a vice president. . . . My youth didn't work against me. It was valued. I was able to do work that I never would have been able to do in an older organization."

Smartest move: Going from the law firm to Blockbuster. "People said, 'You're leaving to go peddle videos?' I took a pay cut. I was only two years into my career and I can tell you that not a lot of 24- or 25-year-olds would take a pay cut that early in their career, but it was a good move."

Biggest misstep: "I took a role in a company that did not value the function that I was going to do. They paid me very well and treated me very well, but they didn't value the work I did. ... Every day, it was like someone was questioning your value to the organization. ... If I had it to do again, I would not."

His legacy: Helping students at historically black colleges and universities to reach their full potential. "I spent the first part of my career in corporate America learning the tricks of the trade. Then I brought them back to my community, to the African American community, to transfer that knowledge to the next generation so that they will not make the same mistakes I made and they will be able to understand the rules of the game. ... At the end, I want people to say, 'He took 20 years of top corporate experience and said to the youth, "Let this work for you.'"

What lies ahead: Taylor would like to open a public or private charter school organization. "Life is so interesting and full of opportunities. I never thought that I would have gone to work for a food service company based in the United Kingdom. ... I never thought I would be the president of a nonprofit. It was not on my radar. What I do know is that the next move will be something that allows me to reach the next generation while I am still a contemporary to them. At some point, you are outside the window and you are like their granddad, not their buddy."

By

Avis Thomas-Lester

 |  December 22, 2010; 12:00 AM ET  |  Category:  success stories Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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Comments

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To GOD be the glory!You are the type of young man we need to help build up and tear down the image that the young black man and boys have lost the vision for our youth. I am looking into starting a Charter School also! If you would get intouch I know we can be of help to each other. I am sixty five working on my DOCTORAL DEGREE and would love to meet someone who cares and takes action. I work with youth in and out of the school system. So please contact me please.

Posted by: preach1 | December 23, 2010 9:43 PM
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I met Mr. Taylor at several events when we worked for the same organization and he definitely made an impression on me. I recall thinking how young he was for such a big position and how sharp. I am appalled at some of the comments posted here. We should praise success and the hard work that gets us there. Bravo, Mr. Taylor.

Posted by: ajm3 | December 23, 2010 7:33 PM
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I'm curious about the chronology. He says he graduated from college in 3 years. Ok. In view of the Post's track record with Janet Cook (can't really cite Jason Blair here, because he only plagiarized from the Post while working at the NY Times) I would think the author of the piece would want to be really careful to nail down the chronology. To Xango, who wrote "A working class boy got a few breaks and makes good" where in the article does it say anything about him being working class. He's from Fort Lauderdale, on the banks of the money river. I need more information. The story is suspect until proven otherwise.

Posted by: GeneWeingartenBlowsDeadBears | December 23, 2010 6:03 PM
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Wait till he hits 50 and he won't be upset about the too young part. Then age discrimination kicks in and now he's too old.

Posted by: rlsrd | December 23, 2010 2:35 PM
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What an impressive young man! I hope that he can inspire many others to follow his lead.

Posted by: PepperDr | December 23, 2010 1:16 PM
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Congratulations, Mr. Taylor! Job well done. He is very accomplished and giving back. Wonderful!

Posted by: lilahkelly | December 23, 2010 12:45 PM
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Those of you who are upset over some of the negative comments, just ignore them. Those kind of people will always be with us, as they will always tend to look at the negatives. Mr Taylor, if you are reading these posts, please continue with your plans as they are sorely needed throughout our communities. Well done so far...

Posted by: jdhenry2 | December 23, 2010 11:28 AM
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Funny how all the haters were drawn to the title of the article "What it Takes" with a picture of a black man!!

Posted by: OHREALLYNOW | December 23, 2010 11:15 AM
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I am proud of this young man and his achievements. He is a positive example to the African American community and to all young people in the world. In his personal life that he has allowed to be shared with the world, I am proud of him in this aspect also. Keep up the good work, and if all young people in the world would trying to be as positive as this young man, maybe there would be no room for violence,wars,hunger or poverty throughout the world.

Posted by: donj230 | December 23, 2010 10:15 AM
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Great example: Has a child out of wedlock.
That is the kind of role model no one needs.
He may know law but he doesn't understand contraception.
Posted by: navycigar
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So a better example is a former nominee for Vice President and Presidential candid who fathered a child outside his marriage, while his wife battled cancer, then publically denied being the childs father. I'm sure Mr. Taylor never denied being the father of his daughter.
Its great that hypocrites and the high and pompous overlook the success and achievements of a human being and point out what they deem inappropriate.
Those who sit at the seat of judgement without sin cast the first stone....


So this truth has been reported as an offensive comment! Wow, the double standard plays out......overlook the log in your eye to point out the speck in someone else's....

Posted by: vitamine66 | December 23, 2010 10:06 AM
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Great example: Has a child out of wedlock.
That is the kind of role model no one needs.
He may know law but he doesn't understand contraception.
Posted by: navycigar

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So a better example is a former nominee for Vice President and Presidential candid who fathered a child outside his marriage, while his wife battled cancer, then publically denied being the childs father. I'm sure Mr. Taylor never denied being the father of his daughter.

Its great that hypocrites and the high and pompous overlook the success and achievements of a human being and point out what they deem inappropriate.

Those who sit at the seat of judgement without sin cast the first stone....

Posted by: vitamine66 | December 23, 2010 9:40 AM
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As a Christian, I must admit that I did have a problem with the "fiance...5 month old daughter..." thing but the man is working to make a positive difference in the community and he should be applauded for that. No one is perfect except Jesus, but we can all make a difference in our own way. You can choose to make a positive difference, negative difference, or no difference, it's up to you.

Posted by: nsu1203 | December 23, 2010 9:19 AM
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another obama wanna be...
Posted by: DwightCollins
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So someone who is self-motivated, driven, determined and most of all intelligent is a "wanna be obama", seem to me that he is Johnny Taylor Jr. no more no less. Seems that you'd rather hate than applaud, that crab in a barrel always shows himself.

Posted by: vitamine66 | December 23, 2010 9:15 AM
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I'm pretty sure this article was about something good in the black community. And all you can do is post negative comments. But, as we all know, when you're black you have to be perfect just to be even. This is my take, many of you are complete cowards which is why you chose to spew your hatred on an anonymous blog. I'm willing to bet you wouldn't say this to Johnny's face. In effect, what you are doing is the modern day version of wearing a white sheet with holes in it. That's another reason I love our President, he really gets under you bigots' skin. Though you guys are hating, Mr. Taylor will continue doing well in his community. No go suck on that! Well done Johnny Taylor!!!

Posted by: jmcin696 | December 23, 2010 8:32 AM
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There sure are a lot of racist haters posting on this site. I wonder why?

Posted by: pAULA_cOPELAND | December 23, 2010 8:28 AM
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Why not teach those black students to stop whining about racism. The blacks are the racists in this country.

Posted by: rollmonte | December 23, 2010 7:44 AM
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A working class boy got a few breaks and makes good. Why the hate from some of the commentators?

Posted by: xango | December 23, 2010 7:43 AM
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another obama wanna be...

Posted by: DwightCollins | December 23, 2010 7:08 AM
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At one point I do hope he secures a degree from one of the HBCU's.

Posted by: PowerandPride | December 23, 2010 6:53 AM
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Who pays his travel expenses? Every week DC to NYC to NC c'mon give me a break. The little Thurgood Marshall Fund most have enormous administrative costs, unless everyone is volunteering except the big guy profiled here. I just hope the Thurgood Marshall Fund does not morph into the UNCF where a mind may be a terrible thing to waste but not a dollar.

Posted by: Concerned3 | December 23, 2010 2:17 AM
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He was making some sense until he went into the non-existent "African American" community. Anyone can be a role model, it all depends on what kind of role one is modeling.

Posted by: lltroy | December 23, 2010 1:31 AM
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Great example: Has a child out of wedlock.

That is the kind of role model no one needs.

He may know law but he doesn't understand contraception.

Posted by: navycigar | December 23, 2010 1:21 AM
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