A Special Daily Resource Shared by Kerry Ruff
Sunday, February 14th, 2021
Robert L. Johnson was born in Hickory, Mississippi on April 8, 1946 to Edna and Archie Johnson. He was the ninth child out of ten and his mother was a schoolteacher and his dad was a farmer. As a child, his family would move to Illinois and he was a honors student all through high school. In 1968, Robert graduated from the University of Illinois with a bachelor's degree in social studies. In 1972, he would receive his master's degree in public affairs from Princeton University. After graduation, he moved to Washington DC and became involved with the television industry when he served as the public affairs director for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. In this role, he was able to learn of the power and untapped potential of television. He would also work as the director of communications for the Washington DC Office of the National Urban League. Later on, Mr. Johnson would become vice president of government relations at the National Cable and Television Association (NCTA). In 1979, Robert left NCTA to create Black Entertainment Television (BET), the first cable television network aimed for African Americans. The network launched in 1980 and it only aired for two hours on Friday night. BET become a full fledged channel in 1983 and in 1991, it became the first black controlled company listed on the New York Stock Exchange. In 1998, Robert and Liberty Media brought all outstanding shares of the company and this purchase gave Robert 42% of the company. Viacom acquired BET in 2001 for a reported $3 billion with Mr. Johnson earning over $1 billion from the sale, making him the first black American billionaire. He would remain BET's CEO until 2006. As of 2013, Mr. Johnson was a member of the board of directors for KB Home, Lowe's Companies, Strayer Education, NBA Board of Governors and the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of African American History and Culture. He has also served on the board of directors for US Airways, Hilton Hotels, General Mills and the United Negro College Fund. Robert Johnson became the first African American majority club owner of a major American sports league with his 2002 purchase of the Charlotte Bobcats. In 2010, Robert sold his majority stake of the Bobcats to Michael Jordan. Today we honor the man who is an entrepreneur and a philanthropist and an investor. With his investments and companies, he has counted among the most prominent African American businesses in our current century. Today we honor the man who had a plan to create a network aimed towards African Americans and knew how to create wealth for himself. Thank you. Happy Black History Month.