I was raised in Atlanta, Georgia by loving and hardworking parents. We grew up poor, but we grew up happy. Things weren’t always easy, but my mom and dad knew that if they kept their faith in God, faith in themselves and their faith in the greatest country in the world, they, too, could achieve their American Dream.
That dream, we discovered, was for my parents to own their own home and watch their two sons graduate from college. Those dreams required that my father work three jobs to support our family.
The first dream was realized in a brick home on Albert Street. I can still recall the excitement of the day, as he surprised us—even my mother—when he drove us to our new home.
Their second dream was realized when I proudly accepted my degree in mathematics from Morehouse College in 1967 and my brother graduated from Morris Brown College. Both of my father’s American Dreams were achieved. Now, I set off to achieve mine.
One year after graduating, I married the love of my life, Gloria. And together, we started our journey to achieve our Dreams. This meant relocating to Indiana where I would begin my Master’s degree program at Purdue University, while working full-time as a mathematician at the Department of the Navy.
After earning my Master’s degree and six years working for the Department of the Navy, we returned home to Atlanta, where I began to climb the corporate ladder with the Coca-Cola Company. I faced challenges, but I always remembered the values my parents taught me. With enough faith and determination, I knew I could go as high in corporate America as I desired.
I enjoyed a successful career at the Coca-Cola Company and later moved to the Pillsbury Company. Within a short period, I rose to the position of Vice President. When I got there, I thought I had already achieved my American Dream on the 31st floor of the new Pillsbury Corporate Headquarters with a corner office. But I quickly realized I wanted something more.
I resigned my position and started on another path- the restaurant industry. I knew that in order to be successful, I had to start from “the ground up.” This meant broiling hamburgers at Pillsbury’s Burger King division. After nine months of a grueling restaurant experience, I was assigned to lead a low performing region of 450 Burger King restaurants. Within three years, we became the best-performing region in the U.S.
I could have been content with my executive role with one of America’s biggest corporations. Instead, after consulting with my wife, we decided to take one of the biggest risks of our marriage: picking up our young family, relocating yet again and accepting the call to become CEO and President of Godfather’s Pizza, a company teetering on the edge of bankruptcy.