As a teenager in Alabama, I was active in the Civil Rights Movement. I even walked with Martin Luther King Jr. in the famous 50-mile march from Selma to Montgomery.
Despite our progress on dismantling segregation, there were no real career opportunities for a black man like me in 1960s Alabama. Knowing this, my mom put me on a bus with $15, all the money she had, and sent me out of the Jim Crow South to live with relatives in New Jersey.
I knew my life had changed when I walked into a local McDonald’s and saw other black men managing and owning a restaurant which I could not even enter back home. Suddenly, I realized what real opportunity looked like; the chance to succeed regardless of the color of my skin.
This Black History Month, I want to reflect on how that opportunity became my career. I worked my way up the ladder until 1999 when McDonald’s made me the owner of my first store here in Raleigh.
After 50 years with McDonald’s, I’ve learned the value of a good attitude and hard work, but also the importance of an industry that offers people a fair chance to succeed.