Sherman Parker was only 14-years-old when he was selected as one of two African American students to desegregate King George County schools in rural Virginia in the 1960s. Shunning a police escort, he still remembers the angry crowds that greeted him on his first day of school.
“A crowd of angry students and their parents stood on the steps leading to the school doors,” Parker recalled. “My father grabbed my hand and walked us straight toward the crowd. The walk up those stairs was an unforgettable experience. My father was holding my hand and I know God was holding his.”
Parker's experience with prejudice and discrimination and his subsequent rise to become a Fortune 100 executive is one of 12 profiles of courage and success in the book “How Did They Do That? Career Highlights, Challenges and Triumphs” by Deborah Tompkins Johnson.
“I was inspired by the stories of everyone I interviewed,” said Johnson, a government affairs manager for Dominion Power and active member of Antioch Baptist Church in Fairfax Station. “I wanted others to hear in their own words what led to the success of these 12 individuals from varied backgrounds.”
Other individuals profiled in the book include actor Blair Underwood, former T.C. Williams High School football coach Herman Boone and former Virginia governor L. Douglas Wilder.
“No question education, education, education is the great equalizer,” Johnson said at a Nov. 18 book signing at King Street Blues in Alexandria. “Almost everyone profiled in 'How Did They Do That?' mentioned the importance of a solid educational foundation for success.”
In addition to her service to Antioch Baptist Church, Johnson volunteers much of her time with civic, education and leadership organizations.
“African American male youth are lacking in role models today,” said Parker, who attended the book signing with his wife Leslie. “But Deborah's book helps give them inspiration and hope.”
For more information, visit www.howdidtheydothat.org.