PPC-Leftwich CEO Marie Johns was profiled in “District Leaders,” a series in the Federal City Council’s newsletter.
“Marie always loved amusement parks, but the one near where she lived in Indianapolis as a child in the 1950s was segregated,” the newsletter said. “There was only one day a year when Black children could go. Her father refused to take her. If his daughter could not go every day, then he would never spend his money there. He drove her to Cincinnati to the closest unsegregated amusement park instead.”
“She would be among the first cohorts of Black students to integrate the North Central High School in Indianapolis,” the newsletter continued. “She was one of maybe 100 students of color in a graduating class of over 1,000 students. In her classes, she was usually the only one. She was lonely. It was hard.”
The newsletter went into more detail about her family’s background, their collective achievements, and how Marie went on to become CEO of Bell Atlantic Washington – the first woman to serve in that capacity – and later the deputy administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).
“Marie is proud of the mark she made while at Bell Atlantic and the SBA, particularly for minorities and women,” the newsletter continued. “She created a training program for at-risk youth to land telecom jobs. At SBA, she helped install new loan programs for underserved and minority-owned businesses. And she made sure to fill out the network of women’s business centers across the country that had been long neglected.”
“Each July, she joins her grandchildren and goddaughter for a trip to Hershey Park,” the newsletter concludes.” They ride every roller coaster. Marie’s had to fight battles every step of her life, and her first battle was to go to an amusement park no matter the color of her skin. She feels blessed to have been the first in so many ways, but she’s damned sure she won’t be the last. At least her grandchildren and goddaughter won’t be so lonely on their way up to pierce the glass ceiling. They have women like Marie to thank.”
You can read the full newsletter here: District Leaders Featuring Marie Johns.
The Federal City Council (FC2) consists of the Washington, DC, region’s top civic leaders who share a commitment to solving the District’s problems and crafting groundbreaking policy solutions. Marie serves on its board of directors.