…BOLD and Born to WIN!
Carter D. Womack
Paying It Forward as a Positive Role Model and Mentor

I credit my unshakable foundation to my strong and loving parents, Jessie and Matthew Womack, who worked hard to make a living. My mother was a housekeeper and I recognized her hard working, comical and loving spirit as I watched the movie “The Help”, since she also worked for a rich white doctor. My father worked the fields and ran his own farm and wood business in Alabama. I was the youngest of 10 children, born and raised in the South during the height of the Civil Rights Movement.

Discrimination was in its prime, with segregation, Jim Crow laws and white and colored drinking fountains. As a Black man, or as we were called, Negros, pronounced “Nigra” in Greenville, Alabama, you were supposed to “know your place.”  As a very young man, I remember going to the Greyhound bus station and having to enter the station on the side of the building, because Blacks weren’t allowed to enter through the front.  This was one of those moments our parents hoped we would see end during our lifetime. Even though my parents were not well educated, they helped me realize the value of education to improve my life and as a means of leveling the playing field around me. Through their teaching, one of my goals became sharing and giving back to my community and to stress the benefits of education to as many of my brothers and sisters as possible.

Fire hoses, civil rights marches, lynchings and violence surrounding the right to vote were profound motivators for me. I made a commitment to go to college and outlined a clear plan of action for myself so that I would stay focused and achieve the goals that I set.    At times, my decision was tough because I wanted to go out with my friends and party instead of study, but the thought of waking up at 4:00 a.m. to pick cotton was sobering and kept me in line above all else. I knew the hard work and sacrifices my parents made and the dedication of my family and the reinforcement from teachers that wanted to see me do well, so I knew I couldn’t mess up my chance with so many people – including myself – pulling for me to succeed. Following through with my commitment was hard work but it paid off. I got good grades in college and saw where my friends, who skipped classes and partied all night began to struggle and eventually drop out of school, all because of a lack of focus.

After my graduation from Alabama A & M, with degrees in math and chemistry, I became a life member in their alumni association and elected to the Alabama A&M Hall of Fame for outstanding community service. I was elected president of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc., twice, once as their 27th president, from 1989 through 1993 and as their 29th president, from 1995 through 1997 and was elected national president of National Pan-Hellenic Council, Inc., in 1993 and served through 1995. In addition, I was elected to serve three terms as an Akron, Ohio, city councilman and I’ve held executive positions with several Fortune 500 companies.  I was voted as one of the” 100 Most Influential Blacks in America” by Ebony magazine, and listed in Who’s Who in the Midwest and Who’s Who in Black Corporate America.

Today, I am the president and chief executive officer at Leadership At Its Best, LLC. I established this company because I’m still fulfilling a commitment I made to pay it forward as a means of thanking my parents, family, friends and role models who were instrumental in helping me to be successful in my life.  Times have changed and my motivation may differ from yours, but motivation IS motivation, and what moves you is no less real than mine. If you’re having a tough time focusing, step back, and examine your goals. Clearly define them, outline how and when you expect to complete each leg of your journey and re-dedicate yourself to your commitment. Surround yourself with others who want to be successful and identify with role models and mentors.

Self-awareness, hard work, discipline, commitment and good grades all figure in to your character. These strong values have a definite spot in the workplace and in this world today. As we have become a global society, being able to work with people and communicate with everyone and focus on getting things accomplished are what will make a difference in your career path. I urge you to identify your “cotton fields” and your “4:00 a.m. wake up call,” then re-dedicate and re-focus. You will achieve your goals, and savor your accomplishments, but the pride you will feel as you reach out to those who will look up to you, will be priceless. Then, as a proud Black man, “You will know your place.”


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Carter D. Womack provides leadership development, diversity training and mentoring to middle and high school students, universities and businesses throughout the United States through his company, Leadership At Its Best, LLC.


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