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Thomas Moorehead, First Black Rolls Royce Dealer, Rolls into the World of Ultra-Luxury

Thomas A. Moorehead
By Eric Easter, Urban News Service

The world’s first African-American Rolls Royce car dealer got there through hard work and perseverance, but only after disappointing his family. Thomas Moorehead’s parents thought the key to respectability was a Ph.D. Both teachers, they lived by an old-school axiom that the one thing you never can take away from a man is an education. Yet, with just a few credits and a dissertation to go, Moorehead abandoned his doctoral program, and his parent’s wishes, for an uncertain shot at learning the automobile business from the bottom up.

It was a leap of faith, an offer from a fraternity brother and mentor, James Bradley of Bradley Automotive Group, who promised to make Moorehead a millionaire in five years — if he took the risk. But it wasn’t the promise that attracted Moorehead: “Teaching was a guarantee of a long career, but I always had a passion for business,” he says.

His road to success required two years of apprenticeship with Bradley, the mortgaging of his home and the depletion of his savings to enter a training program, then eventually owning his first dealership, selling Buicks in Omaha, Neb. Moorehead built a strong reputation as someone dedicated to customer service, an essential value of the Rolls Royce brand. That reputation, and his sales record as owner of Sterling BMW in Virginia, sparked an invitation from Rolls Royce Motor Cars to join the exclusive club of only 33 dealers and 130 dealerships around the globe, an opportunity he accepted without hesitation. The new store, Rolls Royce Motor Cars of Sterling, is the sole Rolls Royce dealership in greater Washington, D.C. and covers much of the mid-Atlantic — from Virginia to southern Pennsylvania. It sits just across from Sterling BMW and Mini, his other successful dealership, a fact that fills him with immense pride.

“These are the best cars in the world, and I’m honored to be able to bring them to my customers,” Moorehead says as he looks across the lot.

His dealerships thrive in one of the region’s wealthiest communities, filled with prosperous government contractors, newly minted millionaires from tech start-ups and the Washington Redskins’ nearby training facility. But the opulence that Moorehead markets is a long way from his roots in Monroe, Louisiana, a town of 38,000 with a historic poverty rate twice the already poor state’s average.

During his youth, Monroe Colored High was the sole choice for black students in that segregated city. It was a time when, according to Moorehead, families like his could “offer you their good name, but not money.” That upbringing drives a sense of humility that led Moorehead to keep his own name off the dealership’s logo. “I always say the boss is the customer, not me. I don’t get caught up in having my name on the door,” he explains. “Actually, most customers who come in think I’m just another salesman, and that’s fine with me.”

In a world where demanding buyers have been known to add millions of dollars’ worth of custom details to their cars to reflect their personalities (fur-lined shoe-holders, built-in picnic baskets, crystal cufflink holders), Moorehead’s low-key manner is a studied contrast – a contrast he believes helps him sell more cars. “I can talk about the features of the cars all day but, ultimately, people are buying good service.”

At age 71, Moorehead still relies on the daily advice of mentors, who include Hall of Fame home-run great (now car dealer) Hank Aaron and former National Urban League president John Jacob. He calls them “instrumental” in shaping his business’s success. “They marked their careers by quietly getting the job done, but also being the best at what they do.”

While giving a tour of his office, Moorehead seems slightly embarrassed as he points to pictures of himself with presidents Obama and Clinton and an array of famous business leaders. That changes when he points out two items of which he’s most proud. The Laurel Wreath Award, Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity’s highest honor for lifetime achievement. And then something much less distinct: a small cardboard sign that lists more than a dozen vendors who, he says, have contributed to his achievements — architects, decorators, contractors, cleaning-service owners and even the guy who printed the sign. All are African-Americans, and fraternity brothers, people for whom he has paid forward the gift that Bradley gave him.

“This is really what it’s all about, bringing other people up and giving something back.”

Beautillion Knights Meets Actor Joseph Phillips at Oratorical Contest

 L/R: Twillea Evans-Carthen (Social Lites Beautillion Committee Member), Kevin Eastman, Joseph Phillips (Actor and member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.), Elijah Preston Little, Edna Wade (Social Lites Beautillion Chairperson), William Jernigan; Second Row: Conlan Baker and Royce T. Rodgers

L/R: Twillea Evans-Carthen (Social Lites Beautillion Committee Member), Kevin Eastman, Joseph Phillips (Actor and member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.), Elijah Preston Little, Edna Wade (Social Lites Beautillion Chairperson), William Jernigan; Second Row: Conlan Baker and Royce T. Rodgers

BEAUMONT, CA- Surprise guest judge for the 27th Oratorical Contest, Mr. Joseph Phillips, well known actor and member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity made it a point to share words of wisdom with participants on how to enhance their public speaking skills.  Following the contest, Mr. Phillips took time to exchange words of encouragement to the young men of the Beautillion.  The reality of choosing to participate in this contest has shown these young men they are all winners!

Participants of the 49th Social Lites, Inc. Beautillion program under the leadership of Mrs. Edna Wade, Beautillion Chairman took part in the 27th Oratorical Contest sponsored by Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. Mu Xi Lambda Chapter and Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated.  This event was held on Saturday, February 13, at West Valley High School in Beaumont, CA.

The 49th Beautillion Ball will be held at the National Orange Show on April 2.  For more information please contact Mrs. Edna Wade, Chairperson at 909-947-8774 or Mrs. Brenda Daniels, Co-Chairperson at 909-856-6341 or Mrs. Bettye Brewster, President at 951-204-0022.

What It Do With the LUE: Charlie Wilson Rocks San Manuel

Photo Credit: Freddie Washington

Photo Credit: Freddie Washington

What It Do With the LUE is Longevity! Energetic! Passionate! Creative! Spiritual! An all-around show stopper is just a few words to describe the man they call Uncle Charlie.

Major props for San Manuel Indian Bingo on bringing out the legendary Charlie Wilson to San Bernardino! Uncle Charlie showed UP and showed OUT! He gave us that R-n-B and Soul, mixed with funk. The house was packed with everyone on their feet vibin’ to his classic vocals, and the sounds of his amazing band will always be a special memory for me.

Born in Tulsa, Oklahoma this singer is no stranger to the Word of God. Gaining his singing roots in church, Mr. Wilson and his brothers formulated a new sound which birthed the famous group, The Gap Band. Having highs and lows and a battle with drug addiction throughout his career, Mr. Wilson beat the odds and made a comeback.

Hooking up with star powers such as rapper Snoop Dogg of Dog Pound Entertainment, reminded him of his love for the music. Snoop Dogg gave Mr. Wilson the name Uncle Charlie. Snoop re-introduced him to a younger generation as they collaborated on several hit songs. When you have 21 and 25 year olds singing your songs word for word, then you know you were destined to perform.

I had such a good time the music took me back. “Mr. first name Charlie, last name Wilson,” is truly a legend in the game. Until next week folks L’z!

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