You’d never know it today, but John Raye Smith, the polished and successful former Washington DC television anchor, grew up dirt poor in the rural south. Picking cotton hour after hour, row after row, year after year, Smith didn’t get much of an education either.
What he did get, however, was time to think. So much time, in fact, that he says he was able to discover a deep knowledge of himself – and of his dreams. Working in the scorching heat of Louisiana from dusk until dawn, he learned that the body is the servant of the mind, and that he could actually control his future if he controlled his mind.
While his brain transcended the monotony of hard labor, his eyes saw a lot of chickens scratching in their pens. Smith decided that he wasn’t going to do that. Instead, he decided he would soar like an eagle and fly after his dreams. He got a degree in horticulture at Southern University in Baton Rouge, married the girl next door, and eventually ended up in the Pacific Northwest.
In Oregon and Washington State, Smith held a number of jobs including high school chemistry teacher and farming advisor for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Despite his lack of journalism training, he was offered a job as a television reporter in Seattle. He grew a lucrative career as a news anchor for the next 12 years, all the way to Washington DC.
When his outside activities rubbed his employers the wrong way, his news anchor contract was terminated. He was well known by now, but couldn’t get hired anywhere. After foreclosing on his million-dollar home, he realized that true freedom didn’t come from a job; freedom came from entrepreneurship. Dr. Joe Dudley gave him the chance to work for himself, and Smith sold Dudley Products for the next 30 years.
Over the years, John Raye Smith learned that selling – and service to his community – were the keys to his success and to the success of others. By then he’d started Majestic Eagles, a support organization for black entrepreneurs. He’d also started the country’s first black-owned and operated federal credit union, even though he knew nothing about that industry.
By his 65th birthday, Smith had learned that worrying about “how” to accomplish something would hold anyone back from success. The key, he knew, was in believing in yourself. This mindset was instrumental when he was diagnosed with colon cancer – and proceeded to beat it.
Today, Smith is healthy, happy, and still married to Rosie, the girl next door. He is a fount of practical information and inspirational words for anyone who wants to break from the yoke of a paycheck job.