“Now when I look back, it’s funny when you see a group of five or six kids and there’s that one black kid, that was me,” he said.
But he said his mother reminded him constantly that with that privilege of resources and access came a responsibility. She reminded him often that he could not just be average, he had to be better. “There were certain times that I could see the difference. I would go to a party and be the only black kid and you could see how the parents looked.”
After high school, he went from a majority white environment to attending the historically black Lincoln University. The culture shock was two-fold, he said. In addition to the cultural change of going from an environment of mostly white suburban youth, to mostly black student body, there was also the difference between Philly area students attending Lincoln and the influx of students from New York City. “They lived life at a different pace and had seen things that we hadn’t seen before,” King said of his NYC classmates.
He described his time at Lincoln as a good experience that he wasn’t ready for. So after two years, he left to enter the Army. “I always loved the military because a bunch of my family members had been in the military.
King actually started his military adventure while still at Lincoln, enrolling in the ROTC. But when he returned to school after basic training, it didn’t seem to be as much fun. When he happened upon a recruiter and told him of his desire to be a medic, the recruiter asked him where he wanted to go. King replied California. The recruiter told him there was a spot for him if he left the next day. Off to California he went. It was a decision that transformed his life.
“When I was growing up, everything had to be perfect. You couldn’t just go to school, you had to be on the Honor Roll. Everything had to be suited and booted all the time,” King said. “When I went to California, it was like I found a place for myself. People weren’t just their stuff. . . Everything didn’t have to be so orderly.” His time in California also gave him the opportunity to meet people from a variety of cultures and backgrounds.
While in his first Army stint, King was stationed in Alaska, where he broke his leg jumping out of an airplane and then in Kansas where he met his wife, Donna, who was also in the military. The couple has been married for 35 years and have two sons, Donald and Michael.
He initially did four and a half years in the Army. But after he got out, King said, he missed the order and went back into the military while being a husband and eventually a father of two sons. King went back to the Army for an additional eight years and then got out again. He finished in the reserves after 20 years. “When he was getting out the second time, someone told him to talk to a guy who hires guys who get out of the Army.” He went to see the guy and ended up with a sales job with Orkin Pest Control. “I’ve never sold anything. I was always an introvert.” However, his wife is one of eight in a family that’s much more outgoing so he learned to be a bit more assertive in that environment, he said. He took to his new sales career at Orkin and then moved on to selling memberships door to door for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “Then I fell into technology in the late 90s,” King said.
It was while living
in York, PA that he began to look at how technology could be used for
business. He then took a job with
Accuweather, which provides weather content for TV stations, websites,
newspapers and mobile devices. For almost 10 years, he sold Accuweather content
from coast to coast, sometimes doing business in Richmond. “I would come to Richmond and talk to people
about how weather impacted their businesses. Usually, he would stay in Short
Pump, rarely venturing into downtown. But it was while living in the legendary town
of State College, home to Penn State, that he started to realize his purpose,
making a difference. “What I liked about
living in a college town is that they [the students] still believed the world
could be a better place,” King said.
He also started to see the difference between a place like Penn State and a place like Lincoln University, from which his son graduated. During the Jerry Sandusky scandal, Penn State alumni actually gave more money to the school while at Lincoln, the dorm his son stayed in looked no different than when he’d stayed there decades earlier. “I would get on my son and his friends and say you’ve got to make a difference.” He recalls waiting to talk to the financial aid officer at Lincoln while his son was a student. “I was trying to figure out what kind of lie I’m going to tell him,” King said, explaining that he didn’t have the money needed at that time. But after eventually talking to the financial aid officer, arrangements were made and his son was able to stay in school and finish. On graduation day, King said he thanked the financial aid officer and other school officials for going the extra mile to help him and his son.
It was at this time that he began taking stock of his career at Accuweather. He was making good money, traveling to exciting cities. “I saw something I wanted to do because I wanted to make a difference,” King said. He ended up taking a job with the Henrico Citizen newspaper, which gave him a chance to meet people in the Richmond community, including business people and non-profit organizations. King continues to make connections in his position at The CW Richmond. “I help business people help non-profits so that the world could be a better place,” King said. I sort of give a platform to people who may not have a platform. I really like it because it’s given me a platform to make a difference. Me and my wife live with the model of paying it forward. You never know whose life you’re going to impact today.”