“I sold more cars in a year than three of our salesmen put together,” Johnson told The History Makers, a collection of oral histories capturing the Black experience.
Johnson spent 15 years asking to lead a GM dealership, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. In 2008 Johnson told Automotive News that he appealed to Martin Luther King Jr., who took Johnson’s case to President John F. Kennedy for help petitioning the Detroit automakers.
He succeeded in 1967, taking over a struggling Chicago Oldsmobile dealership and becoming the first Black dealer for GM.
He turned the dealership around in a year, according to the Sun-Times, and remained there until 1971, when he took over a Chicago Cadillac dealership. He relocated the dealership to Tinley Park and built new facilities.