Julius Caesar “J. C.” Watts, Jr. is proving that there is life after Congress and charting a course Black youth can emulate. In contrast to career Black politicians who get elected to Congress and stay there decade after decade, J. C. Watts is proving to be a businessman of significant note.
One of the “most influential Blacks in America,” Watts is an All-American role model. A college football hero, charismatic conservative, and gifted public speaker, J. C. Watts has star power. The epitome of what a young Black can grow up to be. Although he fathered a child at 17, J.C. gained national fame as a successful college football quarterback for the Oklahoma Sooners. He graduated from college in 1981 with a degree in journalism. J.C. the athlete played professionally in the Canadian Football League until he retired in 1986. Watts served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1995 to 2003 as a Republican, representing Oklahoma’s 4th Congressional District.
A country boy in place of birth and nature, J.C. was born in eastern Oklahoma in Eufaula in McIntosh County. Hie father is J. C. “Buddy” Watts, Sr., a Baptist minister, cattle trader and the city’s first Black police officer. Buddy Watts was also a member of the City Council. As an adult, J.C. junior opened a highway construction company and later cited discontent with government regulation of his business as reason to become a candidate for public office. J.C. is well foundered in Republican disposition and way of life. Watts’ family has long-time affiliation with the Democratic Party and his father and uncle Wade Watts were active in the party and continued to strongly oppose the Republican Party, but supported J.C.‘s election to the Oklahoma Corporation Commission in November 1990 for a six-year term. He served as a member of the Commission from 1990 to 1995 and as chairman from 1993 to 1995. J.C. ran for Congress in 1994 and was re-elected to three additional terms. He was elected chairman of the Republican Conference in 1998.
Nowadays, Watts boasts being “the largest African-American owned lobbying company in Washington, D.C.” Watts is not unlike Black Members of Congress before him – they lobby. He founded the J.C. Watts Companies lobbying and consulting firm after he departed Congress. The John Deere Company hired Watts as lobbyist in 2006 and Watts later invested in a Deere dealership. Watts was asked to find Blacks to become John Deere dealers after a lawsuit showed that not one among 1,400 Deere’s dealers were Black. In the process, J.C. Watts Cos. acquired Mustang Equipment, an independent John Deere dealer with stores in San Antonio and Marble Falls, Texas. J. C. Watts Companies is a National Minority Supplier Development Council certified Minority Business Enterprise.
Watts Partners boasts it as “a leader in the corporate and government affairs industry.” Their consulting practice operates at the nexus of business, government, and grassroots advocacy. As chairman J.C. provides strategic focus and program leadership that has built a diverse business organization that includes Deere dealerships; CLS Group, a project management firm with construction and engineering operations; Oak Crest Capital, a private equity firm; and a public affairs consulting company. Mr. Watts’ firm’s work with John Deere has includes a multimillion dollar project in the west African country of Senegal. A full-fledged capitalist, Watts advises or serves as a corporate director for companies that include John Deere, Wells Fargo, NASCAR, Burlington Northern Santa Fe, Clear Channel Communications, Dillard’s Department Stores, and Terex Corporation.
J.C. proves to Blacks that they can succeed in business. His book is: What Color is a Conservative? J.C.’s family is a great influence on him. His uncle, Wade was active in the Democratic Party and headed Oklahoma’s branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) for 16 years. In regards to Black Americans’ voting and loyalty to the Democratic Party, J.C.Watts says: “They hasn’t rewarded their loyalty or earned their support.” He says: “Black voters have made their political home in a party with which they may have common cause on racial issues, but not necessarily common values.”
[Editor’s note: This op-ed was written by William Reed who is publisher of “Who’s Who in Black Corporate America.”]