FORT SILL, Oklahoma (March 5, 2020) -- Ervin Randle shared his rags-to-riches story at the Fort Sill observance of African American/Black History Month Feb. 27.Today the former pro football player for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Kansas City Chiefs and his wife Bridget own Classic Lawton Chevrolet. In fact, he began by introducing his team at the dealership.But his beginnings were extremely humble."A man's history can often define his mettle. I was raised by a single mother in the middle of three boys. We lived in a three-room shack on a sharecropper's farm. There was no indoor plumbing, no central heat, no AC."In the ninth grade I was introduced to organized football for the first time. By God's grace, I received a scholarship to Baylor University and went on to play eight years in the NFL. I got to that point with hard work and dedication."After my football career had ended, I was introduced to the car business by a friend. I started at the bottom selling one car at a time. I was able to work my way through many management positions, and I now can proudly introduce myself as the owner of Classic Lawton Chevrolet."This last pronouncement drew applause from the audience."It is a privilege to me and my family that I had the opportunity to become the first Afro-American-owned Chevrolet dealership in the state of Oklahoma. This opportunity was enhanced when I was elected to become the first Afro-American on the Oklahoma New Car Commission board."With this legislative arm I go to work each day with the goal of improving the business world, to create a more level playing field for all professionals, black and white, as well as reminding young entrepreneurs that hard work and integrity will always be the cornerstone of your career."I firmly believe that if not for my history, which hardened my determination, I would not be standing before you today. This history between General Motors and a proud military is rich and enduring. In the Fifties GM Defense was formed to help improve the foundation and partnership with this incredible military."Vehicles like the Colorado ZH2, a truck powered by fuel cells, and the Silverado ZH2, a modified truck, were made to produce lower amounts of noise, odor, and thermal signs. GM and our military have come a long way."In my experience, business and our military are two special bodies for a lot of reasons. Other than on a wet football field, where else can you find yourself tired, cold as hell, hot as hell, and grumpy, next to a guy you don't know, don't care for at first, but in time, due to trials and tests, ups and downs, experiences, the pain, the love, the laughs, the crying -- through all that you start to realize you do like this guy or girl. This person -- this stranger -- starts to become a brother or a sister to you. You learn to build on each other's strengths, and you build bonds that last a lifetime," Randle said.The speaker said he's worked with people in the car business that he didn't get along with or understand at first but he's learned to love over time."It's that repetition that will be needed time and time again to truly secure our future," he predicted.
Hosting the Equal Opportunity luncheon was the 75th Field Artillery Brigade. Brigade Command Sgt. Maj. John C. Black introduced the speaker as one who "through sheer talent, perseverance, and dedication has achieved success at the highest levels as both an athlete and a businessman in our community."Afterward Black presented Randle with a plaque."It's important that as we acknowledge the contributions of African Americans, we see this history not only through the filter of an African American history celebration but as an integral part of our American history," Black said. "A large part of American history has been shaped by our military. From Bunker Hill to the Civil War to current operations around the globe, African American service men and women have left their mark on history and our society."In conjunction with this year's African American/Black History Month theme, "Honoring the Past, Securing the Future," a short video highlighting the many contributions African Americans have made throughout the nation's history. As of September 2018 there were more than 136,000 African Americans currently serving in the U.S. Army. Today they make up about 19 percent of the Army and serve at every level of military leadership, Black noted.1st Lt. Kevin Blash of 3rd Battalion, 13th Field Artillery, emceed the event. Capt. Reshard Horne sang the national anthem, and Chaplain (Capt.) Rick Melvin delivered the invocation. Buffalo Soldiers of the 9th and 10th (Horse) Cavalry Association posted the colors.