Sonja Scott née Johnson describes her future love at first sight. “He had this August brown skin and dark curly hair. I thought: he’s kinda cute.” She observed that he “played wild and always colored outside the lines.” While many first graders color that way, there seemed to be a method to his manner that would carry him to adulthood. By third grade, Roger noticed Little Miss Johnson. Making his awareness known, he kissed her at the school water fountain. “He’s been present in my life since age 7.”
“Sonja is my elementary school sweetheart. She hit the jackpot in the third grade and didn’t even realize it!” says Roger Scott Sr., an entrepreneur and proprietor of Scott & Sons Trucking Company. Sonja and Roger dated sporadically from junior high through high school, but Roger knew she was the one. So did the man who raised him. “My grandfather said, ‘One day I want her to be your wife.’ ”
One Thanksgiving, years after the advice, he asked Mr. Johnson for his daughter’s hand in marriage in front of her family and his.
Knowing Roger for years was one thing—her parents already liked him, but the Johnsons wanted their daughter to be sure. “My dad was ultra-protective.” Sonja’s father, who passed on this year, instilled lessons of money-saving and real life financial responsibility into his future son-in-law. That achieved, they married November 28, 1992.
Avid adventurers, the couple traveled the Caribbean and lived a little before having children. Roger notes, “Family members told me to go ahead and get [couple time] out now, because when you have children, your lifestyle will change.” Roger Scott Jr., Darius and Isaiah represent that welcomed change. “My Three Sons!” Roger exclaims, calling back the 1960s television show.
Described by young ladies as a perfect gentleman, Roger Jr. (19) had open-heart surgery at 7 months old. “He wasn’t expected to live,” his mother says. “He’s now 6’2”, played high school football and he’s a kind and gentle young man.” Darius (14), a freshman in high school, is an athlete, honors student and drummer. “He’s a combination of both of us. But like his dad, he has an energetic, passionate spirit.” Isaiah, the youngest son, is an I-have-to-be-myself kind of kid who loves museums. “He’s all artsy. A great writer, kind of quiet but always up to something creative. I expect him open his own furniture store or design furniture. My dad was a great carpenter,” Sonja relates with pride. “I think he gets the design gene from him.”
Sonja graduated from the University of Georgia with a degree in public relations and a master’s in education. “You can have all the degrees, the public status and memberships to various clubs and organizations,” but she believes nothing trumps her faith walk with God and her family. Mrs. Scott goes on: “I want to be as good a mother as my mom was to me and my brother. You could feel my mother’s expectation, but she always gave us the tools to master the task. She never expected something without providing assistance we required.” As a mother, “The challenge for me was that I learn each child, embrace their individuality and help them to soar. For each son, it was discovering that treasure in them.”
“As a father, I want to make sure that my boys have the best and that I am doing my best,” says Mr. Scott. He started his trucking company in 2004. Owning 26 trucks and managing over 100 subcontracts on the local, state and federal level, Roger quit his job selling tires to pursue his dreams. Partners in life and in business, Sonja quit hers to support his dreams. “She’s always believed in me and helped me to fly.”
Roger has had an entrepreneurial spirit for as long as he can remember. Validating a natural talent in Roger, “My vice principal, Coach [Marion] Dingle [full disclosure: this writer’s father] started me in that world.” As an athlete in high school, the basketball players were given candy to sell and Roger was the only one who sold out quickly. “So everybody gave me their candy and I sold theirs too. Coach Dingle said, ‘Son you will make a good salesman.’ ”
He didn’t stop there. “When the Chicago Bulls were hot, Coach Dingle went to Chicago and brought back dozens of jogging suits with Michael Jordan on the back. I just went crazy selling those. I discovered I really liked selling!” This passion prompted him to open a clothing store. After that he opened a restaurant. “I was blessed. It seemed like every business I pursued turned to gold.”
A common mantra in the Coolest Black Family series—particularly among those who exercise a degree of wealth—is, “Give back to the community.” Roger and Sonja take this seriously. “Every summer we collaborate with other businesses and community organizations to throw a back-to-school rally. We feed more than 200 kids and adults.” Held in Rincon, Georgia (where they live), the family distributes school supplies, offers face painting, a gospel concert and a basketball tournament. Roger says, “We don’t give to get, however it always comes back in extraordinary ways.”
The Scotts agree on this notion and they live it. “The act of giving and God will give it back to you tenfold or more, that is my mission.” And thus, her reality. “It’s been the most exciting part of this journey,” Sonja affirms.
Busy as they are, Scott family bonding time—from the ski slopes of North Carolina to the natural parks of Puerto Rico— elevates their relationship. Love comes naturally. “But you have to like each other.” Sonja makes clear. “We enjoy each other. We travel a great deal as a family.” Indicated by the embellishment of her husband’s fleet of trucks, they are true-blue Cowboys fans. “We travel to games as a family and spend a week at a time in Dallas.” Whether it’s travel or the importance of education, church and community activity, Sonja infers, “We want to be able to pour into our children all the things we love.”
The Coolest Black Family in America is an EBONY.com original series: an ongoing look at the intricacies, layers and compelling beauty of African-American family life. Of course, The Coolest Black Family is not one family but many. In fact, we’ve found that there are as many Coolest Black Families as there are versions of cool. Also consider: family doesn’t always mean mother + father + kids. What defines family is connected hearts and supported souls. Ride with us weekly as we crisscross the country in search of kinfolk whose cool is so palpable and real, it comes second only to their love. Think your cool fam qualifies? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org (with Coolest Black Family in the subject line)!
Joicelyn Dingle travels to find the Coolest Black Family in America exclusively for EBONY.com. She splits her time between Savannah and Brooklyn. She is currently completing a documentary on the making of Honey magazine and the 1990s urban publishing era. Friend her on Facebook. Follow her on Twitter @editorialgenius.
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EBONY.com Contributing Writer