To have a higher calling is when something reaches out and absorbs you. It creates a spark of light that can’t be extinguished, and it becomes an obsession you can’t shake.
For Ryan Johnson, a former Detroit native, the first thing that grabbed his attention as a child was the Cadillac marque—of which he has owned over a dozen. His second calling came when he saw the injustices of the legal system.
As a member of the Majestics Car Club, one could view his life as picturesque and perfect, but the dream came with a price and it’s safe to say he’s paid his dues. Now set aside his perfectly executed 1960 Impala and his current Cadillac sedan that is going through a full frame-off restoration and his story beings with an infatuation with cars.
For Ryan, lowriders mimic the journey of life. It’s about working with what you have to patiently build what you envision but once it’s complete, it’s all about staying low and cruising slow. “Owning a lowrider is about family,” Ryan says. “You have to work hard to complete a car and the memories created with my brothers over the past 20 to 30 years is very rewarding,” he adds.
Born and raised on the west side of Detroit, his parents moved he and his two sisters to the suburbs of Detroit. They wanted a better life for their children and wanted them to be immersed in a safe and creative environment in which they could flourish and succeed. Though he had formerly been caught up with the wrong crowd, and he may not have graduated at the time, his mother’s relentless pursuit to help him ultimately landed him a high school diploma.
Shortly thereafter, he had twin boys, and whereas most would have opted to work and leave behind the hopes and dreams of achieving more, Ryan was determined to power through and use whatever spare time he had to continue his education. After landing an associate’s degree, it was then he noticed that a good attorney could get someone out on their own recognizance while others for the same crime would get six months. It was an epiphany that struck the then 30-year-old to make a bold and decisive change, so he set out to become a lawyer.
Through dedication, discipline, and determination, he put his head down and hit the books as hard as he used to hit the corner block and his mother served as inspiration for his actions. You see, his mom was 40 years old when she went back to school so he used her story as the inspiration to get going and today Ryan Johnson has integrated his combined experience in IT and law to become not only a powerful minority but the quintessential example of the American Dream.
Today, he’s a practicing attorney, professor, and lowrider advocate who is proud to be among the 5 percent of black lawyers in America. His message as a Roll Model is one that resonates the principles of dedication and drive, and he’s a firm believer and prime example that it’s never too late to become who you were destined to be. So please tune in to Roll Models to catch the full episode because Ryan’s story is proof that you are never too old to dream and live out your passions. All you have to do is make your mind up, set it on target, and put in the necessary work to make it happen!