A Tribute to a Community Organizer - Horton Hargrove

When a tree falls in the forest, and no one is around to hear it… does it make a sound?

I don’t know for sure, but I’m guessing it doesn’t.  It takes eardrums to convert vibration into sound.

But what I do know for sure is this; the falling of Horton Hargrove a few weeks ago definitely made a sound that reverberated throughout the EE community.

I’m sure most of you know that Horton passed away on December 9th.

Horton and Linda Hargrove were the first consultants in New York. Not only did they open the New York market, they built a strong organization and EE presence there.

Maybe a writer who has a gift for words could fully convey who Horton was and what he was like. 

But it’s hard for me.  In my humble opinion, you had to actually know Horton to understand his significance as a human being and fellow traveler through the journey of life.

One always felt good around Horton. He was upbeat. He had a positive spirit. And, he had an infectious laugh.

Even though Horton was older than I was, it always felt like we were the same age.  He had a youthful spirit… a youthful energy... and a perspective that was seasoned with wisdom and life experience.

He had a heart for black people and for black culture.  Hence his passion for Ethnic Expressions and what it represented.

He was a leader, but more importantly, he was a unifying leader.  One need only look at who resides in the White House to see the difference.

But the attribute that most impressed me is that he was an empowering leader.  There wasn’t an ounce of ego, or bossiness, or the controlling nature you see in many leaders.  Horton’s leadership captured perfectly the type of leadership described by Lao Tzu, the ancient Chinese philosopher.


Horton will be much missed because he epitomized what we are determined to do with EE 2.0. 

He was all about the community.

He was all about the Why and the Mission of Ethnic Expressions.

He and Linda are two of the kindest and most generous souls you’ll ever meet. Their common decency and community spirit permeated the New York EE community.

As a result, New York was always one of my favorite markets to visit.

I’d fly into Laguardia and one of them would scoop me up and take me to their house which was only about 5 minutes away.  We’d have business meetings there or at a nearby community center.  Sometimes we met in diners or restaurants.  Sometimes we met in hotels.  Sometimes in a library.  But wherever we met, it always felt like a home.  It always felt like family. It felt like that because that’s the culture Horton and Linda created.

Not by design, or by a mighty effort.

It’s just who they were.

The following personal anecdote captures their essence perfectly.

My youngest son, Benaiah, went to college at Cornell University in upstate New York.  One year he was trying to get home for the holidays with one of the those airline buddy passes.  He took the bus from Ithaca to New York.  But flying with a buddy pass is often like playing Russian Roulette.  Especially when bad weather is causing flights to be cancelled and the flights that are operating are completely full.

So, Benny, as we call him, ended up being stranded in New York. The idea of living in a sprawling, grimy airport for several days wasn’t an appealing one.  It's kind of like the movie Home Alone.  So, we called Linda and Horton and asked if he could stay with them.  Without a moment’s hesitation, they said, “Don’t worry. We’ll go get him and take care of him.”

And they did.

Just as significant was Benny’s reaction.  He knew the Hargroves from trips and conferences. He knew they were “salt of the earth”, good people... and he was completely comfortable and confident he was in good hands.

So, I want to take a moment to officially give tribute to a special man.

Horton Hargrove.

He will be remembered.

And, he will be missed.

If you have friends or family members who’ve made your journey on this earth better, more enjoyable and more fulfilling, think about them.  Part ways with a culture that sees friendships as low value attachments that you can toss out like a pair of old shoes.  Take a minute to reflect on how much they've meant to you and how empty your life would be without them.

And, if they’re still in the land of the living, tell them.

Tap into the spirit of Horton Hargrove and become a community organizer.

Go make a ruckus,

Brian Johnson