Johnny L. DuPree, Ph.D., is the three-term mayor of Hattiesburg, Mississippi and became the first African-American major Party nominee for governor in Mississippi’s history in 2011.
Johnny DuPree’s successes are direct results of the challenges he faced and overcame. Johnny was raised by a single mother because his father left the family when Johnny was just three years old. His mother worked two and three jobs as a domestic worker to make ends meet, and the family relied on commodities to help put food on the table. Johnny’s upbringing was humble to say the least. He grew up on a dirt road and lived in a shotgun house (his aunt and cousin lived in the shotgun house next to theirs so they called it a “double barrel”).
Johnny and his siblings did not have toys to play with so they played with dirt, rocks, and anything they could find. At eight years old, Johnny broke his sister’s glasses with one of those rocks. Because his mother could not afford to get her glasses fixed, she made Johnny look for a job at eight years old.
As would happen at several junctions in Johnny’s life, people told him what he could not do. “I remember people saying, ‘No one will hire you. You are only eight years old.’” Johnny proved them wrong. At eight years old, Johnny was hired by Ms. Lilly to sell Lilly’s Newspapers. Her motto was “Rain, shine, sleet or snow—Lilly’s Papers have got to go.”
Ms. Lilly taught Johnny a lesson by which he would abide for the rest of his life: You must fulfill your responsibilities regardless of the challenges.
Since beginning his professional resume at eight years old, Johnny has worked as a waiter, has washed cars, worked in a slaughterhouse, bagged groceries, and as an associate and manager at Sears and Roebuck. Johnny’s first daughter was born when he was only 19 and his wife, Johniece, was 17. He was determined to be a better father for his daughter than his father was for him and his siblings. Johnny and Johniece gave birth to their second daughter, Monica, two years later.
Since this time, Johnny became the second African-American real estate broker in Hattiesburg, Mississippi; was appointed to the Hattiesburg School Board; became just the second African American to serve on the Forrest County Board of Supervisors; and in 2001 he became the first African American Mayor of Hattiesburg.
In 2011, Johnny DuPree beat the odds again by becoming the first African American nominee for governor of Mississippi after leading the Democratic Primary with 45 percent of the vote and winning the Democratic Runoff election with 55 percent of the vote with an astounding 80 percent of voters returning to the polls to vote in the Runoff. This was even after his campaign was outspent by a 3 to 1 ratio by his opponent.
Even though Johnny was unsuccessful in his bid for governor in 2011, he is determined to fulfill his promise to bring people together to make Mississippi first.
Johnny and Johniece have been married for 40 years. They have two daughters—April and Monica—a son through marriage, Coustar (April), and one grandson named Chandler.