Despite its mixed reputation since the 1970s and 80s, the Bronx is the birthplace of a number of long-lasting cultural and corporate institutions. The borough is well-regarded as the birthplace of Hip Hop, the home of the New York Yankees, and el condando de la salsa – the “salsa borough.” One of the Bronx’s lesser known yet equally enduring institutions, however, is a small, family-owned security firm that is the oldest Black-owned security company in the United States.
Johnson Security Bureau was founded in the Bronx in 1962 and has called the borough home for its entire sixty-year history. Wilbert Johnson was a retired New York City patrolman who founded Johnson Security with his wife Dorothy in the kitchen of their family home. Dorothy was a retired educator. Initially, Johnson Security offered security services to local businesses, politicians, and entertainers. The firm eventually expanded to provide security for government agencies, larger businesses, and major corporations. Wilbert Johnson managed the firm’s operations and Dorothy managed its finances until Wilbert’s death in 1975 when Dorothy Johnson took over both the finances and operations of the company.
Under Dorothy’s leadership, Johnson Security became the only security agency in New York State whose chief executive was a minority woman. In 1983, Wilbert and Dorothy’s son, Charles Johnson, joined the business, with Dorothy remaining at the helm. The pair were able to expand the business exponentially and, prior to her death in 2003, Dorothy Johnson was honored by institutions including the United States Small Business Administration, New York City Mayor David Dinkins, and the U.S. Department of Transportation for her leadership and advocacy for the interests of minorities and women. Charles Johnson was integral in enrolling the firm in the Small Business Administration’s 8(a) Business Development Program, among other great achievements.
When Charles Johnson passed away in 2008, his daughter Jessica Johnson assumed leadership of Johnson Security Bureau with her brother Charles Jr., despite limited experience in the family business and a business career of her own. Through will and perseverance, and while overcoming the grief of her father’s passing, Jessica quickly learned the business and picked up where her father left off. Choosing to continue the legacy her family created and with the families of the firm’s employees depending on her success, Jessica persevered.
Under Jessica’s leadership, Johnson Security Bureau has since been awarded the Black Enterprise Family Business of the Year, among Crain’s New York’s Family Businesses of the Year, among Inc. Magazine’s 5000 Fastest Growing Companies for three consecutive years and has received Citations of Merit from Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. and a Certificate of Distinction from Governor Andrew Cuomo.
Jessica Johnson has served as an advisor to the White House, the Governor of New York, and the State of New York, and is a firm advocate for the interests of minorities and women nationwide. Johnson Security Bureau remains a crucial Bronx institution with its headquarters on Walton Avenue, though in a different location than its original founding.
Johnson Security Bureau is located at 609 Walton Ave., Bronx, NY 10451. For more information, visit their website www.johnsonsecuritybureau.com or call them at (718) 402-3600.