1984 Horatio Alger Award Winner
"Even with goals, the difference between success and failure often comes down to courage. I had the courage to take risks."
John Brooks Fuqua's mother died when he was a baby and his father, a farmer, didn't feel he could raise him alone. His maternal grandparents, who were tobacco farmers in Virginia, adopted him. By the age of 14, he knew he wanted to be more than a farmer. While attending Prospect High School, one of his teachers told Fuqua he could borrow books by mail from Duke University. Soon, he was borrowing books on business, economics, and management. In 1972, Duke awarded its former "mail order" student an honorary degree.
As a teenager, Fuqua became interested in amateur radio after writing for a 25-cent booklet on ham radio operations. By the time he graduated from high school, Fuqua had earned his commercial radio operator's license. At 17, he got a job as a radio operator in the Merchant Marines. At 19, he landed a job as chief engineer with a radio station in Charleston, South Carolina. Not satisfied with working for others, Fuqua determined that the Augusta, Georgia, market could support a second radio station. He convinced three investors to help him in building and managing WGAC in Augusta. At 21, Fuqua was not only manager of the radio station, but also part owner. With established bank credit lines, Fuqua began buying land, building on it, and then selling it for a profit. Before age 30, he had amassed a small fortune. Using this capital and additional borrowed money, he began buying and selling other radio stations. In 1950, Fuqua expanded the scope of his broadcasting business. He obtained a license to operate a television station in Augusta. Later, he would own other television stations and he was a pioneer in cable television.
In 1957, Fuqua was elected to the Georgia legislature. He served three terms in the House and one term in the Senate before retiring from political life in 1965. That year, he gained control of Natco, a brick and tile manufacturing firm. He renamed it Fuqua Industries and turned it into a global conglomerate.
Throughout his successful career, Fuqua maintained his affection for Duke University. In 1980, he gave a $10 million endowment to Duke's business school, which was subsequently renamed the Fuqua School of Business. When asked how he would advise youth, Fuqua once said, "I learned early on that goals are essential. But even with goals, the difference between success and failure often comes down to courage. I had the courage to take a risk." Fuqua's famous "Three Cs" served him well: Capacity, Capital, and Courage.* Deceased