NEW YORK — The philanthropist, sports franchise executive and co-founder of Black Entertainment Television, Sheila Johnson, has a memoir scheduled for September. “Walk Through Fire” will document her rise from suburban Chicago to becoming a pioneering billionaire as a Black woman, and how she endured her troubled marriage to fellow BET founder Robert L. Johnson.
“After so many years, I’m thrilled to finally tell my story,” Johnson said in a statement issued Monday by her publisher, Simon & Schuster. “I hope that by sharing my own experiences, I can help others going through the kinds of obstacles I faced in my life and career.”
In 1980, Johnson and her former husband started BET, the groundbreaking cable channel sold 20 years later to Viacom. Among numerous other achievements, she has had partial ownership of three sports teams — the NHL’s Washington Capitals, the NBA’s Washington Wizards of the National Basketball Association and the WNBA’s Washington Mystics — and is a global ambassador for the humanitarian agency CARE.
Her 33-year marriage to Robert L. Johnson ended in 2002, and their divorce helped lead to her current marriage. The judge presiding over their case, William T. Newman, turned out to be an old acquaintance who, years earlier, had appeared in a play with her. Johnson and Newman have been married since 2005.
Simon & Schuster is calling the book a “deeply personal portrait of how one woman, despite heartache and obstacles, finally found herself and her place in the world.”