Something my grandmother used to say, “it’s nice to be important, but it’s more important to be nice.”
A well-known scripture, Proverbs 31, speaks of a virtuous woman with a list of qualities that Michelle Johnson-Murphy strives to reach daily. This is her focus scripture and while the tasks may seem impossible to achieve, those who know the Director of Payroll would consider her honorable, wise, and selfless.
What many people don’t know is that Michelle has a Bachelor’s Degree, Master’s Degrees, and a Ph.D coming down the pipeline. Her passion for continuous learning came at an early age when she was raised in the church by her grandparents.
“I was raised in the church. Probably born on the front pew. My grandfather was a bishop and my grandmother was an evangelist. They were out front, loud, and doing their thing. Between them and my parents, I was not allowed to sit back and be silent.”
Outside of the office, Michelle is still heavily involved in her church. “Pastor” is her common moniker, derived from her minster status. She is best known for her acts of service to those, mainly children and seniors, within the same community she grew up.
“Kids in this community see enough negative, let them see some positive. We often hold community events for all the kids and families around the church or do food/clothing giveaways. If you ever see me away from my desk around lunch, I’m taking meals to seniors in the city. Serving is a big thing for me.”
On top of her generous acts of service, involvement in ministry, and director position with the TMX Finance® Family of Companies, Michelle holds another lesser-known, full-time position as a caregiver. Relatives and close family friends seek out Michelle because of her willing heart.
“I enjoyed being a caregiver. People were coming to me at the end stage of life to take care of them. A cousin with cancer, my grandmother with Alzheimer’s, grandfather after a massive stroke, and the list goes on and on; I was honored to take on caring for my family members when they needed it most. It didn’t feel like a burden or obligation because at some point, these were the same people who helped and cared for me.”
Some of Michelle’s and her husband Herbert’s proudest moments include the birth of their two children: a 15-year-old daughter who’s aspiring to become a doctor and a 26-year-old son who obtained a bachelor’s degree in Health Science from Michelle’s alma mater and another bachelor’s in Nursing from a college in Florida. He is currently a Registered Nurse. After watching Michelle care for her grandmother with Alzheimer’s, her daughter is determined to put an end to the disease.
What does Black History mean to you?
“My parents and grandparents. I think about my grandfather who built the first house in the first black housing community in Savannah that wasn’t subsidized housing. The community was built by black people and for black people in the community. From him, I learned my first lesson: don’t be comfortable where you are, always press forward.”
How do you celebrate Black History Month?
“Serving, which is a big thing for me. Many people think of Martin Luther King, Jr. in January but forget about what the day means-it’s a day to serve. During the month and beyond, I am always looking for a way to be of service. Working in the community with my church, for example, or taking lunch to seniors.”
What message are you instilling in today’s youth that will help them along the way?
“Just like my parents taught me, if you want to grow, get outside of yourself. Find a way to serve others. Value and pursue education. Education forces you to develop and better communicate with others. You learn a lot in the classroom from teachers and other students which adds to your book knowledge and your people knowledge.”
What advice would you give to future black leaders?
“I would encourage them the same way I do my kids. Don’t just have a vision in your mind, use your senses to put it in motion. Write down your vision so it’s tangible. Use your voice to speak your vision. Even look at yourself in the mirror and see yourself as your vision. Speak about your vision and speak about it often. This will help you hold yourself accountable.
I tell my daughter, who wants to be a doctor to stand in front of the mirror and look at herself and see a doctor. Then go to school and do the work that is going to get you there.”