• J.C. Watts Jr., former Republican congressman, minister, retired professional football player and current chairman of the Black News Network
    Photo by Misty Bradley

September 13, 2021

J.C. Watts Jr., former Republican congressman, minister, retired professional football player and current chairman of the Black News Network, will present Susquehanna University’s Alice Pope Shade Lecture Leading by Faith – From the Sidelines to the Aisles of Congress at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 29, in the Degenstein Center Theater.

J.C. Watts Jr., former Republican congressman, minister, retired professional football player and... J.C. Watts Jr., former Republican congressman, minister, retired professional football player and current chairman of the Black News NetworkThe event is free and open to the public.

Watts was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from the fourth district of Oklahoma in 1994, serving through 2002. During this time, he was elected chairman of the House Republican Conference. He also served on the House Armed Services Committee, the House Select Committee on Homeland Security, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and the House Banking Committee, and led two congressional trade missions to Africa. Watts co-authored the American Community Renewal and New Markets Act, which President Clinton signed into law in 2000, and was the author of President George W. Bush’s faith-based initiative, the Community Solutions Act of 2001. Watts also developed legislation with late U.S. Rep. John Lewis to establish the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, which opened in 2016.

Born in Eufaula, Oklahoma, Watts graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 1981, where he earned a degree in journalism. While at the University of Oklahoma, Watts quarterbacked for the Sooners, leading them to two consecutive Big Eight Championships and Orange Bowl victories. From 1981 to 1986, he started for Ottawa and Toronto in the Canadian Football League.

After returning to Oklahoma, Watts served as a youth minister at Sunnylane Baptist Church in Del City, Oklahoma, eventually becoming associate pastor. He also served as president and CEO of Feed the Children, a global hunger relief organization headquartered in Oklahoma.

Watts is chairman of J.C. Watts Companies, a multi-industry holding company headquartered in Washington, D.C., with operations in Texas and Oklahoma. Watts has built a diverse business organization that includes Mustang Equipment (John Deere dealerships in Texas), J.C. Watts Holdings and Watts Partners, a government and public affairs consulting company.

Watts is a two-time author, with his most recent book, Dig Deep: 7 Truths to Finding the Strength Within, published in 2016.

Watts is a frequent guest on national and international news shows and has been widely quoted in major newspaper articles, both in the United States and abroad. He currently serves as chairman of the Black News Channel, a network that is culturally specific to the African American community, offering up unique perspective on issues from wellness to current affairs.

Susquehanna University’s annual Shade lecture is made possible by the Alice Pope Shade Fund. Established in 1983 by her daughter and Susquehanna graduate, Rebecca Shade ’54 Mignot, the fund supports bringing nationally and internationally renowned religious scholars and leaders to campus. Prior Shade lecturers have included former Irish President Mary Robinson, retired Sen. Joe Lieberman, Liberian Nobel laureate Leymah Gbowee and television journalist David Gregory.