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  • Writer's pictureWilliam Leroy Kennedy

Thanks for Listening: An Unknown Gift

William Leroy Kennedy

Looking back at my life and trying to choose gifts that truly made positive differences has not been easy; here is one that I did not know existed until sixteen years after it occurred:

Willie Gross, an older white man at the NASA Mississippi Test facility in Bay St. Louis, MS, came to work every day but never seemed to do anything but read stock reports. Finally, I got the nerve to ask him about his job. He replied that he had throat cancer, and The Boeing Company sent him South to live out his life. We became fast friends, and I would visit his home, where we'd drink beer and talk trash.

When NASA approved my suggestion, it cut the need for overtime. The company quickly transferred me to Seattle because of threats I was unaware of. Willie gave me the name of a Boeing manager to contact in Seattle.

Willie referred me to Lee Gaylor, a 30-year-old Electrical Engineer from Southern University. He invited my wife and I to his home on Mercer Island. He and his wife taught us how to play Bridge. I was in a 727 Aircraft structural design class that suddenly got canceled. Everyone in the class except me, received a layoff notice, including the instructor who had been with the company for 27 years. This was the start of a 45 thousand-employee layoff.

They put me in a 747 Orientation class, two weeks of learning everything you could ever want to know about the 747 aircraft. Other aerospace companies sent recruiters to interview exiting Boeing employees. Lockheed of Pasadena, CA, offered me a job, but when I asked to be laid off at Boeing, I was turned down. I did not want to get laid off. So, when every job at Boeing was taken by those laid off before me, I answered a newspaper ad for a position in a desired career path for which I was not qualified.

The guy at Snelling & Snelling Employment Services sent me to an interview with a Japanese Engineering company; it did not go well! That night, the employment agency guy called me excitedly, saying, "They want to see you!" I responded, "The interview did not go well; who wants to see me?" He said, "The company I ran the ad for wants to see you!" Upon being interviewed by KPFF Consulting Engineers, I was asked to wait for a job until I heard from them. Upon receipt of their job offer, I asked to be laid off a second time, and it was approved.

Sixteen years later, I gave Lee Gaylor, the Boeing Manager, a call. He said, "I never could figure out why you wanted to be laid off?" I asked, "How did you know I wanted to be laid off?" He said, "Willie Gross had me looking out for you!" I asked, "Why didn't you tell me?" He said, "I thought that Willie told you!" I said, "He did not, and there was no way that I could believe that a 30-year-old Black man held enough power to keep me from being laid off when they were laying off half of the Boeing workforce!"

I believe Willie groomed Lee for his job at Boeing, then gave Lee his job and his elaborate Mercer Island home! Many other life-improving gifts have come my way; I keep trying to become the best person I can be!

Thanks for listening!


William Leroy Kennedy

Former Financial Services Professional at Kennedy Group, Ltd. – Financial/Motivation

Studied ‎‏‎Architectural Engineering‎‏‎ at Prairie View A&M University “Giving a strong recommendation: Khan Academy for educational success.


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