Imagine The Shock Of Leaving a Bucolic Intellectually-Stimulating School Setting…
And Arriving Home In The Middle Of the Los Angeles Riots/Revolution
That’s exactly what happened to me. It began in the spring of 1965 when Mr. John J. Hunt, the Principal at Samuel Gompers Junior High School in Los Angeles summoned me to his office. I hadn’t done anything wrong; certainly nothing that warranted a summons. When I arrived at his office, he asked whether or not I would like to participate in a summer program for “gifted” students at an exclusive private high school—Thacher School.
This opportunity dramatically changed my life’s path and prospects. It became the motivation for the work I do today. The impact of the opportunities I was given translated into a life’s work specializing in accountancy for non-profits. Through that vehicle, I’ve been able to contribute to the betterment of many lives.
Being a “Child Of The 60’s” Shaped My Life Philosophy And Work Values
I’m Committed To Very Real Social And Civil Rights Issues
My God-fearing parents made sure we children knew right from wrong. In those days, there was no child abuse. It was called child rearing. To spare the rod would spoil the child. We were expected to “toe the line”.
As I moved into puberty, social turmoil moved into our neighborhoods. I recall at age 11, watching the March on Washington and Dr. King’s “I have a Dream” speech. I recall the bombing of the church in Birmingham that killed 4 little black girls. I recall the murder of Medgar Evers. I recall the March from Selma, Alabama to Montgomery, Alabama when Sheriff “Bull” Connors fire-hosed and sicced the dogs on the marchers.
The unrest was confusing to me. There was such a disconnect between reality and what I learned in school. We learned that democracy provided each citizen a voice and a right to vote. Yet, at the time (prior to the Voting Rights Act of 1965), all US citizens did not have the legal right to vote and many were forbidden to register to vote.
Citizens of color within the United States were without privilege and political representation. When I began asking “why” questions, the answers, I was told, were grounded in our slave heritage. “This is the way they treat Negroes.”
That Short Month At Thacher Transformed My Vision Of What Was Possible
I Could Imagine A Different Future
The program was called “The Developmental Workshop”. The Thacher School was cutting edge in the summer of 1965. From June 23 through July 24, the school hosted 30 boys from inner city Oxnard, Santa Barbara and Los Angeles for developmental enhancement in grammar, composition, reading and mathematics.
The Developmental Workshop had very socially progressive aims:
- “To provide a real ‘boost’ for intelligent and eager seventh and eighth grade boys who have been culturally and socially deprived of an equal chance to acquire the fundamental skills of an early education.”
- “To bring together volunteer Thacher students and motivated seventh and eighth graders in small, intimate classes which will concentrate on the fundamentals of grammar, composition and mathematics.”
- “To balance intensive classroom work with the relaxing, home-like atmosphere of a boarding school. The dining room, dormitory, swimming pool, games and the outdoors all offer infinite opportunities for these older and younger boys to learn to know each other and understand what the other has to offer.”
- “Each boy accepted by the program will be given a full scholarship (including tuition, board and room) for the month-long session.”
You May Wonder Why This 50-Year-Old Story Is Relevant
Because It Shows How Lives Can Be Changed
Serious study was interspersed with hours at the swimming pool, riding horses, hiking or playing softball. I had such a great time at Thacher that I expressed a strong interest in attending regular school there. Mr. Burhoe, the program director, informed my parents and we began discussing the possibilities and requirements to attend Thacher in the fall of 1966.
We students and student-teachers had discussions of ideas and subject matter. Each student was encouraged to provide input and feedback. The same guy who was your teacher in the classroom was your competitor on the athletic field or your swimming instructor and lived next door or down the hall in the dormitory. The fresh air of Ojai Valley was drastically different from the smog alerts of Los Angeles. We could see the mountains all around Thacher—a big difference from the smog-shrouded L.A. mountains.
And Then I Returned To The Riots In LA
A 12-Year Old Boy Running Home Through the Fires, Hurled Objects, Sirens and Stopped Traffic
- It was a life-changing moment to experience that contrast. Shortly after arriving home, all L.A. schoolchildren went by train to the San Diego Zoo. Boys from my school and neighborhood were infuriated by the police brutality and were planning riots, robbery and mayhem. They were going to steal this and burn that.
- At that point, the principal of my school called me and the other student leaders into his office. He asked for our help in keeping the campus calm and orderly. As President of the Boys League, I had a prominent leadership position. There was a lot of tension and mistrust between the community and law enforcement. Civil unrest and social upheaval roiled our community.
- In spring 1966, my application as a regular student at Thacher school was accepted for admission that fall. I spent 10th, 11th and 12th grades at Thacher.
Thacher School Led Me To Stanford
An Opportunity That Showed Me The Difference Between Private And Public Institutions
When I applied for colleges, I was accepted at Stanford. There, I came to see that it’s the private entities that help out the disadvantaged and give them a hand up. Public policy drives the public sector, but it’s private pushes that make real change happen.
Helping others is part of the private culture. In my political science classes, we looked at urban growth. I learned how all the mass migrations, including African Americans out of the south, were helped by private entities. This had a powerful influence on my future career. Because of the political climate, sports and mathematics had lost its relevance to me. With all the unrest and turmoil, becoming a change agent became much more important to me.
All This Led Me Back To My Love Of Numbers
I Saw Accounting As A Tool To Empower Non-Profits
At some point, I rediscovered numbers in a public accounting class. I got back from the army and took an accounting class. Numbers thrill me. They don’t lie and they are powerful. I decided to study accounting and accepted an accounting job offer. In January 1980, I started my accounting career with Ernst & Whinney in San Francisco. At that time they were one of the so-called “Big Eight”.
I took my accounting classes at California State University, Hayward. Then, I got my MBA with a Finance concentration from Cleveland State.
Next Was The Typical Accountant Struggle To Get Certified As A CPA
Non-Accountants Don’t Realize How Grueling It Is
Getting certified as a CPA requires passing one of the most difficult professional exams there is. At that time, it was a 20-hour test that took 3 days of a single week, and was only offered 2 times a year. Altogether, to become certified requires completing the education, passing the test, then 2 years working under a CPA.
Over the decades I’ve become proficient in public accounting. My background in Political Science and Finance makes it a natural fit. Industry exposure includes municipalities, counties, hospitals, transit authorities, private companies and other public entities such as non-profit organizations. In the public environment, strict protocols must be in place to secure those contracts.
My Accounting Proficiency Intersected Perfectly With Politics Of The Day
One Positive Result Of The Riots Was Legislation To Rebuild Inner Cities and Provide Low-Income Housing
The Tax Reform Act of 1986 occurred around the time I started my own business. The business opportunity to build our practice lay in the fact that the Act included tax credits for inner city investors. What’s significant about tax credits is that they are dollar for dollar tax deductions. Businesses find tax credits attractive as a means to offset tax gains.
Tax credits became and remain an effective magnet for funds to rebuild the inner cities and provide low income housing.
Our Understanding Of The Tax Credit Mechanism Is Second To None
We Used Tax Credit Proficiency To Build Our Accounting Practice And Ensure That The Underserved Get Services
We chose to become experts in getting tax credit dollars into our communities. We use tax credits as “bait” for investment. Credits make it very appealing to potential investors in the inner city. They remain appealing even after all these years.
Any Way You Figure It, We’ve Served The Underserved Since 1976!
Mr. White organized the firm in 1976. I entered the profession in 1980 and acquired the practice in 2003. My firm became James P. Richardson CPA, Inc. It’s the successor firm of entities that have operated from 1976 to today in Contra Costa County, California.
Specialties Of The Firm:-
We specialize in the following:
- Non-profit organizations (specialized accounting)
- Low income housing tax credit
- HUD public housing audits
- Public audits: municipalities, housing authorities, counties, school districts, public libraries, transit authorities, solid waste management, hospitals (all specialized accounting)
- Specialized expertise in assisting a business to be self-sustaining whether it is a non-profit, for-profit or family business