Lucas Johnson

NASHVILLE, TN — A new, recently published book inspired by Pulitzer Prize-winning Roots author Alex Haley is promoting unity and hope at a critical time in America.  

Finding the Good: Two Men – One Old, One Young – Forever Changed by the Transforming Power of Forgiveness and Love (Thomas Nelson/HarperCollins) presents a powerful story of a black man in the brutal South who rose to the rank of mayor and the young reporter whose life he touched as he learned and then taught the transforming power of forgiveness and love. 

Haley had planned to write a book about this amazing man, Fred Montgomery, his lifelong friend. But Haley, who would have been 100 on Aug. 11, died in 1992 before starting the project.

However, Lucas L. Johnson II, a former Associated Press reporter, essentially picked up the torch and wrote the book from his own perspective after developing a close friendship with Montgomery. Johnson’s title for the book is derived from probably one of Haley’s most popular phrases.

“Alex Haley would often say, ‘find the good and praise it,’” says Johnson. “I found it in a jewel, an old, wise man, tucked away in Henning, Tennessee.”

Fred Montgomery, the son of sharecroppers in west Tennessee and boyhood friend of Alex Haley, grew up in poverty but had faith and confidence instilled in him by his parents. Fred worked hard and acquired his own farm in spite of opposition from his white neighbors. After losing two of his sons in separate drowning accidents, Fred tried twice to commit suicide. But Fred’s attitude was changed when he experienced sympathy and love shown to him by his neighbors, white and black alike. In 1988 he proved that faith and love can prevail by becoming the first black mayor of the once strongly segregated Henning, uniting the town. 

Endorsers of Finding the Good say its message of unity, forgiveness, and hope is needed now more than ever. 

“Our divided nation and the world are in desperate need of healing,” says Dr. Bernice A. King, CEO, The King Center. “Hate divides us, but forgiveness makes room for reconciliation and understanding. Finding the Good is a captivating story about the extraordinary life of a man who made this discovery and the transformative domino effect that the healing power of forgiveness and love made in his life and in the lives of those he encountered.”

“As our country grapples with race relations as never before, Finding the Good destroys stereotypes, shatters excuses, and opens the door for national dialogue,” says T.D. Jakes, the prolific bestselling author, filmmaker, and nationally popular senior pastor at the Potter’s House of Dallas. “All of us have a chance to display what can happen when love leads the conversation. Enjoy the read. Imagine what is possible. And muster the courage to care!”

Other endorsers say a book like Finding the Good is of particular importance in the face of the conservative backlash to America’s reckoning with its endemic racism — even as a number of states have passed, or are proposing, legislation that seeks to limit the depth of classroom discussions about inequality and concepts such as critical race theory.

“What we need most right now is to find the common ground, find the good,” says Otis Sanford, a columnist and journalism professor at the University of Memphis. “Yes, we will always have our differences. And history has taught us that oppression and injustice are real. But we should always strive to find the good. And I think that’s the value in this book. And it’s the value in telling the story of Mr. Montgomery and what Alex Haley stood for in his life.”  

One of the highlights of Finding the Good is the foreword written by former U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, who references his speech during the second inauguration of former President Barack Obama. 

“On January 21, 2013, speaking from the East Front of the U.S. Capitol to nearly a million people watching President Barack Obama’s second inauguration, I quoted a man from Henning, Tennessee,” Alexander writes in the foreword. “The late Alex Haley, the author of Roots, lived his life by these six words: find the good and praise it. Today we praise the American tradition of transferring or reaffirming immense power as we inaugurate the President of the United States. We do this in a peaceful, orderly way. There is no mob. No coup. No insurrection. This is a moment when millions stop and watch. A moment most of us always will remember. It is a moment that is our most conspicuous and enduring symbol of the American democracy.”

Johnson received Alexander’s draft of the foreword on Nov. 30, 2020. The infamous insurrection at the White House occurred a little over a month later.

Finding the Good is available in bookstores nationwide. And it’s available on Amazon.