At a February 3 event celebrating Black History Month at Rappahannock Community College, Essex County brothers Robert and Christopher O’Neal explained how they achieved the success they each enjoy today. These “history makers” developed, largely by their own efforts, from humble beginnings to their present status as respected members of the business community.
“Don’t associate with people that tell you, ‘You can’t’,” says Chris O’Neal. “Associate with people who are successful. Learn from them, and let them pull you up.” From the time he made his first real estate deal at age 20 until winning the distinction of “Top Producer” with his brokerage company, Move4FreeRealty, O’Neal has never stopped learning and teaching.
Classes at RCC started him on the way to a bachelor’s degree in business; now, his latest successful project is a book called “Done Deal: What ‘They’ Never Told You about Money,” which offers insightful and innovative ways to become financially savvy.
The older brother, Robert “Bobby” O’Neal, says that he “always wanted to become an attorney.” He fulfilled this ambition by way of the Air Force Prep School, the University of Virginia, and the T.C. Williams School of Law at the University of Richmond, as well as taking transfer classes at RCC to further his academic progress at the other schools. As a first generation college student, he says, “I hit every bump along the way … but I had a great support system in my family.”
He is now a partner in Cannella and O’Neal, a Richmond law firm that specializes in personal injury cases; this career choice, he says, was driven by observation of past injustices that made him want to “be the voice for the voiceless.”
“Each of you can make history,” he said. “Perhaps you will be the first person in your family to work in an office — or the first person to go to college. We can all achieve history.”
After answering questions from the audience, the O’Neal brothers closed with some good advice. “Everybody can be successful,” they reiterated. “Pursue what you’re passionate about.
Doing what you love will get you through good and bad times.”
The event was coordinated by Lorraine Justice, the administrative officer for the Student Support Services program at RCC.