Johnathan Lee Iverson
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Johnathan Lee Iverson (born 1976) became the first African-American ringmaster of a major U.S. circus in 1999 at the age of 22 when he won the position at Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus.
Johnathan Lee Iverson began his career with the Boys Choir of Harlem. As a performing member of the group, Iverson circled the globe and crisscrossed the United States. In addition to performing before world leaders and dignitaries, including United States Presidents, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan, and Jimmy Carter, as well as Nobel Peace Prize winner Nelson Mandela, Iverson has shared the stage with such artist as Lou Rawls, Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder, Plácido Domingo, Luciano Pavarotti, Betty Buckley, Roberta Flack, Perry Cuomo, Geoffrey Holder, Kathleen Battle, Shirley Verett, Tony Bennett, and Lena Horne, all before the age of eighteen.
As a graduate of Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music and Art & Performing Arts and The Hartt School of the University of Hartford, Iverson took his first steps into the pages of history at only 22 years old, when he became the youngest, the first New Yorker, and the first African American Ringmaster in the nearly 140 year history of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey. Iverson’s presence at The Greatest Show On Earth set box office records for Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey throughout the United States. Audiences and critics alike were immediately smitten by the native New Yorker. Ebony magazine said of him: "The instant he appears out of the darkness and into the spotlight…the audience is rapt." The San Francisco Examiner stated: "Now imagine mesmerizing the crowd with a powerful voice and the bearing of a superstar." The Times-Picayune wrote: "Tall and self assured…he works a crowd like a three ring evangelist." And syndicated columnist Liz Smith gushed: "I…liked six foot [five] youngest ringmaster ever, Johnathan Lee Iverson, who is commanding enough to be noticed in the melee, and he can sing."
Among the myriad of accolades and praise received by Iverson, was being recognized as one of Barbara Walters’ 10 Most Fascinating People of 1999. Iverson’s historical tenure with The Greatest Show On Earth is featured in numerous publications, including, Black First: 4, 000 Ground-Breaking and Pioneering Historical Events by Jessie Carney Smith, African-American First by Joan Potter, Live Life! Be Young, Black, and Successful by Quincy Benton, and Beat of a Different Drum: The Untold Stories of African-Americans Forging Their Own Paths in Work and Life by Dax-Devlon Ross. Iverson joined the 129th Edition of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Presents The Living Carousel in 1998 and continues as the Voice of The Greatest Show On Earth.
- Sherman, William (2010-03-07). "Johnathan Lee Iverson is first New York and African American ringmaster of Ringling Brothers Circus". NY Daily News (New York). Retrieved 2011-01-11.