Buster Nelson, a self-made business man in Fredericksburg, Virginia, loves to talk about the Warehouse. The Warehouse is what he calls his past and the journey that brought him to be the successful businessman, State Farm Insurance proprietor and father that he is. Just like a storage facility, Buster Nelson’s Warehouse holds the makings of his identity and the memoirs that tell the story of his life. This is his story. This is his warehouse.
Looking back over his life, Buster Nelson can proudly say that he’s always been a leader. Even as a young African-American boy growing up in Portsmouth, Virginia and coming from humble beginnings – the oldest child of a sixteen year old mother and a nineteen year old father – Buster Nelson fought to achieve. Coming from a family that lived in public housing and peers that took on criminal activities at an early age, Buster held onto his boyhood dreams of growing up to be a big time NBA basketball star and worked hard to develop a healthy work ethic that would transfer from the basketball court into the classroom and finally into his entrepreneurial endeavors and career.
For many adolescents in the segregated 1960’s Portsmouth projects, there were very few avenues one could travel to become successful and it seemed as if sports was the only escape. One of the most curious things, as Buster recalls, was that “Those that were talented or gifted in sports became the ‘folk heroes’ of that community, and those that were considered the hoodlums or the dredges of society became our protectors because they felt like we had potential and they wanted better for us – they wanted us to succeed because if one or two did then it was as if all had done it.” This protection even extended out to barring them from getting into possible trouble with the law, not allowing them to get into stolen cars or dabbling in drug activity. Buster Nelson and his brother were both project “folk heroes.” But despite his gifts on the basketball court, it was his mother’s insistence for her children to take advantage of education that became the foundation for the man that he would become.
In conjunction to settling into his basketball talents and excelling on the court, Buster Nelson exercised his educational prowess definitively. He maintained excellent grades and even began to tutor those struggling in different academic areas. It was in high school that the gap began to widen and while he was becoming a star on his high school basketball team at I.C. Norcom, eventually taking them to Regionals and garnering the Most Valuable Player award for the team and the City’s Most Outstanding Player award his senior year, Buster was also being recruited for his high school’s National Honors Society. He recalls that time as being life changing because at first he really didn’t take the NHS (National Honors Society) that seriously, but once his mother found out about the honor she questioned him concerning his apathy about it. It was at this point that he saw how much it meant to his mother and so he followed through and joined the NHS, an honor today that means more to him that his letters from basketball.
It would seem that for Buster Nelson basketball and education dominated his life, but that would be a misnomer if there ever was one. One must look closely at the story arcs that exist between both basketball and education. The loving mother, the hardworking father, the younger siblings, the friends, the protectors, the teammates, and the countless educators. Although his talents both in the classroom and out have been chronicled and are pervasively the vehicle in which the full understanding of his journey from boy to man is driven, it is the catalysts within his life — the people and the situations — that are the navigators. And as he moved from boy to man, from high school student to college student, Buster began to make decisions that were based on these catalysts and not on the superficiality that could come as a result of athletic or academic achievement. Despite being a star athlete and a successful academic, Buster did not choose to go to a HBC (Historically Black College) as some of his peers did. Rather, he chose Frostburg State where out of over three thousand students only two hundred were African-American. It was during this time that Buster Nelson really began to become set-apart. Buster again excelled as a basketball player, finishing as the second leading scorer in school history, winning the Most Valuable Player award every year that he started, and ultimately being inducted into the Hall of Fame at Frostburg in 1982 after he had graduated. But the greatest honor for him was being the first African-American to play four consecutive years (others had eventually become academically ineligible). Buster says, “It all goes back to education and pride.”
For many people, it’s what they do along the path that becomes their life, but in Buster Nelson’s case it was the journey that led to his life’s passion. It was after college that the entrepreneurial bug hit him. His whole life he had worked hard, utilizing all the talents and gifts given to him by God while overcoming obstacles that many still face today. He had always known that he was a leader and sports had prepared him to be competitive, education had equipped him to be formidable, and life had taught him to be proud of who he was and stand firm; it was only natural for Buster Nelson to want to create his own business and be his own boss. Much like in his younger years, Buster had to start from scratch and work his way to a formidable position. He began in claims, then moved on to inquire about becoming a State Farm agent. Before long Buster Nelson was launching his own business within the State Farm Insurance business model.
After years of being in the business and being located in the Fredericksburg area, Buster is similar to a sage if anyone is interested in being educated in life and business. For Buster, it is a person’s skill set that operates a successful life and business. One must view the two as the same and allow them to intertwine to a certain degree. Both life and business requires learning, development, mentoring and relationships. Delving into business is like delving into life, every avenue must be exhausted and in some cases plans have to be adapted. A person’s business acumen levels the playing field and must be unwavering and be in sync with the personal goals and gains of the individual. Buster exemplifies this and lives and does business within this mode of thinking. Buster Nelson had indeed leveled the playing field.
Having listened to Buster Nelson recount his life, it’s inspiring to think back to the fervor in which he told each scene. It was as if he was reliving the very same moments that he was describing to me. In doing so a picture was being painted and in it was the Warehouse. I could see it clearly, as if it was a glass warehouse, and in it were all these different structures that made the warehouse what it was; a composite of moments from his life, layers and layers of lessons in different phases, some from sports, school, family, faith — all of them his. In hearing Buster Nelson’s story, I got to see the structure of his warehouse and by seeing it I got to see the structure of the man. I can only hope that one day I too will have a warehouse to share with others.
For more information or to get in contact with Buster Nelson please visit him at www.busternelsonagency.com.