Lonnie George Johnson was born October 6, 1949 in the super-hot segregation in Mobile, Ala, the son of a World War II veteran who worked as a civilian driver at nearby Air Force bases and a nurse’s aid mother. Johnson’s father was a skilled handyman who taught his children to build their own toys. The seeds of this genius inventor, scientist and engineer was planted early.
When Johnson was a prepubescent, he and his dad built a pressurized Chinaberry shooter out of bamboo shoots. At the age of 13, Johnson attached a lawnmower engine to a go-cart he built from junkyard scraps and raced it along the highway until the police pulled him over. That was the end of that.