David Huntley: Highest ranking African American at AT&T & high-ranking dad

Luther Vandross was outed as gay after his death.

David Huntley is no stranger to hard work. In his role as Senior Executive Vice President and Chief Compliance Officer at AT&T, he’s responsible for developing policies to safeguard the privacy of customer and employee information, and ensuring compliance with all legal and regulatory requirements globally. He’s also the highest-ranking African American at the $163.8 billion dollar Fortune 500 company.  So it’s no surprise that he makes his biggest role – fatherhood – look like a piece of cake.

Huntley has held this prestigious role at AT&T since December 2014 and has more than 20 years of business and legal experience with the company. Though his job demands the highest level of excellence, his first and greatest joy is being a father. 

In an interview with theGrio for our #ThisIsBlackFatherhood series, Huntley shares some of his greatest lessons, challenges of fatherhood and how it all helped shape him.

What are your children’s names? Calhoun (23) Porter (21)

What does fatherhood mean to you?

DH: It means demonstrating characteristics and traits that help shape character and provides safety, comfort, support, love and that you stand for something. You have to be able to demonstrate as a role model those kinds of characteristics and traits. Fatherhood is being able to shape, mold and pass along certain things. It’s a responsibility that you have to instill values, character and morals.

Has fatherhood changed you at all? If so, how?

DH: You have to be responsible. (* laughs*) You should always be able to hold a mirror up to yourself and say, “Okay, by your actions … these are two people who look up to me.” So I want to make sure that I am going to be worthy of them and the trust that they have in me.

What’s the biggest lessons you’ve learned since becoming a father?

DH: Let’s start with what my father, Walter Robert Huntley,  passed on to me because I was more focused on that after this. He passed on the art of possibility to me. He grew up in a time where so many things were denied to him, he always had to figure it out. If it was a machine, he had to learn it. He couldn’t count on anybody giving him support and help. So, he always had to be someone who could self-motivate and achieve when perhaps no one else was doing that.

So, fast forward, I want to take those lessons and pass those same kinds of lessons on to our two boys, so that they have confidence, the ability to be self-motivated, the ability to see around the corner, the ability to think ahead. The other thing that he did, I think that was really big was he was there, he was present. He followed through on his commitments, he was somebody to respect and he was somebody who gave respect.

What does it mean to you to be an African American in your position, as a father, and upholding some of the values that you talked about your father upholding: being present, being engaged, passing on all of these things that you described as such as trust worthy?

DH: It was hard. It was hard to do that, and do what I’m doing. It was hard to carve that time out to be present. I don’t want people to have that impression that it is easy to do this. It was easier for my dad in his time period, but it was harder for me practicing law, leaving the office — this was before a lot of email and everything else– to leave and go. You think 20 years ago, there was no iPhone, there was no way you could do your stuff at home, easily in the car or while you’re sitting at a game (and by the way, that’s not a good thing).

They look up and they see you, you don’t need to put your device down. They need to see you watching them, if they score, if they miss something, they look– trust me I know. Every time my kid did something, he played football at Georgetown, I’m in the stands, I’m telling you, if he got beat, he’s looking up at the stands and I’m like “Hey, head up. Pick your head up, you gotta keep going.”

I mean it’s just hard, that’s what I would say. I leave, I go and coach, I would go back to the office, show up. The things that you have to do, or that I did for my sons is I wanted to show them.