Shown in the photo from left, Howard Richards, Lydia McGhee, Sydny Richards, Stephen Darby, Zorata Pierson
By Sally Tippett Rains
Mark you calendars– as Howard Richards and his family are set to appear on Family Feud. In the midst of a pandemic, their story is refreshing and fun.
Richards, the former Mizzou and NFL standout, who has also served at the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), was able to play with his daughter Sydny Richard and several other family members as part of the “Johnson” team.
“The Walter Johnson family is coming to a TV near you for our Family Feud debut,” said Richards. “Johnson is our family name on my maternal side and our team consisted of my daughter Sydny, brother Stephen Darby and cousins Zorata Pierson and Lydia McGhee, and me.”
Richards’ cousin Lydia McGhee has been a long-time viewer of Family Feud and she was the ringleader who got the family involved. Their first attempt was before COVID-19 when her mother was involved and they tried out in Kansas City. For whatever reason they were not selected but last March, McGhee called Richards and said she was trying to put together a team and would he like to be on it.
“At first I said, ‘let me know if you can’t get anyone else’ and not long after that she called me back,” he said.
“I’ve been a fan of Family Feud for as long as I can remember,” said McGhee (shown right). “I watched it with my mom, my dad, my brothers and my paternal grandmother. I can faintly remember the first host (Richard Dawson) and his signature kiss. My affection for the show has grown stronger because I now watch with my own children and it brings back great memories. Additionally, Steve Harvey is hilarious and after a long day of work, the levity of the show is refreshing.”
All five of the team members are in fraternities or sororities and at first they thought they would use “Divine 9” as their theme– the Divine 9 is the name given to the historic group of nine Black Greek letter organizations. Howard Richards is a member of Kappa Alpha Psi and his brother Stephen Darby is a member of Omega Psi Phi. Howard’s daughter Sydny and Lydia McGhee are members of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated. Zorata Pierson is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated. They wore their Greek colors for the tryouts and ended up making it but found out that as contestants they would not be representing their fraternities or sororities.
They called themselves the Johnson family as a tribute to their parents and grandparents.
At first, the group did “virtual” tryouts and then flew to Atlanta during the Fourth of July holiday in 2021 for in-person tryouts. The show informed all families that not all contestants would make it to air.
“It was all a very good experience” said Howard Richards. “They took care of all the accommodations– airfare, hotel and restaurant. It was very professional and well done on the part of the Family Feud.”
“During tryouts, we wore masks when not recording,” said McGhee. “We were asked to remove our masks during taping. They required extensive COVID testing prior to the show.”
At the in-person tryouts they found out they were selected and would be taping for the show while they were there.
Richards is no stranger to being in front of people– both on the football field and behind the microphone doing football broadcasts for his alma mater the University of Missouri, but he was a little out of his element on the game show.
“There’s no way you can prep for it,” he said. “You can’t study. I wasn’t nervous but I was just trying not mess up. I was always thinking ahead and trying to articulate, with the best possible response.”
One reason he wanted to sound good was that he was getting some good-natured ribbing from his broadcast partner and friend Mike Kelly.
“Mike Kelly was kidding me, saying he hoped I did or said something stupid.”
Richards was in the first space and the captain of the team.
“I answered a lot of questions,” he said. “You are trying to answer questions the way others would, not necessarily saying what you would say because of the ‘survey’ aspect of it. You want to answer like the ‘average American.’ I just tried to think quickly and give common sense answers.”
The family is all originally from St. Louis. Sydny Richards (shown left) has been in St. Louis, while working remotely in her job, and living with her dad, but is in the process of moving to Texas.
There was another reason Lydia McGhee decided to go for it with the Family Feud: she was hoping the show would bring joy to her family which it did.
“Like most families in the world, our family has experienced many difficult losses throughout the pandemic,” she said. “Our Aunt Zorata Kemp and my Uncle David Jones, Jr. passed away unexpectedly. I knew I wanted to do something fun to bring laughter to our family and viewers, and that’s when I devised a plan.”
She had previously worked as an intern in the White House Press Office and she knew other family members had interesting stories.
“Being a White House Press Office intern is a rare feat that not many people can claim fame to,” she said. “I needed to think of other family members with the same type of unique experiences. Our family is full of smart and fun people, who are driven and well accomplished. We love one another dearly, so it was extremely hard to choose.”
“I knew our very own Dallas Cowboy, Howard Richards, had to make the list to help get the show’s attention. I knew my cousin, Zorata Pierson’s career path as a forensic pathologist would stand out as well. Zorata is shown in the photo, right, My cousin, Steve Darby, has always been a smart and charismatic person who brings life and laughter to every space he occupies. Finally, I share many things in common with my cousin, Sydny Richards, including our birthdays are a day apart and we are in the same sorority. I wrapped our highlights and uniqueness into a whimsical audition video, and the rest is history.”
McGhee says every time she thinks about it she gets tears in her eyes because it’s an experience she will never forget.
“I want to say thank you to my family for their willingness to go on this adventure with me.” she said.
“We plan on having some sort of ‘watch party’ with our family but Sydny may be in Texas by then” said Howard. “It’s supposed to air on her birthday (Feb. 24) so I may have to get her back up here so we can watch it together.”
“We are currently scouting venues for our Family Feud debut,” McGhee said. “We hope to find a venue with a screening room, where we can view the show as a family. We plan to keep it small and implement COVID precautions, but I have to be in the room when our family finally gets to see the things we said and how good we looked as a family.”
It’s been an exciting time for several families from the St. Louis area as far as being on television game shows in recent times. The Bell family was on Family Feud in November (2021) and to read that article CLICK HERE.
On Christmas Eve (2021) Supe Granda who grew up in St. Louis, went to Lindbergh High School and was a founding member of the Ozark Mountain Daredevils band was on Wheel of Fortune. For more on that CLICK HERE.
Family Feud airs on KDNL in St. Louis at 5 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. CST with the projected air dates for the Walter Johnson team from St. Louis being Feb. 24,
2022 and Feb. 25, 2022. Check your local listings for exact date and time.