John Pettway

Walt Whitman High School football captain (defense) and all-league linebacker

On a summer night shortly after graduation from Walt Whitman High School, John Pettway and some of his football buddies found themselves outside a deli on Bethesda’s Cordell Avenue, exchanging barbs with rival Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School students. No punches were thrown, but out of nowhere one of the B-CC students stabbed Pettway in the throat, puncturing an artery. A police officer who was nearby called for help, and Pettway survived the potentially deadly attack. “It was a defining moment for me,” says Pettway, who lives in Potomac with his wife and three children. “It made me appreciate life more, and I became a more serious and focused person.”

Pettway went on to earn degrees in accounting and law from the University of Maryland. He spent several years working for the national accounting firm Ernst and Young in Washington, D.C., and the law firm Adams and Associates in Alexandria, Va. Now he’s managing director of The Haverford Group, an investment company based in Utah. He’s also co-founder of a rather successful little venture.

Pettway is too modest to brag, so Whitman friend and former football buddy Pat Murphy does it for him.

“John, along with Pat Burns, who is another high school football buddy, built a little Internet start-up into a powerhouse that went public. You and I know it today as Overstock.com,” Murphy says. “John is one of the most successful guys I know, and I don’t just mean that in the monetary sense. My God, he meets with Warren Buffett. But he is the kind of guy who will not only take the shirt off his back for you, he will then run down to the store and get you five more of them.”

Pettway is “mildly self-conscious” about the foot-long scar that runs from his throat down to his chest, and he always wears undershirts
to cover it. He says he’ll teach his children “never to mess with someone who has nothing to lose because you never know.… Who would have thought I’d get stabbed in Bethesda?”