John Edward Conquest (“Johnnie C”), the youngest of nine children, was born on January 5, 1940 on Gallo’s Duck Farm in East Patchogue, New York. He attended primary and secondary school in the Patchogue School District, graduating from high school in 1957. An athlete, Conquest was accepted to Morgan State College on a football scholarship. He proved to be competitive in several sports, including football, basketball, and wrestling.
In October 1962, Conquest was one of several young men who founded Groove Phi Groove Social Fellowship, Inc., an alternative to the existing African-American fraternities. Conquest was looking for an organization of brotherhood with members who had goals similar to his. He was an early officer of the organization, serving as sergeant-at-arms.
Conquest’s love for the new organization ran deep, and he continually relates the following story. As he was walking around campus, the president of Morgan State saw him wearing a Groove hat. Since Groove was not recognized as an official organization at the time (that would not happen until 1964), the president ordered Conquest to remove the hat. Conquest refused. The president proceeded to knock the hat from Conquest’s head. Silently, Conquest picked up the hat, placed it back on his head, and informed the president that he could knock Groove from his head, but could not remove it from his heart.
Conquest graduated from Morgan State in 1964 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Sociology. From 1964 to1972, Conquest worked as a probation officer at the Baltimore Probation Department in Juvenile Services. Later, he moved back to New York, received a Master of Arts degree in Education Administration, and took a position as assistant principal in the South County School District in Bellport, New York. Although he retired in 1995, he served as an administrative consultant until 2002.
Conquest retained his love for athletics after his days at Morgan State. He was a varsity basketball coach for 30 years (coaching Randy Smith, who played professional basketball for 15 years) and a varsity football coach for 32 years, winning several county and state championships. For his commitment and service, Conquest was inducted into the Bellport High School Football Hall of Fame in 2008. He was also active in the community, serving as president of the Bellport Rotary Club in 2002.
Conquest is married to Claire Conquest. He was formerly married to Connie Conquest (now deceased). He has two children, Troy and Alicia, who were both scholarship recipients and outstanding high school and college athletes. Troy played professional football in Germany, and Alicia was recently inducted into the Suffolk County Hall of Fame. Conquest also has two grandchildren, Cheston, 8 and Analiese, 5.
For Conquest, Groove is truly a family affair. His first wife, Connie, was his college sweetheart and the First Queen of the organization, once leading the young men into the cafeteria at the risk of expulsion. Their son, Troy, became a Groove in 1995, and Conquest’s son-in-law, Cheston Bulgin, and godson, Vance Carroll, are also Grooves.