The leader of the Boys and Girls Club of Chattanooga is retiring after 50 years with the organization.

Michael Cranford has dedicated his life to improving the lives of others.

He has a passion for helping children.

“I got hired on September 18, 1968, and it’s the only job I ever had in my entire life,” Cranford told Channel 3.

As a young boy, he remembers standing outside the club, unable to go inside, because of the color of his skin.

“I was 10 years old looking in a fence watching kids play, wanting a chance or opportunity to play, not realizing that at that time, I was looking into something that I would dedicate 50 years of my life to one day,” Cranford said.

His career began when he was in college. He worked part-time in the locker room passing out gym shorts.

“I was offered a job working 15 hours a week making $1.25 an hour,” Cranford said.

Through the years, he held several positions and eventually worked his way up to CEO.

He’s spent his career helping children overcome challenges. He’s improved the lives of thousands of kids and inspired people around him.

Tuesday, friends and colleagues lined up to wish Cranford well at his retirement party.

Cranford said he’s not sure what’s next for him.

“Whatever it is, it's going to involve people because for me that's been the thing that my life has been built around and thrived around being able to help people. It might not be kids; it might this time be older people. I don't know, but I'll figure it out,” Cranford said.

Long after his retirement, Cranford's legacy will live on and so will the story of the boy who once watched from the fence but couldn’t come inside and later became head of the club.

Today, the Boys and Girls Club of Chattanooga building has Cranford’s name on the cornerstone. A building dedicated to a man who has truly made a difference.

Cranford has been recognized locally, regionally and nationally many times for his achievements.