It is with a
sense of deep sadness that NAIC says goodbye to a true champion for diversity
and a great business pioneer, Earl G. Graves, Sr.
is best remembered as a nationally recognized authority on Black business
development, a strong proponent for the economic advancement of African
Americans and the innovator behind the Black Enterprise brand he launched on
the heels of the Civil Rights Movement. Mr. Graves used Black Enterprise as a media
portal to show the world that African Americans could distinguish themselves
and achieve greatness in business as they had in other aspects of life in
America. In the process, he inspired generations of business professionals and
certainly will continue to do so in the years to come.
Enterprise was instrumental in chronicling the early efforts of NAIC, then
called the American Association of MESBICS (Minority Enterprise Small Business
Investment Companies), and those firms that made up our initial network. This
served to inspire future business leaders during a time when mainstream media
had little interest in covering successful entrepreneurs and executives in the
diverse marketplace. In 2004, NAIC recognized Mr. Graves’ leadership and
contributions to businesses with the NAIC Lifetime Achievement Award.
saddened at the loss of Earl G. Graves, Sr., a giant of the business world who
began to champion for diversity and inclusion in Corporate America at a time
when many resisted such efforts,”says Robert L. Greene, President & CEO of
NAIC. “His hard work and fortitude gave us a shining example of great
leadership while creating countless opportunities for diverse entrepreneurs and
January 9, 1935, in Brooklyn, Mr. Graves was an entrepreneur even as a child,
when he sold boxed Christmas cards for his uncle at age 7. After receiving a
bachelor’s degree in economics from Morgan State University he served two years
in the Army, followed by a three-year stint as Senator Robert F. Kennedy’s
administrative assistant. After Senator Kennedy’s assassination in 1968, Mr. Graves
formed a management consulting firm to advise corporations on urban affairs and
economic development. His firm’s clients included major multinational
In 1970, Mr.
Graves was inspired to launch a business magazine. Armed with a $175,000 Small
Business Administration startup loan, he and his wife, Barbara Eliza Graves, started
Black Enterprise as a financial empowerment guide for African Americans with a
focus on business, entrepreneurship and wealth creation. In those early years, Mrs.
Graves held every major position at the publication, including editorial director,
circulation director, and chief financial officer. Mrs. Graves passed away in
Black Enterprise platform, Mr. Graves furthered his mission of providing career
and money management advice to African Americans and showcasing Black achievement.
His growing influence in the white-dominated business world led to his
appointment to several corporate boards, including Aetna Inc., AMR Corp.
(American Airlines), DaimlerChrysler AG Corp., Federated Department Stores,
Inc. (Macy’s), and Rohm & Haas Corporation.
In 1997, he
authored a New York Times and Wall Street Journal best-seller, How to
Succeed in Business Without Being White: Straight Talk on Making It in America,
in which he shares his strategies for success and the lessons he learned along
the way. The book was selected as a finalist for the 1997 Financial
Times/Booz-Allen & Hamilton Global Business Book Award.
2006, he was immortalized in wax when ExxonMobil commissioned a likeness of him
to be exhibited in the National Great Blacks in Wax Museum in Baltimore,
Maryland. In 2007, Mr. Graves was inducted into the U.S. Business Hall of Fame,
which recognizes the contributions of the nation’s most distinguished corporate
professionals who have enriched the economy and inspired young people to pursue
excellence in business and life.
to his business successes, Mr. Graves was an ardent philanthropist. Morgan
State University named the Earl G. Graves School of Business and Management in
honor of the 1958 graduate after he donated $1 million in support of his alma
mater. A 1999 recipient of the prestigious NAACP’s Spingarn Medal for
outstanding achievement by an African American, Mr. Graves also championed the
historic presidential bids of Barack Obama and Rev. Jesse Jackson.
Graves, Sr. will always be remembered as one of the larger-than-life business
leaders of our times with a legacy of inclusion, progress and diverse business
achievement that will endure for years to come.
and prayers go out to the entire Graves family and all those who were touched
by this business pioneer.