Brother Earl Graves Sr: Publisher of Black Enterprise and media titan who championed black businesses, enters Omega Chapter
by OPPF Editorial Board - April 7, 2020
In 1970, Earl Graves Sr. launched Black Enterprise, a magazine that championed and chronicled the rise of African-American entrepreneurs in the United States. Through its pages, Black Enterprise or BE, provided the fledgling African American business owner a virtual roadmap on how to succeed in the mainstream and “achieve their measure of the American dream,” Graves said, according to his online obituary in Black Enterprise.
On the evening of April 6, Graves, who was initiated into the fraternity through Pi Chapter on the campus of Morgan State College on Dec. 10, 1954, passed away following a longtime battle with Alzheimer’s. Graves was 85.
For nearly 50 years, Graves served as the lodestar for generations of accomplished black business owners, civic leaders and community servants. He played a pivotal role in securing the presidential election of Barack Obama through his endorsement in the pages of Black Enterprise. Prior to that, Graves supported the presidential candidacy of Brother Jesse L. Jackson.
His decades-long fight for racial justice and economic parity earned Graves the NAACP Spingarn Medal in 1999. Other Omega men who received the civil rights group’s highest honor include Founder Ernest Just, Col. Charles Young, William H. Hastie, Carter G. Woodson, Langston Hughes, Roy Wilkins and Benjamin Elijah Mays.
Born in the Bedford Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, New York in 1935, Graves later matriculated to Morgan State University. He earned an undergraduate degree in economics. Upon graduation, Graves served two years as an officer in the Army, and worked in law enforcement and real estate. In 1965, he joined the staff of U.S. Senator Robert F. Kennedy as his administrative assistant. When Kennedy was assassinated in 1968, he decided to refocus his career.
Graves launched Black Enterprise after he secured a $250,000 loan from Chase Manhattan Bank, according to his obituary written by Derek T. Dingle.
“The time was ripe for a magazine devoted to economic development in the African American community,” Graves wrote. “The publication was committed to the task of educating, inspiring and uplifting its readers. My goal was to show them how to thrive professionally, economically and as proactive, empowered citizens.”
Over the years, Black Enterprise spawned from a single-magazine publishing company to a diversified multimedia business that reached more than 6 million African Americans through print, digital, broadcast and live-event platforms. Each year, Black Enterprise published a list of that nation’s top 100 businesses or BE 100s, chief content, Dingle wrote.
In addition to his success with Black Enterprise, Graves was also the CEO and owner of Pepsi-Cola of Washington D.C., the largest minority-controlled Pepsi franchise in the United States at the time.
Grave also wrote The New York Times best-seller, “How to Succeed in Business Without Being White.”
His wife, Barbara Kydd Graves, passed away in 2012. They were married for 50 years. Graves is survived by his three sons.
At 9:22pm this evening, April 6, my Father and Hero Earl Graves Sr., the Founder of @blackenterprise, passed away quietly after a long battle with Alzheimer’s. I loved and admired this giant of a man, and am blessed to be his namesake. LOVE YOU DAD! pic.twitter.com/UoerizfX8a
— Earl Butch Graves Jr (@EarlButchGraves) April 7, 2020