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Sholomo B. Levy

lawyer, civil rights leader, and corporate executive, was born Vernon Eulion Jordan Jr. in Atlanta, the eldest of two sons of Vernon Jordan Sr., a postal clerk at Fort McPherson, Georgia, and Mary Belle Griggs, proprietor of a catering business, who had a child from a previous union. Jordan was descended from Georgia sharecroppers who had their roots in slavery. His maternal grandfather told young Vernon, “If I could have anything in the world, I'd want to be able to go to the bathroom indoors, in a warm place, one time before I die” (Jordan, 23).

Until the age of thirteen Jordan lived in Atlanta s University Homes the first public housing for black people built in the United States His project as such low income structures would come to be known derived its name from the black college campuses that surrounded it and provided ...

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Andre D. Vann

businessman, civic leader, churchman, and author, was born the eldest son of William Jesse Kennedy, a public school principal, and Katie (Riley) Kennedy, a homemaker, in Andersonville, Georgia. He received his public school training under his father, who was the principal of the local school. Later he was educated at Americus Institute in Americus, Georgia, which was under the auspices of the black Southwestern Georgia Baptist Association, and graduated in 1912. He studied law for a year through textbooks and a correspondence course from LaSalle University, and did special work in business administration through a Columbia University extension course, but did not graduate from either institution. He held a number of jobs ranging from carpenter to meat cutter.

Influenced by an uncle who worked in the insurance industry, he began working at Guaranty Mutual Life Insurance Company of Savannah, Georgia, in 1913 ...

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Jeannette Elizabeth Brown

chemist and corporate leader, was born in Pavo, Georgia, the second of three daughters of Willie Clark and Ola Watts Campbell. Her mother Ola had a third-grade education, and her father Willie was illiterate. Reatha was raised in Moltrie, Georgia, by her mother and aunt after her parents separated when she was young. She had to pick cotton and do the heavy fieldwork that was the typical life in the 1940s for poor sharecroppers' children. African American girls in the rural segregated South had few role models, but she received strong encouragement from her family and community to use her academic ability to overcome social disadvantages.

Clark started school at the age of four in the one room schoolhouse at Mount Zion Baptist Church Clark attended the segregated Moultrie High School for Negro Youth A teacher there encouraged her love of math and science even though the school ...

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Theresa A. Hammond

founder of the largest African American-owned certified public accounting firm, was born in Jamaica, West Indies, to Joseph Benjamin, a farmer with a third-grade education, and Edith Maud McCourty, a dressmaker. Mitchell grew up in a rural area in the town of Porus, the oldest of seven children and was the first person in his family to go to high school. He attended Kingston Technical High School and then moved to the United States in 1958 with his family settling in the Bronx Mitchell found a job in an ink factory and soon through a black employment agency he found a bookkeeping position for the Teamsters union downtown near city hall He wanted to further his education so he planned to attend the City College of New York CCNY and take engineering courses at night while working His employer however did not want him to leave ...

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Robert Mason

public servant and business executive, was born Everett Frederic Morrow in Hackensack, New Jersey, the son of John Eugene Morrow, a library custodian who was ordained as a Methodist minister in 1912, and Mary Anne Hayes, a former farmworker and maid. He was educated in public schools in Hackensack, where, he would later write in his second work of memoir, Way Down South Up North (1973), race relations were as treacherous as the situation in the Deep South. Morrow then attended Bowdoin College, to which he believed he won admission only because administrators assumed that he was a relative of Dwight Morrow a leading politician lawyer and banker of the day Having gained a BA degree during the depths of the Depression Morrow secured a social work job sponsored by a New Deal agency and later worked as a bank messenger on Wall ...

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Bob Greene

health industry executive, nurse, and educator, was born Barbara Lauraine Ware in Waterville, Kennebec County, Maine, the daughter of Lloyd Russell Ware and Mildred Murray. An only child, she and her mother moved to Portland, Maine, during World War II, where she graduated from Portland High School in 1956.

After receiving her nursing diploma from Massachusetts Memorial Hospital School of Nursing in Boston in 1959, Nichols joined the U.S. Navy, serving as head nurse at the naval hospital in St. Albans, New York. After her three-year military stint, she earned a bachelor's degree in nursing and social psychology from Case-Western Reserve University in 1966 and a master's of science degree in behavioral disabilities and counseling from the University of Wisconsin in Madison in 1973.

Nichols became a professor at the University of Wisconsin and director of St Mary s Hospital Medical Center a position that ...

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Marseille M. Pride

business executive, entrepreneur, and civic leader, was born in Atlanta, Georgia, the son of Henry Green Parks Sr. His mother's name is unknown, but both of his parents at one time worked as domestic laborers. Seeking a better life the family moved to Dayton, Ohio, when Henry Jr. was six months old. There his father found work as a hotel bartender and later as a wine steward in a private club. Because both of Parks's parents worked long hours the family did not spend much time together. Henry spent most of his time with his paternal grandmother, whom he described as “very religious.” The example that Parks's father set for him was one of diligence, perseverance, risk-taking, and making hard choices, attributes that would be evident throughout Parks's life.

Parks graduated from the public schools of Dayton Ohio Had he chosen to follow the prevailing wisdom of ...

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Millery Polyné

World War II pilot, entrepreneur, and airline executive, was born in Westfield, New Jersey, the son of a Jamaican dental technician. His parents' names are unknown. A driven and determined student at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, where he graduated with a bachelor of arts in 1935, Plinton was a solid student-athlete who participated on the varsity soccer, wrestling, tennis, and track teams. He was also a member of the dramatic society and the glee club and was president of the German society. An accomplished musician, he played the piano and organ well and one summer played the organ at Tuskegee Institute. With the encouragement and unbending rearing of his father, it was evident that the black college experience was critical to his development as a future leader and visionary who would defy the odds against systematic racial injustice. In a 1973 interview Plinton revealed Going ...

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Shennette Garrett-Scott

undertaker and insurance executive, was born Robert Crafton Scott in Richmond, Virginia, to Alpheus Scott, a skilled, self-employed shoemaker, and homemaker Angela Wilson Scott. When a teacher asked seven-year-old Robert Scott what he wanted to be when he grew up, he surprised the class by saying that he wanted to be an undertaker. Undertakers represented one of the most lucrative, highly respected, and socially significant professions in the African American community, rivaled perhaps by the ministry. Undertakers’ essential role in the burial rite reflected the critical cultural and spiritual importance blacks placed on the transition to the afterlife. The class was likely surprised at young Scott's choice because, despite advances in mortuary science necessitated by the Civil War, at the turn of the twentieth century undertaking remained a gruesome mix of science, ritual, and mystery.

In 1897 Scott's mother died, and his father sent his sister Cleopatra ...

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Nancy T. Robinson

business executive and social worker, was born Lily Patricia Walker in Little Rock, Arkansas, the daughter of Harriet Ish and Antonio Maceo Walker Sr., an actuary. Both of her parents descended from middle-class families. Her mother, from Little Rock, Arkansas, was the daughter of George Washington Stanley Ish, a physician, whose father, Jefferson Garfield Ish, was a teacher. Shaw's father was the son of Lelia O'Neal Walker, co-founder of the Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church and daughter of the former slaves George and Pat Hill Walker of Tillman, Mississippi. Antonio Walker's father was Joseph Edison Walker, a medical school graduate, 1923 founder of the Universal Life Insurance Company in Memphis, Tennessee, and 1946 co-founder of the Tri-State Bank. Antonio Walker succeeded his father as president of Universal Life Insurance Company in 1952. In 1958 Joseph Edison Walker was murdered and Antonio succeeded his ...

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Gregory S. Bell

lawyer, government official, and entrepreneur, was born Percy Ellis Sutton in San Antonio, Texas, the youngest of fifteen children of Samuel J. Sutton and Lillian Smith, both schoolteachers. Education was a top priority in Sutton's household. All of the twelve surviving children finished college, and six of Sutton's siblings became teachers. Sutton was exposed to business early as well, since his family owned a funeral home.

After stints at Prairie View A&M College in Texas, Hampton Institute in Virginia, and Tuskegee Institute in Alabama without earning a degree, Sutton decided to enlist in the military and joined the Army Air Corps in New York, shortly after the U.S. entered the war in 1941. In the summer of 1943, walking through Times Square, he met Leatrice O'Farrel. They married in December of that year and would have two children, Pierre and Cheryl Lynn ...

Article

Linda T. Wynn

a physician, minister, educator, university president, and business executive who had a distinguished career of service in many areas during his lifetime. Townsend was born in Winchester, Tennessee, to the Reverend Doc Anderson and Emma A. (Singleton) Townsend, both of whom were educators. The elder Townsend was not only a minister but also a principal and director of the Franklin County Negro Elementary Schools. Townsend's mother was a schoolteacher in Shelbyville, Tennessee. Townsend was reared in Winchester and received his formal education there; in 1891, however, he moved to Nashville, Tennessee, and enrolled at Roger Williams University. During his student days in Nashville, Townsend became active in church affairs: he served as organist in several Nashville churches, conducted Sunday school classes, and organized missions to hospitals and jails. Later, he joined the Spruce Street Baptist Church, where he met his future wife, Willa ...

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Bill Dickens

economist, educator, businessman, and diplomat, was born Clifton Reginald Wharton Jr. in Boston, Massachusetts, one of four children of Clifton Reginald Wharton, an ambassador, and Harriette B., a social worker in Boston and a French and Latin teacher at Virginia State University. His father was the first African American to pass the Foreign Service examination and became the first black career ambassador.

Wharton attended the prestigious Boston Latin School and graduated in 1943. The precocious Wharton enrolled at Harvard University at age sixteen. At the age of nineteen he served as an army aviation cadet and was stationed in Tuskegee, Alabama. However, with five weeks remaining to earn his aviator wings, he decided to return to Harvard to complete his undergraduate degree. He earned his AB in History in 1947 Wharton was the first African American to enroll in the Johns Hopkins School ...

Article

Marilyn Morgan

chef, restaurateur, and executive, was born Sylvia Pressley in Hemingway, South Carolina, the only child of midwife Julia Pressley and Van Pressley, a World War I veteran who died three days after his daughter's birth. After Sylvia's third birthday her mother placed her in the care of her grandmother while she migrated to Brooklyn, New York, in search of higher-paying work as a laundress. By Sylvia's eighth birthday her mother returned to Hemingway, having saved enough money to purchase a sizable farm and build a small home. Hardworking and determined, her mother and grandmother earned the community's respect, owning over sixty acres and serving as the town's only midwives. Their inspirational examples imbued Woods with “strength, faith and self-sufficiency” (Woods, 36).

In 1937 Sylvia met Herbert Woods and despite their youth he was twelve she was eleven they fell in love and vowed to marry ...