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Amanda Harmon Cooley

businessperson, corporate executive, and educator. Dennis Fowler Hightower, the son of Marvin W. Hightower and Anna Virginia Hightower, was born in Washington, D.C., and grew up in LeDroit Park, a neighborhood in the District of Columbia in which many other prominent African Americans, from Duke Ellington to the Reverend Jesse Jackson, have lived. As a child Hightower spent time at Camp Atwater in North Brookfield, Massachusetts, which was established in 1921 by William N. DeBerry with the mission to help African American children. After graduating from McKinley High School at age sixteen, Hightower continued his studies at Howard University, earning a bachelor of science degree in 1962.

Then Hightower enlisted in the U S Army beginning an eight year military career that included active service in the Vietnam War His leadership advanced him to the rank of major by the age of twenty seven ...

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Emmanuel Asiedu-Acquah

Ghanaian gold miner and business executive, was born in Kibi, a town in the Eastern Region of the Gold Coast (present-day Ghana), on 19 November 1949. His father, Thomas Jonah, was a veteran of the Second World War who had started his own construction business by the time Sam was born. His mother, Beatrice Sampson, was a housewife who sold homemade goods on the side. One of seven siblings and two cousins in the Jonah household, Jonah grew up in the mining town of Obuasi, where his father had relocated as a subcontractor for the Ashanti Goldfields Corporation (AGC/Ashanti Goldfields) in 1950. Sam Jonah received his secondary school education at the prestigious Adisadel College in Cape Coast between 1962 and 1969. After working for about a year as a laborer at the Ashanti Goldfields in 1969 he went on to study mine engineering at the Camborne ...

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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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Johannes Steffens

was born in Chicago, Illinois, the oldest of two sons of Camille and William Lowry, both postal workers. Lowry grew up in Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood and graduated from Francis Parker High School in 1952. He studied history at Kenyon College in Ohio, graduating with a B.A. in 1956 and lettering in football, baseball, and basketball. Lowry gained prominence in fraternity circles as “the Kenyon affair” because he was the first African American to join Beta Theta Pi despite opposition from the fraternity’s national chapter and other Southern chapters that were against extending full membership to black students. Lowry completed a part-time master’s program in industrial relations at Chicago’s Loyola University in 1969.

After serving in the U.S. Air Force for two years and working as an athletic director and teacher at his former high school, Lowry joined Inland Steel Company in 1962 as the first black member ...

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Anne K. Driscoll

activist, writer, and author, was born Cleotha Payne Lucas in Spring Hope, near Rocky Mount in eastern North Carolina. One of fourteen children born to James Russell Lucas and Minnie Hendricks, Lucas worked from an early age shining shoes and picking cotton. Activism came early to Lucas, who became a member of the NAACP during his junior year of high school. Lucas became a youth representative and eventually organized a voter registration campaign in Spring Hope, at a time when few African Americans in eastern North Carolina were able to vote.

Following graduation from C. C. Spaulding High School in 1951, Lucas began classes at Maryland State College, now the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, in Princess Anne, Maryland. In 1953 Lucas left college and joined the U S Air Force serving as a radio technician for four years and achieving the rank of ...

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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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Paul Stillwell

naval officer, was born in Washington, D.C., the second child of Joseph Henry and Bernice Chism Reason. His parents, both of whom had degrees from Howard University, met when they were teaching at Florida A&M University, also a traditionally black school. They subsequently moved to Washington, where both worked in the field of education. His mother taught chemistry, physics, and biology in public high schools; his father, who had a PhD in Romance Languages and a master's in Library Science, worked for many years as Director of University Libraries at Howard. Reason received his elementary and secondary education in segregated schools in Washington and graduated in 1958 from the city s newly integrated McKinley Technical High School He applied for a Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps scholarship and had the second highest score of the three hundred applicants who took the entrance exam but he was turned ...

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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 ...

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Scott Sheidlower

politician, activist, and entrepreneur. Percy Ellis Sutton was born near Prairie View in eastern Texas. He was youngest of fifteen children born to Samuel J. and Lillian Sutton. Samuel, a freed slave, was a Texas educator and businessman. After briefly running away to Harlem in 1932, Sutton returned and continued his education, attending Prairie View College, Virginia's Hampton Institute, and Alabama's Tuskegee Institute. He also learned how to fly, earning money by performing stunts at county fairs.

After World War II began Sutton attempted to enlist in the Army Air Corps in Texas but was turned down because of Jim Crow laws. Sutton enlisted in New York City but was unable to become a pilot because of illness. Instead he became a combat intelligence officer with the Tuskegee Airmen. Discharged in 1945 Sutton returned to New York where he attended Brooklyn Law School ...

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Paulette K. Polley-Edmunds

corporate executive, management consultant, attorney, and author, was born in Detroit, Michigan, to Marian Thomas, a social worker from Georgia whose maiden name is unknown, and Albert Thomas, an engineer from South Carolina. The younger of two children, Pamela's older brother, Vincent, became a lawyer and law school associate dean. She grew up with a mother who worked outside the home and a father who supported women developing themselves intellectually and professionally. Albert Thomas maintained the same expectations of performance for both Pamela and her brother. Both parents were strong believers in the principles of obtaining an education and applying oneself. The climate in the Thomas home also held civil rights leaders and lawyers in high esteem, which motivated Pamela and Vincent to dream of becoming lawyers in the tradition of Thurgood Marshall Pamela loved to read and she excelled in her ...