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Chenault, Kenneth  

Shantel Agnew

lawyer, businessman, and one of the first African American chief executive officers (CEO) of a Fortune 500 company. Chenault was born on Long Island, New York. His father, Hortenius Chenault, was a dentist, and his mother, Anne Chenault, was a dental hygienist. Kenneth Chenault graduated with numerous honors from Waldorf High School, a private school in Garden City, New York. He completed one year at Springfield College before transferring to Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine. There he earned a bachelor's degree in history in 1973. He earned a JD from Harvard Law School in 1976.

After he graduated from Harvard, Chenault was hired as an associate by the law firm Rogers and Wells in New York City. In 1979 he worked as a management consultant for Bain and Company despite not having a master s degree in business administration Chenault passed the Massachusetts bar ...


Chenault, Kenneth Irvine  

Richard Sobel

lawyer and corporate leader, was born in Mineola, New York, to Hortenius Chenault, a dentist and a Morehouse and Howard University graduate, and Anne N. Quick, a dental hygienist and Howard alumna. The second of three brothers and one sister, Ken grew up in middle-class, mostly white Hempstead, Long Island, and attended the innovative, private Waldorf School in Garden City through twelfth grade. Although both his parents had graduated top in their classes, Kenneth was at first a middling student. He improved academically and became class president and captain of the track and basketball teams. He also avidly read biographies of famous people, including Frederick Douglass, W. E. B. Du Bois, and Winston Churchill.

Starting Springfield College on an athletic scholarship he transferred under the mentorship of Waldorf s Peter Curran to Bowdoin College in Maine There he joined two dozen black pioneers at the ...


Jordan Vernon  

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 This project as such low income structures would come to be known derived its name from the Black college campuses that surrounded it and provided ...


Jordan, Vernon  

Alexis D. McCoy

lawyer, civil rights activist, and political powerbroker. In his lifetime Jordan has assumed many roles, the most famous being adviser to President Bill Clinton. Born in Atlanta, Georgia, Vernon Eulion Jordan Jr. was the second of three sons of Vernon Eulion Jordan, a postal clerk, and Mary Griggs Jordan, a successful caterer. The family lived in public housing until they purchased a house when Vernon was thirteen. Jordan graduated from David T. Howard High School with honors in 1953. After graduation he attended DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana, one of five blacks in the entire student body. Graduating from DePauw in 1957 with a BA, Jordan attended Howard University Law School in Washington, D.C., graduating with his law degree in 1960.

While at Howard Law, Jordan met and married Shirley Yarbrough on 13 December 1958 The couple returned to Georgia where ...


Jordan, Vernon Eulion, Jr.  

Kate Tuttle

One of the most powerful, well-connected lawyers in the United States, Vernon Eulion Jordan Jr. has had a long, sometimes contradictory career. Few civil rights spokespeople of his generation have attained the kind of corporate and political influence Jordan has, an achievement that was enhanced by his position as a top adviser to and close friend of President Bill Clinton. Yet some critics charged that the former National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) field secretary and Urban League president lost touch with his original goals: to improve the economic lives of African Americans.

Jordan was born in Atlanta, Georgia The middle son of a postal clerk and his wife a caterer he was deeply influenced by his mother s drive and business sense As a child he sometimes accompanied her to catering jobs where he observed Atlanta s white establishment especially the Lawyer s Club ...


Parsons, Richard  

James Kates

lawyer, political operative, and corporate executive. Richard Dean Parsons rose to the highest ranks in corporate America as head of Time Warner, the world's largest media company at the time. From modest beginnings, Parsons became a protégé of New York's Rockefeller family and won fame as a political strategist, negotiator, and consensus builder.

Parsons was born in Brooklyn, New York. From Brooklyn's Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood, the Parsons family moved to the New York City borough of Queens, where young Richard went to school in an ethnically mixed setting that included Jews and Italian Americans. His father was a technician for Sperry Rand Corporation, and his mother was a homemaker; his grandfather had worked as a groundskeeper for the Rockefellers. A precocious student, Parsons skipped two grades and entered the University of Hawaii at age sixteen. He graduated from Albany Law School in 1971 achieving the highest score ...


Parsons, Richard Dean  

Gregory S. Bell

corporate executive and lawyer, was born in Brooklyn, New York, the second of five children of Lorenzo Parsons, a technician, and Isabelle Judd. When Richard was five years old, the family moved to a middle-class neighborhood in Queens. He later recalled his father as “intellectual and gentle” and his mother as “full of steely determination and grit” (Clarke, 153). In his childhood, academic excellence was far from Richard's top priority, and at John Adams High School he did well but always with as little effort as possible. Still, his talents propelled him to graduate early, at the age of sixteen. In 1964 he applied to the University of Hawaii primarily because he had been attracted to his Hawaiian-born high school physics lab partner, who had constantly told him stories about the exotic state.

Parsons worked at various odd jobs including at a parking garage and gas company ...


Sutton, Percy  

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 ...


Sutton, Percy  

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 ...


Sutton, Percy Ellis  

Percy Ellis Sutton was born in San Antonio, Texas. In the 1950s, after completing his education under the G.I. Bill, he opened a law firm in Harlem that specialized in civil rights cases. Sutton's political career began when he was elected to the New York State Assembly in 1964. He became president of the Manhattan Borough in 1966, a position he held through 1977. After an unsuccessful mayoral bid he retired from public office, but continued to be a prominent adviser to New York politicians, including United States Representative Charles Rangel and Mayor David Dinkins.

In 1971 Sutton began purchasing black-owned media businesses, becoming the owner and chairman of the Inner-City Broadcasting Company in 1977. Through this corporation he purchased and restored the Apollo Theater, a Harlem landmark. Sutton was awarded the Spingarn Medal for his work by the National Association for the ...


Thomas-Graham, Pamela  

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 ...