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  • LeShelle A. Smith

Black Enterprise founder Earl Graves, Sr. passes at 85

Updated: Apr 8

It is with profound sadness that we share news of the passing of Black Enterprise Founder Earl G. Graves Sr.," Black Enterprise said Tuesday in a tweet. "We will evermore celebrate his life and legacy." Black Enterprise reported that Graves’ death came "after a long battle with Alzheimer’s.


An Army veteran, a HBCU graduate of Morgan State University, former administrative assistant to Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, and author of the New York Times best-seller, "How to Succeed in Business Without Being White," Graves went on to found and publish Black Enterprise magazine in 1970.

The Brooklyn native recognized the Post-Civil Rights Movement era was prime for a magazine committed to empowering Blacks, highlighting individuals who have made strides in politics, academe, as well as in corporate America and as entrepreneurs. Black Enterprise continues to be not only be a publisher, inspiring platforms such as Minority Report, but continues to be the champion of corporate, professional, and personal financial development through its digital, broadcast, and in-person events such as the Women of Power Summit and Black Men Xcel.

Graves also served as Chairman and CEO of Pepsi-Cola of Washington, D.C., L.P., the largest minority-controlled Pepsi-Cola franchise in the U.S. He was also a General Partner of Egoli Beverages, L.P., the Pepsi-Cola franchise bottler of South Africa. He was also the recipient of the 84th NAACP Spingarn Medal, the highest distinction awarded by the storied civil rights organization, one of a number of prizes that he received in recognition for his success. Graves was inducted into the U.S. Business Hall of Fame, was named by Fortune as one of the 50 most powerful and influential African Americans in corporate America. As a former member of the Green Berets, Graves was honored with a U.S. Army Commendation Award.

Graves career and accomplishments did not stop at creation of Black Enterprise or the awards he received. Graves would often draft inspiring editorials for his publication, like this one below from the August 1999 edition, celebrating 29 years of telling stories of phenomenal and industrious Black people. Graves describes the women who worked tirelessly as domestic workers, while operating their own side-hustles and/or enabling children and spouses to become the great leaders we know today. He speaks lovingly of his wife Barbara, who worked by his side until she passed in 2012. They were married for 37 years and both are now survived by their three sons.

Earl Graves Jr., who is the CEO of Black Enterprise, tweeted a tribute to his father’s life early Tuesday morning honoring the "giant of a man."

#EarlGraves #BlackEnterprise

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