Earl G. Graves Sr. is the founder and publisher of Black Enterprise magazine and a nationally recognized authority on black business development. In 1972, he was named one of the 10 most outstanding minority businessmen in the country by the president of the United States and received the National Award of Excellence in recognition of his achievements in minority business enterprise. He is also listed in Who’s Who in America and was named one of 200 future leaders of the country by Time magazine in 1974.
Today he is chairman of Earl G. Graves Ltd., parent corporation of Earl G. Graves Publishing Co., publisher of Black Enterprise magazine—a business-service publication targeted to black professionals, executives, entrepreneurs, and policy makers in the public and private sector. Black Enterprise magazine has been profitable since its 10th issue and yearly sales are steadily increasing. The magazine has a paid circulation of 500,000 with a readership of approximately 4 million. Since 1997, the magazine has been a five-time recipient of the FOLIO: Editorial Excellence Award in the business/finance consumer magazine category.
In January 2006, Graves named his eldest son, Earl “Butch” Graves, the company’s new chief executive officer. The promotion of Graves Jr. to CEO represents the transition of Earl G. Graves Ltd. to the next generation of leadership. His formal title is president and CEO.
Earl G. Graves Sr. was previously chairman and CEO of Pepsi-Cola of Washington, D.C., L.P., the largest minority-controlled Pepsi-Cola franchise in the United States. The company spanned a franchise territory of more than 400 square miles, including Washington, D.C. and Prince George’s County, Maryland. He acquired the $60 million franchise in July 1990 and at the end of 1998, sold it back to the parent company for which he continued to be actively involved as chairman of the Pepsi African-American Advisory Board. In March 2005, Pepsi awarded him the Harvey C. Russell Inclusion Award, recognizing him for outstanding achievement in support of PepsiCo’s diversity and inclusion efforts.
Graves is a staunch advocate of higher education and equal opportunity. In recognition of his support of entrepreneurial education and his many years of contributing to Morgan State University, including a $1 million gift to advance business education, the University renamed its school of business and management the Earl G. Graves School of Business and Management. The announcement was made by University President Dr. Earl Richardson during the Black Enterprise 25th Anniversary Gala on Aug. 9, 1995.
Graves was an administrative assistant to the late Senator Robert F. Kennedy from 1965 to 1968. After Senator Kennedy’s assassination, Graves formed his own management consulting firm to advise corporations on urban affairs and economic development. His firm’s clients included major multinational companies.
Graves is currently a director of Aetna Inc. He retired from the boards of AMR Corp. (American Airlines), DaimlerChrysler AG Corp., Federated Department Stores, Inc., and Rohm & Haas Corporation.
In 2002, Fortune magazine named Graves one of the 50 most powerful and influential African Americans in corporate America. He holds a seat on the board of selectors of the American Institute for Public Service, the Advisory Council of the Character Education Partnership, the board of the Steadman-Hawkins Sports Medicine Foundation, the board of The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, and the national advisory board of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. He is also a trustee of Howard University, the Committee for Economic Development, the Special Contributions Fund of the NAACP, and the New York Economic Club. Graves was appointed to serve on a presidential commission for the National Museum of African American History and Culture, and was a civilian aide to the secretary of the U.S. Army from 1978 to 1980.
In 2007, Graves was inducted into the U.S. Business Hall of Fame, which recognizes the contributions of the nation’s most distinguished corporate professionals who have enriched the econonmy and inspired young people to pursue excellence in business and in life.
Graves is an ROTC graduate. He attended Airborne School and Ranger School and finished his Army career (in the rank of Captain) as a member of the 19th Special Forces Group, the Green Berets. He received a U.S. Army Commendation Award.
Long active in scouting, Graves is currently a vice president on the National Executive Board and a member of the marketing committee for the national office of the Boy Scouts of America. He was formerly National Commissioner of Scouting and chairman of the National Communications Committee. He has also received the highest recognition awards for volunteer service in scouting: the Silver Beaver Award (1969), the Silver Antelope Award (1986), and the Silver Buffalo Award (1988).
During the span of his business and professional career, Graves has received numerous awards and honors for his outstanding business leadership and community service. In 1998, he received the Marietta Tree Award for Public Service from the Citizens Committee for New York City Inc., the Charles Evans Hughes Gold Medal Award from The National Conference for Community and Justice, the Ronald H. Brown Leadership Award from the U.S. Department of Commerce, and the Merrick-Moore Spaulding National Achievement Award at the 100th Anniversary celebration of North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Co., among others. In 1995, he was named New York City Entrepreneur of the Year by Ernst & Young, and inducted into the National Sales Hall of Fame by the Association of Sales and Marketing Executives. Other awards he has received include the Dow Jones & Co. Award for Entrepreneurial Excellence (1992), the Free Enterprise Award from the International Franchise Association (1991), and the New York State Regents Medal of Excellence.
In 1999, Graves received the 84th NAACP Spingarn Medal, the highest achievement award for African Americans, and he was named one of the Top 100 Business News Luminaries of the Century by TJFR, a business journalism publication. That same year, he also received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Caribbean Tourism Organization. In 2005, Graves was inducted into the Sales and Marketing Executives International (SMEI) Academy of Achievement Hall of Fame and named Entrepreneur of the Century by Atlanta Life Financial Group at the company’s centennial celebration. In January 2006, he was immortalized in wax when ExxonMobil commissioned a likeness of him to be exhibited in the National Great Blacks in Wax Museum in Baltimore, Maryland. In August, he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) for his contributions to the field of journalism and the publishing industry. In October, civil rights activist and founding Black Enterprise Board of Advisors member Julian Bond interviewed Graves for “An Evening with Earl Graves,” a program produced for The HistoryMakers that aired on the PBS network in February 2007.
Graves is a member of the National Black College Hall of Fame, and he has also lectured at Yale University as a Poynter Fellow. He received his bachelor’s degree in economics from Morgan State College (now Morgan State University) in Baltimore, Maryland, and has received honorary degrees from more than 65 colleges and universities, including his alma mater.
Elected a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2000, Graves is continually sought out as a keynote speaker by small and large corporations, as well as the public and non-profit sectors of business in America. He authored a book titled How to Succeed in Business Without Being White, in which he talks about his strategies for success. Published by HarperBusiness Publications, the book was released in April 1997 and made the best-seller list in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. It was also selected as a finalist for the 1997 Financial Times/Booz-Allen & Hamilton Global Business Book Award.
Graves was born in Brooklyn, New York, and currently resides in Westchester County with his wife of more than 48 years, Barbara. Mr. and Mrs. Graves have three sons, all successful professionals who work in the family’s businesses, and eight grandchildren.