Corporate America Reflects On Our Founder's Legacy
BE 50th Anniversary Leadership

Corporate America Reflects On Our Founder’s Legacy: Nationwide Chief Administrative Officer Gale King

earl g. graves sr.
Earl G. Graves, Sr. [Source photo: Charles Eshelman/Getty Images Courtesy of]

These business leaders have come to value the information BE provides—from its inception as a groundbreaking publication in the 1970s through its evolution to an expansive multimedia company of this millennium—to millions of African Americans to help them attain success as business owners and corporate executives. They fully appreciate BE’s influence on its audience in showcasing countless examples of discovery and achievement, reinforcing professional aspirations, and confirming fruitful ascent across a range of fields. Through presentations and invitations, they became aware that the highest standards of excellence from African American professionals is not an aberration tied to a select few but an ongoing part of our history. Moreover, large numbers of CEOs over the years recognized and embraced this platform that Publisher Graves designed for education and advocacy, constantly promoting equal opportunity, challenging corporate leadership to purposely design inclusive environments, and recognizing those who have chosen the right path or corrected course.

Through this process, our founder met his mission: the development of corporate partnerships in which the realization and pursuit of the progression of African American executives, suppliers, consumers, and other stakeholders was a business imperative that fostered dynamic, profitable companies as well as a stronger nation. On the following pages, these corporate leaders—our partners—share why they value and embrace our founder’s legacy.

If a legacy is captured by what you give, then Earl Graves Sr.’s life and impact personify that definition—written forever in the hearts and minds of those whose lives he touched and for whom his impact lives.

I, along with countless other executives, business leaders, and entrepreneurs stand on the shoulders of this trailblazing giant. Mr. Graves was a changemaker, a bold, unapologetic champion of Black businesses and Black talent, who also understood the importance of family, friends, and community. 

He modeled what confident, visionary leadership looks like. He knew that greatness began with hard work, personal will, knock-down-and-get-back-up strength, and a succeed-and lift-others-up spirit.

His vision and personal will opened doors for him, and he, in turn, lifted others up by educating and celebrating Black excellence through his beloved Black Enterprise—a magazine where we could see new possibilities—and we could do the work to make our dreams a reality.

I vividly remember reading Black Enterprise as a young adult, and I so admired those leaders he put a spotlight on. He knew the power of an image, and he provided us a view into corporate America, permitting us to believe that we too could be a CEO, executive vice president, vice president, a business owner—yes, he showed us possibilities, and then he celebrated every one of our accomplishments.

As I grew in my career, I had the honor of meeting Mr. Graves and his beloved wife, Barbara. His presence and personality were larger than life, and yet he ensured that everyone he met felt welcomed and valued. Being in his presence was like spending time with family—encouraging, lifting, and inspiring.

The images I saw in Black Enterprise inspired a dream of what I could aspire to do professionally, but upon meeting Mr. Graves, and hearing him speak of family and friends and what drove him left me, and all who interacted with him, inspired to do more.

The history books have appropriately recorded that Mr. Graves was an accomplished, inspiring, business executive, board member, educator. But when we, who knew his “why,” reflect on how his legacy and life’s work opened doors for us that had previously been shut, our hearts remember that he was our hero in that he showed Black America who we could be through inspiring stories of achievement, financial empowerment, and connection to people all over the world—paving the way for Black success today and tomorrow. 

To the Graves family, thank you for sharing Mr. Graves with the world, and thank you for carrying on his amazing and lasting legacy—a legacy written on the hearts of the people whose lives he touched and the impact it continues to have.

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