Founder of Black Enterprise Magazine, Earl Graves Sr. Dies at 85

NEW YORK (AP) — Earl Graves Sr., who championed black businesses as the founder of the first African American-owned magazine focusing on black entrepreneurs, has died. He was 85.

Graves died Monday after a long battle with Alzheimer’s disease, according to his son, Earl “Butch” Graves Jr, in a post on Twitter.

Graves launched his magazine, Black Enterprise, in 1970. He later said his aim was to educate, inspire and uplift his readers.

“My goal was to show them how to thrive professionally, economically and as proactive, empowered citizens,” Graves wrote in his 1997 book “How To Succeed In Business Without Being White.”

Black Enterprise’s premier event of the year where African American corporate heavy-hitters, innovative entrepreneurs, and noteworthy celebrities come together with the understanding that not all power plays occur in the boardroom, was the stellar event was the annual BE Golf & Tennis Challenge. The highly anticipated event provided a venue and platform for networking and deal making in a relaxed atmosphere.

According to an obituary published by Black Enterprise, Graves grew up in Brooklyn and gained an economics degree from Morgan State University. He held jobs in law enforcement and real estate before working on Sen. Robert F. Kennedy’s staff.

After Kennedy’s assassination in 1968, he moved to found the magazine, which is now headed by his son.

He served on the boards of several major corporations, including American Airlines, Daimler Chrysler and Rohm & Hass and backed the presidential bids of Jesse Jackson and Barack Obama, Black Enterprise wrote.

In addition to Black Enterprise, Graves also ran Pepsi-Cola of Washington, D.C., one of the nation’s largest soft-drink distributors owned by African Americans. He sold his stake in the bottler to PepsiCo in 1998.

“As a little boy, I saw a magazine with something I’d never seen—a picture of a Black man as the owner: Black Enterprise Founder & Publisher Earl G. Graves,” tweeted Rev. Cornell William Brooks, a professor at Harvard’s Kennedy School and former president and CEO of the NAACP. “Graves has died — after inspiring MILLIONS to succeed in business & beyond. Inspired kids & so many others mourn his passing.”

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden was among others eulogizing Graves.

“As the founder of Black Enterprise, Earl Graves Sr. was a trailblazer in his own right, a leader in the American business community, and paved the way for many Black entrepreneurs to realize their dreams,” the former vice president wrote on Twitter.

Scroll to Top