This memorial website was created in memory of our loved one, Earl G. Graves, Sr. 85 years old, born on January 9, 1935 and passed away on April 6, 2020. We will remember him forever.
Posted by Yusef Johnson on April 30, 2020
Bro. Graves was such a great man! He and my wife's uncle, Sam Pinn, went waaay back. Simone remembers him fondly. When I met him at Mr Pinn's funeral, Mrs. Pinn introduced me to him and told him that I was Simone's husband. The first words out of his mouth were "So you let those eyes get you huh...." And he let out this great laugh!

I can only imagine the times that he and Mr. Pinn may have had. Your father was a giant amongst men. He did so much for Black economic empowerment. He will be greatly missed. It is up to all of us to continue that legacy.

Yusef Johnson 2 PBB 2009
Posted by James Comer on April 26, 2020

Earl Graves lived a remarkable life with unequaled gusto, deep thoughtfulness, great success, and engaging humor--as a citizen, Civil Rights and child and youth advocate, family man and friend. Our friendship has been one of the highlights of my own life. He is gone now, but the strong winds of his presence will be with me and us forever. Thanks Earl
Jim Comer
Posted by STEVEN REINEMUND on April 18, 2020
Earl Graves was a valued member of the PepsiCo family. His inspirational leadership raised our expectation for excellence. He positively and consistently challenged our thinking and our actions to make the company a place where everyone was welcomed, encouraged, supported and rewarded for excellence. It was a privilege to call him my friend.
Posted by Jane Smith on April 18, 2020
Earl Graves was a giant of a man who was with us when we needed him most. His enthusiastic manner when greeting you was a gift that inspired you to move forward against any odds. I am blessed to have memories of him.
Posted by Sheldon Jones on April 18, 2020
America has lost a Giant but his legacy will be timeless. 
                                                                         So proud to have worked for this legendary trailblazer and visionary back in the day. It was the thrill of a lifetime writing and editing for one of this country's premier national business publications, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. Mr. Graves' Black Enterprise magazine ascended, over these past five decades, from coffee-table staple in black households to present-day digital media empire. His uniquely inspired mission was always to tirelessly shine a much-needed light on African-American entrepreneurship, leadership, and business excellence.          

And, in that pursuit, Mr. Graves -- you never failed.

You will be missed, but never forgotten.

-- Sheldon Jones, former copyeditor/editor for Black Enterprise Magazine
Posted by Donna Allen Lowber on April 17, 2020
I was BLESSED to be a part of the Black Enterprise family for five years. I have so many wonderful memories of my time working for both Mr. Graves Sr. and Jr. Excellence in everything was a must and everyone lived up to the challenge! I remember a time when Mr. Graves had a last minute meeting with a potential client and asked if I would help prepare a presentation for the following morning. I stayed in the office and worked through the night to complete the project in time for the presentation. Why? Although, I was not asked to stay all night, I wanted to go above and beyond - following a standard that Mr. Graves inspired us to set for ourselves and for Black Enterprise. When Mr. Graves arrived the next morning and discovered I had worked throughout the night, he invited me to a Knicks game and a dinner with him, Mrs. Graves, Butch, and Carolyn Odom. Although I wasn’t a big basketball fan at the time, the dinner invitation meant so much to me. I feel proud to tell my children that I worked with one of the greats. Rest In Peace Mr. Graves. Thank you for touching so many lives. Blessings and condolences to the Graves family. I hope you will take comfort in knowing that Mr. Graves is in your future.

Much love,
Donna Allen Lowber
Posted by Deloris McClam Cross on April 16, 2020
I'm forever grateful to Mr. Earl G. Graves Sr for guiding me across a 40 year
career in corporate America through his prodigious publications filled with invaluable information relating to business, finance, networking, mentoring, development, and lifelong success. My education at Black Enterprise University started in 1973. The first copy I read left me feeling such respect and admiration for the magazine, I'm still reading to this day.
Mr. Grave afforded me a few dreams come true when I was featured in Black Enterprise's edition "REINVENT YOURSELF the Ultimate Guide to Lifelong Success", and having the honor of meeting him.
Mr. Graves' humanity, greatest, reach, and seeds sowed will proliferate forever. Thank you, Mr. Earl G. Graves Sr.
Posted by Ronald Gault on April 15, 2020
Earl invited me and a couple of other buddies to go
skiing in New England at a lodge that he had there. in
prior years, the Graves's family went there during for some portion of the ski season. Earl and his
three sons always had a grand time on the slopes. That year, 1990, for whatever reason, the boys' calendars were
full with the things that young men do. Earl was left to
his own devices. He invited me and several others to
join him. We obliged.

That February was very cold. The ski lift was open, not a fancy enclosed cabin, and you got a full blast of that cold
wind. It was so cold that the snot froze on your face. Earl's favorite refrain, "Are we having fun yet." was repeated often during the skin runs. That first or second
night as we settled in to watch some "adult films", with which the lodge was well stocked, a breaking news story
brought everything to a halt: AFTER 27 YEARS IN

Where were you and what were doing when Nelson
Mandela was freed, are questions I can always answer
without a moment's hesitation.

Ron Gault

Posted by Clarence Otis on April 15, 2020
Like many young African Americans growing up in an inner city community in the 1960's and 1970's, I didn't know much about the business world beyond the proprietorships and occasional legal and medical professional offices in my neighborhood. Black Enterprise helped me understand the possibilities in business beyond what little I saw every day. More importantly, Black Enterprise gave me confidence I could take advantage of those opportunities. One of my most memorable moments came shortly after I was named CEO of Darden Restaurants. It was during the photo shoot for a cover article in Black Enterprise. As exciting as the shoot itself was, what is most memorable is that Mr. Graves and his wife Barbara stopped by to visit with me and the others participating in the shoot. I beyond thrilled to meet the man whose confidence in me and my generation inspired me to dream big dreams about what could be accomplished by African Americans in the business world. My deepest sympathies to the Graves family as you mourn your loss. But, know that this is also a time to celebrate one incredible life.
Posted by Ralph Moore on April 14, 2020
The world has lost a giant. What John H. Johnson did for Black Families with Ebony Magazine, Earl G. Graves did for Black entrepreneurs and executives with Black Enterprise. His vision changed the trajectory of Black businesses and their founders for many generations to come. Over the years, BE's insightful articles, rare photos, and African-American focused advertising captured the game-changing evolution of Black business development. I had the opportunity to share with Mr. Graves (Earl) that I had every issue of BE since 1978 in my office and he smiled and replied, "Hold on to them. That's a valuable collection!" His vast contribution cannot be captured in words. May he rest in peace.
Posted by Wilma Hutton on April 14, 2020
Mr. Graves was an awesome man. I will miss him dearly. Chauffeuring him over the years was always a delight. I looked forward to his in town visits and learned so much from him. Through all of the various events, gatherings and laughs with close family and friends, those beautiful memories will live in my heart forever. RIP Mr. Graves.... we love him but God loves him more. Sorrowfully written....
Posted by Anita Arnold on April 14, 2020
I worked with Earl for a number of years through the National Black Business Council during the late 1980s. As Chairman of the Board of Directors, Earl hosted the board numerous times in New York, Washington, D. C., Atlanta, GA, and numerous other places as we were seeking to make a difference in the lives of African Americans in this country. Each meeting was another opportunity to enter a record in the journal of lifetime memorable experiences.  He was a natural leader with plenty of vision. I am happy to have served my country as a member of the board of this visionary group under his leadership. - Anita Arnold, Oklahoma City, OK
Posted by Clyde Jackson on April 13, 2020
We have lost a wonderful person, Mr Graves was a great person to work for.
he will be missed by every one. may he rest in peace
Posted by Everett Hinson on April 13, 2020
Thank you for the inspiration and providing a compass in this big world. Your dream provided the conduit for my dream to become a reality.
Posted by ADELE LASSERE on April 13, 2020
My sincere condolences to the Graves' family. 

My first meeting with Mr. Graves, I was fresh out-of-college and a young up-start in the advertising business. I always admired Mr. Graves as an icon, mogul and trailblazer! He inspired me to dream bigger! He truly was a leader in the African American community; and, his deeds, not words, demonstrated just that. 

Rest in peace, Mr. Graves............your legacy will continue to live on..............

Posted by Roslyn Smith on April 13, 2020
I heard you speak at my niece's graduation from Bethune Cookman University along with Cicely Tyson. The energy in the room was intense because yours words touched us all. You brought Merrill Lynch with you and they hired some of those graduating seniors. What a rich memory. Rest in piece. Sincerely, Roslyn Smith
Posted by Michael Mallory on April 13, 2020
I was saddened to learn of the passing of former Ron Brown Scholar Program Board of Trustee member Earl Gilbert Graves Sr. It reminded me of a conversation with another dear departed friend, Holmes Brown, who was a mentor to Mr. Graves when Earl was an energetic and spry young fellow making his way in NYC. Holmes heaped glowing praise on Earl’s brilliance, determination, and extraordinary success as a publisher, philanthropist, and businessman.

Holmes knew that we were looking to form a Ron Brown Board of Trustees and offered to call Earl. To my surprise, Earl called right back. We discussed RBS and set a meeting at Earl’s office in NYC in April 2006. Holmes and I then flew to NYC to make the formal ask of Earl. Upon his acceptance, I knew RBSP would be immediately more credible in the eyes of many and had gained a committed thought partner to drive our expansion.

Mr. Graves made a serious contribution to our Ron Brown Scholar community. RBS 2000 and serial entrepreneur Jason Young recalls reading Black Enterprise in college at Harvard. “For me, it was a beacon of Black Excellence in a white world,” Jason wrote. “In fact, Black Enterprise played a critical role in my own ventures. It was through the magazine that I first became aware of Roger Ferguson, CEO of TIAA. The company would later become my largest client. Mr. Graves' willingness to feature me in Black Enterprise was not only an amazing honor. I believe it was instrumental in my fundraising efforts in the early stages of launching my company.”

Earl Graves’ commitment to the Ron Brown Scholar Program was not only professional but deeply personal. He was lifelong friends with the Program’s namesake, Ron Brown. Ron Brown's daughter and great friend of the Program, Tracey Brown James, recalls that Mr. Graves was like a big brother to Alma Arrington Brown dating back to their childhoods in Brooklyn, New York. The two families remain close to this day.

Sharon Brickhouse Martin, another RBSP Board of Trustee member, recalls the first time she met Mr. Graves: "When I saw the news of Earl's passing, I immediately thought of an RBSP event in NYC. I sat next to Mr. Graves and I remember that he was very attentive; even asking me at several points to repeat what was said since he had a hard time hearing some of the presentations. We ate together and talked about the program during the lunch break. What a pioneer he was to develop Black Enterprise at a time when the notion of black men – or women - in business was still novel."

Earl Graves was a pioneer in trumpeting the opportunity, importance, and success of black entrepreneurs. His success at Black Enterprise and other related businesses demonstrate what a dynamic black leader could aspire to be during a time when there were so few role models. We have lost a giant. Earl Graves changed lives, opinions, and the Ron Brown Scholar Program for the better.
Posted by Lula Bridges on April 13, 2020
What a wonderful Life. As I'm sure with all greatness you had your struggles. But by the grace of God you overcame them so others like me would know it's possible. Thank God for your life and may He continue to bless your family.
Posted by Terence Saulsby on April 12, 2020
Years ago, a young African American performer had an endorsement contract with a Fortune 500 corporation whose Board of Directors included Mr. Graves. The performer came under scrutiny following some controversial statements and the corporation wanted to cancel the endorsement contract. Putting into practice his mantra of “Standing in Harm’s Way,” Mr. Graves took a stand and demanded this performer’s deal remain fully intact.

About a year later, the editor’s of Black Enterprise requested an interview and photo shoot with the performer with the goal of producing a cover story for an upcoming issue. The performer and management refused to participate feeling they were too high-profile for an “ethnic” publication like BE. I doubt the performer was ever made aware that it was Earl Graves, the Publisher of that “ethnic” magazine that had saved their mulit-million dollar endorsement deal from the chopping block.

The lesson I will always carry with me is oftentimes you do not know who is working in the background on your behalf. I saw one person that, on principle, went to bat for someone he’d never met. I saw another person look down on an entity they felt they’d “outgrown.”

This was but one of many, many times Mr. Graves used his success and influence to help move us all forward. The corporate boardroom battleground was one of the arena’s in which Mr. Graves thrived. He “Stood in Harm’s Way” making sure African American suppliers get a fair share of corporate contracts, African American executives get the same advancement opportunities as others, and African American communities were not exploited. He “Stood in Harm’s Way” for those who demonstrated a desire to be successful.
Posted by Vera Moore on April 12, 2020
To Butch and the family, I am truly saddened by the passing of your father. Mr. Earl G. Graves. I met him decades ago at the Blk Enterprise Conf. in Fl. He was so kind and stopped and talked to me at length about my cosmetics business. I remember his smile, sense of humor and his presence. His encouraging words about the importance of entrepreneurship. He will be missed. May he rest in peace.
Posted by Jacqueline Frazer on April 12, 2020
My warmest sympathies to his family, on the passing of Earl Graves Sr.

Mr. Graves, an icon of U.S. publishing and a champion of black people
and black business success everywhere, was one of my first corporate
catering clients, and my longest term client, from 1989 until his stepping
down from Black Enterprise Magazine and retirement from publishing.

During these years I was privileged to cater Mr. Graves VIP Executive
Luncheons and other corporate events at Black Enterprise headquarters
in Manhattan, as well as private gatherings at the Graves’ residence in
Scarsdale and their weekend home in Sag Harbor.

To Mr. Graves’ entire family and his many, many friends, I offer my
deepest and sincerest condolences.

He will be missed.


Executive Chef Jacqueline Frazer
Command Performance Catering
New York
t: 646-698-1325
c: 646-852-4646
Posted by Sandra Moose on April 12, 2020
I was saddened to learn of the passing of our esteemed former colleague on the Board of the Rohm and Haas Company. He was a remarkable man who greatly contributed to our focus on diversity and impact on communities where we had plant locations. I valued his friendship and enjoyed sharing conversations with Earl and Barbara. I always looked forward to his Christmas cards!  The Graves family has my heartfelt sympathy for their profound loss, which is especially sad as it marks the end of an era. Sandy Moose
Posted by Chris Wilson on April 12, 2020
I am thankful to Earl Sr. and the Graves family for creating an avenue that allowed blacks to see and experience the world of business. If you can see it, you can achieve it! Thank you Earl Sr. for inspiring so many of us to dare to dream of owning and running our own family businesses! 

Well done as a good and faithful servant!
Posted by Ron Williams on April 12, 2020
In Gratitude for Earl Graves, Sr.

I am saddened at the passing of Earl Graves, Sr., a legend in the lives of so many Black Americans, and an instrumental person in mine. The first issue of Black Enterprise hit the newsstands in 1970, which also was the year that I graduated with a bachelor's degree. At that time, I didn't know anyone who worked in business. Businesses were not hiring Black American men or women in significant roles. Most professionals I was aware of were either the local doctor, lawyer, minister or teacher. While these roles were obviously important, they were not what I was looking for, I wanted a business career.
Black Enterprise opened the eyes of a generation to the few successful role models who were emerging, and the wide variety of opportunities that could be available to those of us who sought them. The publication provided insights and clarity into the possibilities in the world of business.
It continues to amaze me that someone I read about, in a publication so influential, became a friend, colleague, fellow Board member and avid supporter of my ascension to chairman and CEO of Aetna.
Generations were awakened and educated by Black Enterprise; and for that and many other things, we owe Earl a huge debt of gratitude. May he rest in peace. My condolences to the Graves family.

Posted by Lee Andrew Archer on April 12, 2020
Earl Graves, Sr., a remarkable man and pioneering entrepreneur, will be remembered and treasured by Archer family for the good-hearted friendship he so generously shared with us.

Posted by DAVIDA DAVIS on April 11, 2020
Thanks for the memories, from one Brooklynite to another you will be greatly missed. Thanks for all you did for our Black Culture.
Posted by Larry Barkley on April 11, 2020
When I first met Mr. Graves it was a great honor to meet a living Icon. After talking with him for a short period I realized how he gained the iconic status. He warm tone and his endearing personality made me a friend for life. He had a authentic genuine spirit. He will be truly missed. RIP Mr. Graves
Posted by Allison Crooker on April 11, 2020
Black Enterprise and Earl G. Graves, Sr have been a part of my life since my birth. Growing up with a second generation West Indian mom and dad in Brooklyn, NY, the magazine and Mr. Graves felt familiar and like family. Every month Black Enterprise would arrive in the mail and I would rush to read it. In words and images, Black Enterprise showed me that being a successful businessperson was not only possible but likely. It allowed me to never question that I could succeed.

Fast forward decades later and after attending Harvard Business School in the same class as Butch Graves, I had the pleasure of working for both Butch and Mr. Graves for two years. In many ways it was a dream come true and in all ways it was an experience I will never forget.

An icon has moved beyond this world but Earl G. Graves, Sr. left a legacy that will last for many, many, many decades to come.

Allison (Jones) Crooker (Brooklyn, NY / San Jose, CA)
Posted by Steve Thomas on April 11, 2020
This man and his magazine changed my life. He gave me role models. He gave me dreams. He gave me hope. Inspiration.
Thank you for changing me and a whole generation like me.

-Steve Thomas (Montclair, NJ / Evanston, IL)
Posted by Zeline Bates on April 11, 2020
It was my pleasure working with Earl Graves and the Black Enterprise family for decades. I extend to the family my sincere condolences. May you find comfort in the memories of Earl Grave, Sr.'s great and illustrious life. May God bless you as only He knows how.

Regards, Zeline Kelly Bates
Posted by Jordan Allen on April 11, 2020
Rest In Power, Mr. Graves. Honored to have met him on several occasions in my youth. Having an example of a Black multi-millionaire who wasn't an athlete was everything to me as a child. We didn't have a lot of superheros that represented us. Earl G. Graves Sr. was just that! I used to draw pictures of Mr. Graves with his signature "pork chop" sideburns.

My grandmother Arletha Allen (Vickers) worked for his magazine as the Editorial Business Supervisor. She ensured that my siblings and I grew up with Black Enterprise magazines. In addition, my brother Jamar and I were fortunate to partake in the Kidpreneur experience the company created. Major seeds that would assist in my growth to become the self-starter that I am today, and have been since I got my "first job" at 10 years old sweeping the parking lot for a KFC in Philly (1995). A job I talked my way into. The Manager was a cool dude and would pay me $30 out of pocket and give me free food.

I don't recall having a hustler spirit prior to learning about Black Enterprise magazine and Earl G. Graves Sr. My sincere condolences to his family and those who knew him best. We lost a pioneer and a legend.
Posted by Taffeta Harris on April 11, 2020
Graves family and friends, you have my dearest, deepest, and sincerest sympathies. Please dear Lord, keep this family wrapped in your ever loving arms, and comfort the soul and spirit of the departed. I remember subscribing to my first subscription of "Black Enterprise" magazine, and how proud and excited I was to get it in the mail! I was in high school, and would eagerly check the mail to see if it had arrived...and when it did, WoW!!! I, first, just stared at the cover, then read it, a couple of times, thinking...this is Black Excellence and Black Royalty! Thank you Mr. Graves for all you did while you were here, and all your awesome legacy will continue to do...Inspire greatness! To GOD Be All the Glory! Amen!
Posted by Jesse Jackson on April 11, 2020
My deepest condolences and sympathies to the Black Enterprise and Graves family, truly saddened by the loss of this American icon. I had the privilege to meet with Mr. Graves on several occasions and was always so impressed by the high standards he had for himself, his company and others. In keeping this standards so high, he, his business and his legacy will continue to inspire me and I am sure many others. Rest In Peace with the knowledge that your life was a bright light and a positive influence on the world, thank you Mr. Graves.
Posted by Charmaine Johnson on April 11, 2020
Mr. Graves, I remember meeting you at the Black Ski Challenge. I looked forward to participating in the Ski Challenge as well as the Tennis Event. You were such an inspiration to all. I remember meeting Darwin Davis and how much he also provided financial education at your events. May God bless the many contributions you made to the world and especially the black community. Thank you.
Posted by Khalila Arthur on April 11, 2020
To a man well-admired, well-established, well-respected, well-lived, and most of all...well-loved for 85 blessed years. You will FOREVER be well-remembered! You were a man of great dignity, with morals, values and ethics that allowed you to be the patriarch of your precious family and held in such high regard. You were an Entrepreneur, Publisher, Businessman, Philanthropist, and advocate of African-American businesses - just to name a few. You were the founder of Black Enterprise magazine and Chairman of the media company Earl G. Graves, Ltd. You were a trailblazer and pillar of the African American community and of excellence! It was a pleasure and a privilege to have known you and I'm proud to have worked under your tutelage. Black Enterprise is the reason I became a homeowner at 30 and a businessowner in the years following. The memories I shared with you and the BE family - my forever extended family, will last a lifetime. Thank you for your leadership. You are deserving of the admiration, praise and accolades you have received throughout your lifetime. As an ex-employee of Black Enterprise, I am sincerely saddended and truly touched by your passing but God needed you now to blaze trails in heaven. Thank you for welcoming me into your BE home. Affectionately known to you as "the little one"...I will forever feel blessed to have been able to share years of your extraordinary legacy through my tenure at BE. I love you Mr G. May you rest peacefully ❤. My sincerest condolences to the entire Graves family. My heart is with you all ❤❤❤.
Posted by Diana Starks on April 11, 2020
When attending the Black Ski Summit in the 80s and early 90s I remember Earl Graves, Sr. as a strong supporter of the national ski organization's mission to introduce youth of color to the ski industry and to assist youth of color in winter sports competition. He demonstrated great integrity and commitment as a business man.
Posted by Joyce Roche on April 11, 2020
Earl Graves was someone who celebrated all of my professional achievements and championed my career throughout. He was an advisor who provided great insights and wisdom. He was a man who wanted to make sure that African Americans especially in business were acknowledged and celebrated. He made a powerful impact on the lives of so many of us. I will always be grateful and he will be missed.
Rest in Peace, Earl.
Posted by Michael Jones on April 11, 2020
To Earl Graves family . I am sorry about the lost we keep the Graves family and God Bless!

Posted by Tony Brown on April 11, 2020
He's from the same state I grew up in which is Bronx, New York, so I connected to him well. He gave a very inspiring speech at my college graduation which was Virginia State University back in 2001. I'm a big fan and follower of his Publication, "Black Enterprise." His legacy will live on.. Thank you Sir. 
Posted by Austin R. Cooper, Jr. on April 11, 2020
Mr. Graves,

Thank you for your transformative career and for being an inspiration to not only me, but countless others around the world. May you Rest In Peace and light perpetual shine upon you. Amen. Sleep well, Sir.

Posted by Bobby Coney on April 10, 2020
I became aware of Mr. Graves in 1971 while attending Pensacola Junior Florida, at which time, I subscribed to Black Enterprise magazine. Then in 1975 while living in Washington DC., I started to date a young lady from Baltimore MD who told me she knew the Graves family and in her teens had baby sit their 2 oldest sons. In 1977, the young lady and I moved to New York City and she went to visit the Graves several times and would tell me what a wonderful family they were. I thank you for the opportunity to reflect and share. Also, I thank my wonderful significant friend for sharing information with me concerning the Graves Family. May Mr and Ms. Graves and my wonderful Significant Friend all Rest in Peace.
Posted by Malla Haridat on April 10, 2020
Mr. Graves impact will last a lifetime for me. I had the privilege of working with his Events team on the Teenpreneurs event at the Entrepreneurs Conference for several years. Not only did I gain friends for life but also learned first hand about what Black economic empowerment REALLY meant from his formal and informal speeches. I remember when we were at G&T and Katrina hit. Mr. Graves shared the somber news and did what I haven't seen since - gave us strict marching orders for what we needed to do and immediately took action himself. It wasn't just lip service. He directly challenged the status quo to take notice and take action to serve.
I have an amazing pic with Mr Graves, Mrs Graves and my Mom at one of the Conferences. While they are all resting with the ancestors, I will miss them dearly on this Earthly realm. 
Posted by Barry Davidoff on April 10, 2020
Earl Graves was a great pioneer and inspiration for all Americans. His magazines and enterprises forged the way for a more diverse and better society. His legacy is not only embodied by the companies he created but by his family. The deepest of condolences to the entire Graves family.
Posted by Morris Brown on April 10, 2020
I remember Mr. Graves as the guest speaker at the Black Business Association of Memphis Tennessee.
Very inspiring and motivated as the organization moved forward on his words.
Rest in peace Mr. Earl Graves.
Posted by Ann Franklin on April 10, 2020
Even though I never had the opportunity to meet Mr. Graves, his impact on my family was immeasurable. My late father became a charter subscriber to Black Enterprise magazine a few months after he was hired as the first African American mid-level manager employed by his federal agency. The extreme harassment and social isolation that he experienced in this position was challenging and at times, even physically dangerous.

My father savored the arrival of each new issue of Black Enterprise and enthusiastically purchased gift subscriptions for friends and relatives. This incredible magazine was a life-saving beacon in the wilderness for him and the brave vanguard that integrated organizations during the early seventies. He continued to excel in the face of adversity by using information and contacts gleaned from its pages and began his MBA studies. In 1971, my father filed a discrimination complaint against his employer which eventually developed into a major class-action lawsuit. Years later, the United States Supreme Court denied cert. and my father and his co-plaintiff won a precedent-setting case that enabled federal employees to obtain certain legal protections that still exist today. 

Through his numerous efforts, Mr. Earl E. Graves, Sr. inspired many African American men, women and youth to embrace higher education and economic empowerment. He certainly inspired my father. I don't know if they ever crossed paths (they shared certain acquaintances in common) but one of my father's high school graduation gifts to me was my first subscription to Black Enterprise magazine. Mr. Grave's vision and fierce determination are embodied in the company that he founded but the greatest legacy that he leaves behind is his family. Paging through those first issues, my seven year-old self was awestruck by his cool muttonchops but as I grew older, what also impressed me was the obvious love and affection that he had for those closest to his heart. May you find peace and comfort during this difficult time. Thank you for allowing him to share his gifts with us.

Posted by Denise Binion on April 10, 2020
My father was self employed he was a construction contractor and he had a subscription to Black Enterprise when I was a young girl. I never read it but I remember the magazine in our house.
Posted by Reggie Williams on April 10, 2020
It has been my honor to have known Earl when he taught as professor at Morgan State University where I served as Visiting Associate Professor of Public Policy, working under then-Dean Vernon Gray. Earl launched his business, Black Enterprise, shortly thereafter, and I became a devoted follower from that day forward, and an admirer for my entire professional career.
- Reginald Williams, Consultant to Corporate Management, Supplier Diversity
Posted by Corey Huguley on April 10, 2020
I ask God to bless the Graves family at this time. Black Enterprise has been my go to for business news since I graduated college. How to Succeed in Business Without Being White still sits on my bookshelf. Thank you Mr Graves for the insight, wisdom and fact based news.
Posted by Ted Murdaugh on April 10, 2020
First and foremost I would like to express my deepest sympathy to the entire Graves family at the loss of Mr. Graves who was such an inspiring and impactful figure not only in my life but in the lives of so many around the world.

Secondly, I studied and majored in business at the University of South Carolina thanks in large part to Mr. Graves and his Black Enterprise Magazine! I had gotten a subscription to BE in 1974 upon graduating high school and his magazine gave me a vision of what could be achieved by obtaining knowledge in the field of business. Without Mr. Graves' influence I never would have had the opportunity to work for business icons like Jack Welch at GE or having run my own business, etc. His commitment to "black enterprise" is perhaps the single most influential factor to overall black GDP in the past 50 years.

Lastly, I once had the pleasure of being at a gate in O'Hare and who gets off the plane but Mr. Graves himself! I was surprised as he just began to casually stroll towards baggage claim without an entourage, etc. So I began to follow him wanting to introduce myself to him and to let him know how much he and BE meant to me. But after a few minutes I regrettably talked myself out of it. Then again (I now realize) that he saw me, in fact he saw all of us black business travelers with our various attaches', etc., and he knew us too...because we all were a product of his making. And I know that he was proud of us all.

Thank God for the life, the living and now the legacy of Mr. Earl G. Graves, Sr. May he rest in peace in the arms of the Savior!
Posted by Wayne Sobers on April 10, 2020
Earl Graves was a close friend and colleague; an outstanding entrepreneur and an empathetic leader whose legacy will endure for ages. Working with him was a unique privilege. He will be sorely missed!
Page 1 of 2

Leave a Tribute

Recent Tributes
Posted by Yusef Johnson on April 30, 2020
Bro. Graves was such a great man! He and my wife's uncle, Sam Pinn, went waaay back. Simone remembers him fondly. When I met him at Mr Pinn's funeral, Mrs. Pinn introduced me to him and told him that I was Simone's husband. The first words out of his mouth were "So you let those eyes get you huh...." And he let out this great laugh!

I can only imagine the times that he and Mr. Pinn may have had. Your father was a giant amongst men. He did so much for Black economic empowerment. He will be greatly missed. It is up to all of us to continue that legacy.

Yusef Johnson 2 PBB 2009
Posted by James Comer on April 26, 2020

Earl Graves lived a remarkable life with unequaled gusto, deep thoughtfulness, great success, and engaging humor--as a citizen, Civil Rights and child and youth advocate, family man and friend. Our friendship has been one of the highlights of my own life. He is gone now, but the strong winds of his presence will be with me and us forever. Thanks Earl
Jim Comer
Posted by STEVEN REINEMUND on April 18, 2020
Earl Graves was a valued member of the PepsiCo family. His inspirational leadership raised our expectation for excellence. He positively and consistently challenged our thinking and our actions to make the company a place where everyone was welcomed, encouraged, supported and rewarded for excellence. It was a privilege to call him my friend.
his Life


BLACK ENTERPRISE Founder and Publisher Earl G. Graves, Sr., the quintessential entrepreneur who created a vehicle of information and advocacy that has inspired four generations of African Americans to build wealth through entrepreneurship, career advancement and money management, has died. According to his son, BLACK ENTERPRISE CEO Earl “Butch” Graves Jr., he passed away quietly at 9:22 p.m. on April 6, after a long battle with Alzheimer’s. Graves was 85.

Graves was widely considered to be the ultimate champion of black business, launching BLACK ENTERPRISE in 1970 to not only chronicle the rise of African American entrepreneurs, but also provide the tools for African Americans to succeed in the business mainstream and  “achieve their measure of the American dream.”

In his award-winning, now classic, business bestseller, How To Succeed In Business Without Being White, Graves stated his life-defining purpose for founding BLACK ENTERPRISE in simple, direct terms: “The time was ripe for a magazine devoted to economic development in the African American community. The publication was committed to the task of educating, inspiring and uplifting its readers. My goal was to show them how to thrive professionally, economically and as proactive, empowered citizens.”

Driven by that mission, Graves became a trailblazing entrepreneur in his own right, building BLACK ENTERPRISE from a single-magazine publishing company 50 years ago, to a diversified multimedia business spreading the message of financial empowerment to more than 6 million African Americans through print, digital, broadcast and live-event platforms.  As such, BLACK ENTERPRISE was one of two companies that would appear on the BE 100s—the publication’s annual rankings of the nation’s largest black-owned businesses—each of its 47 years. At one point, Graves would operate two companies on the list, including Pepsi-Cola of Washington, DC, one of the nation’s largest soft-drink distributors owned by African Americans.

Graves’ influence and reach also extended into the mainstream of corporate America. One of the few African Americans to serve on the boards of major corporations such as American Airlines, Daimler Chrysler, Rohm & Hass and Federated Department Stores (Macy’s), he was a staunch advocate for African American inclusion in the C-Suite and corporate governance. Graves was also a tireless champion of major corporations doing business with black-owned companies.

Beyond business, Graves was a force in politics, civil rights, and philanthropy. In fact, he played a pivotal role in galvanizing support for the election of the first African American president of the United States, Barack Obama, through his endorsement in BLACK ENTERPRISE and service as a surrogate campaigning on his behalf. Before that, Graves also championed the historic presidential bids of Rev. Jesse Jackson. Moreover, his fight for racial justice and economic parity earned him the NAACP Spingarn Medal, the organization’s highest honor, in 1999.

Graves was also known for his dedication to family, and especially to his wife Barbara Kydd Graves, who passed away in 2012. Together, they raised three sons, Earl Jr., Johnny and Michael, and were blessed with eight grandchildren.

Born in 1935, Graves reaches the pinnacle of power from humble beginnings in the Bedford Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, New York. It was in that community where he learned the lessons of hard work and perseverance from his parents, Earl Godwin and Winifred Sealy Graves. After graduating from a Morgan State University with a B.A. in economics, he served two years as an officer in the Army, and held jobs in law enforcement and real estate. In 1965, he joined the staff of U.S. Senator Robert F. Kennedy as his administrative assistant. When Kennedy was assassinated in 1968, he decided to start a publication that would provide blacks with the pathway to go into entrepreneurship.

He wrote: “BLACK ENTERPRISE was just a modest magazine when I founded it—just me, a few brave advertisers like Pepsi, ExxonMobil and General Motors; and a small but spirited staff. And one other person who did just about everything there is to do to put out a magazine—my wife, Barbara.”

The young publisher managed to gain a $250,000 loan from Chase Manhattan Bank and proved so masterful at selling and running the magazine that it became profitable in 10 months — enabling Graves to repay the loan to the major financial institution.

With his wife Barbara at his side, he grew the magazine into one of the nation’s most successful and respected. The world first discovered such business luminaries as Oprah Winfrey, former American Express CEO Kenneth Chenault, billionaire dealmaker Bob Johnson, and the late financier Reginald F. Lewis on the pages of BLACK ENTERPRISE. In fact, Robert Smith. the billionaire CEO of Vista Equity Partners, like so many successful black entrepreneurs and corporate leaders, admitted that he switched careers to high finance after reading BLACK ENTERPRISE.

“The truth of the matter is that we are humbled by the achievements of the talented people we report on,” Graves wrote. “We are in awe, still, by the courage it takes to put oneself on the line in an unmerciful marketplace.”

Hundreds of thousands express awe and gratitude for the role he played and example of excellence and achievement he set for generations to come.

Recent stories
Shared by Maurice Cox on April 17, 2020
Earl Graves was an extraordinary leader.  A good day, he always said, was if you asked the tough questions and walked in harm’s way on behalf of someone else.    I was an executive at PepsiCo before retiring some years ago.  Pepsi-Cola was one of Black Enterprise’s first advertisers in 1970.  I got to know Earl through that relationship.  He and Earvin “Magic” Johnson later bought the Pepsi bottling franchise in Washington, D.C., a first.  The Black Enterprise/Pepsi Golf & Tennis Challenge was the first of its kind and he was so proud. He also chaired PepsiCo’s advisory board on marketplace and employee diversity.  I had never met a Black person so self-confident, so determined to succeed and so committed to bringing others along on his journey.  Business, and especially Black business, was his thing and he wanted it to be your thing.  We talked often, traveled together, worked on deals and raised families.  What an inspiration and great example.Rest In Peace my friend.

Maurice Cox


Shared by Timothy Cox on April 10, 2020
As a life-long journalist, I can honestly say that Mr. Earl Graves has had a lasting impact on my career, along with other young African-American journalists entering the industry in the 1970s. It was a time when Black Enterprise magazine was a stalwart in national publishing annals, and knowing that our esteemed Mr. Graves was at the helm - made us all feel a sense of pride, knowing that he was a modern reflection of Black History. Today, we honor Mr. Graves and his visionary exploits amid unimaginable unfair odds. Rest In Peace, Mr. Graves you truly earned your place with the Lord. --- Timothy Cox, National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ), Hanover, Maryland.
Shared by GERARD SIMMONS on April 10, 2020
Last night (4/6/2020) the world lost an icon.  Mr. Earl G Graves, Sr. made his transition to the other side of eternity.  Mr. Graves as I & so many addressed him was a man of great stature, who commanded attention upon entering a room.  His business acumen, style and demeanor are characteristics that I incorporated into my lifestyle.  He taught many either up close or from a distance.  You admired him for not only what he did but for the man he was.  I had the opportunity of working at Black Enterprise (the company he & his wife, Mrs. Barbara Graves launched in 1970) for 13 yrs but worked with Mr. G directly for 7 years, until he retired.  Within those 7 years, the lessons he taught me about sales, business & style were invaluable.  He had a penchant for finance & sartorial elegance, only wore Purple Label suits and he had a great sense of humor, sharp!  My first 3 hour in-store event with BE was at Bloomingdale's (59th & Lex) for the launch of the Jordan23 clothing line (back in 2002).  My colleague Eugene Metcalf sold the beverage sponsor, Moet.  The pix is from the event (Gary Clark on right....thx for the pix G-Clark!).  At the time, Mr. Graves was on the board of Federated Department Stores, so he made sure he supported & brought key board members....Mr. Graves stole the show.  The next day (bright & early) he called me into his office.  At the time, I wasn't sure if this was a good thing or, I called my wife & gave her the heads-up  ().  As I approached his desk he said go into the living room, he walked in behind me & we sat down together.  Not knowing what to expect, cool, calm G, was a little jittery to say the least.  But he said, that was a fabulous event, he inquired and was told a couple thousand dollars worth of apparel was purchased within the three hours.   He shook my hand, said great job & gave me a signed bottle of Dom Perignon.....that I've cherished ever since.  That's the man Mr. G was...always had your back & for that, I've always admired & appreciated him.  Rest is Glory sir....your dash is filled beyond measure!!   #MrG, #Respect, #Icon, #BE, @blackenterprise, #RIP, #GravesFamily Johnny Graves, Caroline Clarke Graves
A member of the BE Family