Mr. Earl G. Graves, Sr. (1935 – 2020)

Founder, Black Enterprise

Earl G. Graves Sr. is the founder and publisher of black enterprise magazine, which provides 4 million readers with information on entrepreneurship, careers, and financial management. Today he serves as chairman of Earl G. Graves Ltd., an expanded multimedia company that produces the magazine as well as television programming, business and lifestyle events, Web content, and digital media. 

Graves is an ROTC graduate. He attended Airborne School and Ranger School, finishing his Army career as a captain and a member of the 19th Special Forces Group, the Green Berets. He subsequently served as an administrative assistant to the late Sen. Robert F. Kennedy from 1965 to 1968. Graves published the first issue of BLACK ENTERPRISE magazine in 1970 and went on to become one of the nation’s most distinguished champions of black executives in corporate America and a renowned authority on black business. He authored a book titled How to Succeed in Business Without Being White. The book was released by HarperBusiness Publications in April 1997 and made the best-seller book list in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. Graves is the former chairman of the Pepsi African-American Advisory Board. and previously served on the boards of Aetna Inc., AMR Corp. (American Airlines), DaimlerChrysler AG Corp., Federated Department Stores, Inc., and Rohm & Haas Corporation.  

Graves, a native of Brooklyn, N.Y., is a staunch advocate of higher education and equal opportunity. He received his bachelor’s degree in economics from Morgan State University in Baltimore, Maryland, and has received honorary degrees from nearly 70 colleges and universities, including his alma mater. In recognition of his support of entrepreneurial education and his many years of contributions to Morgan State University—including a $1 million gift to advance business education—the university renamed its school of business the Earl G. Graves School of Business and Management in 1995. Graves also serves as a trustee of Howard University, is a member of the National Black College Hall of Fame, and has lectured at Yale University as a Poynter Fellow. 

In 1999 Graves received the 84th NAACP Spingarn Medal, the highest achievement award for African Americans. In 2002 Fortune magazine named him one of the 50 most powerful and influential African Americans in corporate America. In 2007, Graves was inducted into the U.S. Business Hall of Fame and in 2011 was added to the American Advertising Federation Hall of Fame.