Earl G. Graves, Sr., who championed the intersection of Black people, the business world and personal finance on his way to founding the seminal Black Enterprise magazine and growing it into a bona fide multimedia conglomerate, died Monday night. He was 85 years old.
The announcement was made by Black Enterprise, which reported that Graves’ death came “after a long battle with Alzheimer’s.”
Aside from his success with Black Enterprise, Graves was also a successful businessman in other arenas including as the CEO and owner of Pepsi-Cola of Washington, the largest minority-controlled Pepsi franchise in the United States. The proud HBCU graduate of Morgan State University also authored the book, “How To Succeed In Business Without Being White,” in 1998, and served on Howard University‘s board of trustees, one of many such appointments with a number of businesses and organizations.
Graves explained in his book why he decided to start Black Enterprise magazine.
“The time was ripe for a magazine devoted to economic development in the African American community,” he wrote. “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.”
Following a stint as the administrative assistant to Sen. Robert F. Kennedy from 1965 to 1968, Graves turned a small business loan into a successful business model that spawned the first issue of Black Enterprise in 1970. Fifty years later, Black Enterprise is now “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,” the publication says.
The Brooklyn native in 1999 went on to receive the 84th NAACP Spingarn Medal, the highest distinction awarded by the storied civil rights organization and one of a number of prizes that recognized his success. He has been indicted in the U.S. Business Hall of Fame, was named by Fortune as one of the 50 most powerful and influential African Americans in corporate America and won a U.S. Army Commendation Award as a former member of the Green Berets.
Graves is survived by his three sons he had with his wife, Barbara Kydd Graves, who died in 2012 after decades of playing a significant role in Black Enterprise’s success. They were married for 37 years.
Earl Graves Jr., who is the CEO of Black Enterprise, tweeted a tribute to his father’s life early Tuesday morning honoring the “giant of a man.”
There was no immediate announcement of a funeral.