Black Enterprise Founder and Publisher Earl Graves, Sr. has passed away after a long battle with Alzheimers. 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.
Black Enterprise magazine launched in 1970 to focus on creating wealth, financial literacy and highlighting successful Black companies and businessmen and women.
Black Enterprise grew to hosting business summits and a vehicle to support Black’s in politics. Most notably, the candidacy of Rev. Jesse Jackson and Barack Obama.
Each magazine began with a publisher’s note written by the elder Graves. One in particular stands out in this author’s mind.
If you recall, advertising in both Black Enterprise and Ebony/Jet magazines, founded by Robert Johnson, featured the same ads. It was during an advertising call that Graves invited Johnson to be part of the conversation. Graves told advertisers that they would need to advertise in both companies magazines and they did.
This was powerful as it kept both magazines with advertising income and removed the need to compete with one another.
In 1965, Graves 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.
Graves 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.”
Graves 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. It continues to operate to this day, led by his son Earl Jr.
Graves leaves behind sons Earl Jr., Johnny and Michael, and eight grandchildren. Graves’ wife, Barbara, preceded him in death in 2012.