Pioneer Earl Gilbert Graves Sr., founder of Black Enterprise and the ultimate champion of black business, passed away on Monday, April 6, 2020.

Graves was 85 years old and was a loving father and grandfather, devoted husband of 50 years, trailblazing businessman, man of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. and proud HBCU graduate, hailing from the Morgan State University Class of 1957, where he studied economics.

It is without question that Graves was a force of a business man. We are forever in his debt for the numerous trails he blazed. Outside of his many business deals and millions made, we also celebrate his legacy of being an honorable man and a role model for the Black college community.

We cherish tender memories like the infamous story of him embracing the homecoming spirit at his alma mater, in a very “Graves-like” fashion: During Morgan State’s Homecoming Week, he reached out to the local florists in an effort to provide flowers for the week’s festivities. After securing the role as florist representative and a campus discount, Graves covered MSU, selling flowers and spreading Bears cheer.

Here are some of our favorite quotes from the legend himself:


I have no patience with people who want to tell me what’s wrong. I only want to hear from the person who first tells me the solution and then fills me in on the problem. I don’t want to hear that your basement is flooded. I want to hear that you’ve found the number to the cleanup company. Then tell me why you’re calling them.


If you look back in history… in terms of leadership… Martin Luther King did not have a bunch of money, but he had friends who had money to support what it is he was doing… who believed in him and therefore, could go out and make the Southern Christian Leadership Conference as strong as it was


I had visited the campus. I knew I was coming to an African-American, all Black environment. I felt quite comfortable with that and I felt even more comfortable because, if you will, we were in an oasis. It was an oasis…


We keep going back, stronger, not weaker, because we will not allow rejection to beat us down. It will only strengthen our resolve. To be successful there is no other way.


It seems to me that I always wanted to sell something. If you ask me today what am I best at, I would tell you I’m just a salesman.


No library of American business achievement is complete without the story of Arthur G. Gaston. . . . Black Titan is a long overdue contribution to the recording of not just black history, but American history.


Education is the primary tool of emancipation and liberation in our fight for true equality in this country.


You can forget who you are as an African American. I mean, unfortunately we have people who have succeeded and done well in business and they don’t identify with any of the issues or problems we have at all, as a people. I think that is unfortunate and its their problem to our demise as a people if we have people who are successful not realizing who they are.


“Politically I always thought that it was the right thing to support my school ,but I have to have the money and the wherewithal to do it.


You can have great ideas and great thoughts but they have to be backed up by something.


If they [people at a business school he was speaking at] intend to really be successful, they’re going to have to take leadership roles in things which may be unpopular also.


When he [his father] worked 3 jobs, I didn’t realize that everybody didn’t work 3 jobs.


What makes networking work is that it sets up win-win situations in which all parties involved get to take something home. Networking is a sharing process. Until you understand that, you won’t have much of a network.


There was no one more militant about talking about who we were. [referring to his mother] I got to meet Mary McCleod Bethune, I remember saying that at her funeral, and I remember I met her…at the time I was such a youngster and my mother said ‘now what do you remember most about Mary McCleod Bethune’ and I said she was ugly, and I think I got smacked in the right had side of my face, I don’t remember coming back with a left hand smack, but I remember getting a smack that I had to had to know more about ‘us.’ I had to write a composition about who she was and I didn’t do that again.

Earl G. Graves Sr. in 1997 with his six grandchildren, clockwise, from left : Earl Graves III, 5, Kristin Graves, 6, Carter Graves, newborn, Veronica Graves, 3, Theodore Graves, 2, and Erika Graves, 6, the twin sister of Kristin Graves. (Credit: Eileen Blass, USA Today)


There was a sense of bonding… the professors at Morgan at that time and I think still do, gave you a sense of the fact that there was something you could achieve.


Hold on to your dreams of a better life and stay committed to striving to realize it.


Sell to their needs-not from yours.


I felt quite comfortable being on an all-Black campus and I think what has been the saving grace for the African American Schools in addition to really just giving us an excellent education is the sense of comrade a sense of togetherness a sense of somebody who cares about you


Where I get most animated and involved at the company today goes back to watching my father convincing some lady that that yellow coat that she had on was just the thing that worked for her even if it blended in totally against her skin, but he wasn’t a charlatan, he was just smooth about the way he sold.


To have a successful career, you have to approach it as an entrepreneur, even if you are working for someone else. Your career is your own private business. You have to market yourself and your abilities and knowledge just as you would a product or service.

We express our heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of Graves, our partners at Black Enterprise and the Morgan State and Black college community.