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Local News

Loved ones, colleagues celebrate life of Earl G. Graves Sr., founder of Black Enterprise

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Jordan Brown with The MSU Spokesman
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Morgan State President Dr. Wilson at Earl G. Graves, Sr. tribute

Raven Roberts, Contributing Writer for The MSU Spokesman

This Wednesday marked two years since the passing of Earl G. Graves Sr., notable Morgan State University alumnus and founder of Black Enterprise magazine.

Graves’ home-going celebration was postponed several times due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but his family, friends, colleagues and more gathered on Wednesday at his alma mater for a memorial service.

Graves transitioned on April 6, 2020, at age 85. The Graves’ family held a small home-going due to COVID-19 restrictions and were finally able to celebrate Graves’ life properly at his tribute, two years later.

The tribute was held in Morgan’s Calvin and Tina Tyler Ballroom in the University Student Center.

Speakers such as University President David Wilson, U.S. Congressman Kweisi Mfume and more emphasized Graves’ humor, his extraordinary sense of style, and his persistence throughout the service.

As Wilson said, many thought of Graves as a “larger than life figure.”

His grandson, Theodore Graves, described the service as beautiful and explained how significant it was to say a final goodbye to his grandfather.

The tribute emphasized Graves’ life as a businessman, but even more significantly, a family man.

Aside from his life achievements, Earl Graves Jr. said his father prioritized time with his family and embraced conversation with strangers.

“My dad absolutely loved talking to people. It did not matter your station in life, he treated everyone the same,” Graves Jr. said.

After a grand performance from the university choir, Rev. W. Franklyn Richardson opened the tribute, and many speakers shared their personal sentiments with Graves.

Selena Hill, deputy digital editor at Black Enterprise, said, “it really just moved the audience to tears to see Mr. Graves’ impact not only as an icon and legend in the media space and business world, but as a family man… it just spoke to him as a man.”

She also described how unique Black Enterprise is because of Graves’ high standard of excellence.

Hill said, “I wouldn’t be who I am, where I am if it wasn’t for Black Enterprise and the legacy that they created.”

Graves’ legacy began in Brooklyn, New York in 1935. He received his degree in economics at Morgan in 1958. During his time at Morgan, Graves ran track, served in the ROTC, joined the Omega Psi Phi fraternity and briefly wrote for the Spokesman.

Following his graduation, he joined the U.S. Army, where he later became a captain and met his wife Barbara Eliza Kidd. The two had three children, Earl Jr., Johnny, and Michael. They were married for the rest of their lives, nearly 52 years.

After his time served in the army, Graves volunteered for the political campaign of Senator Robert F Kennedy until his unfortunate assassination in 1968.

A true renaissance man, Graves founded Black Enterprise Magazine in 1970, an outlet platform that gave African Americans a platform in the business sphere.

Black Enterprise is still alive and well today as its culture serves as a testament to Graves’ character as a family man and a perfectionist.

In 1995, Graves showed his immense gratitude to his alma mater, Morgan, through a donation of $1 million. The university later paid homage to Graves and his generosity by renaming its business school the Earl G. Graves School of Business and Management.

The character and legacy of Graves are best described by his son, Graves Jr.

Graves Jr. said, “My dad was strong, handsome, charming, smart, ambitious, organized, hardworking, confident, distinguished, trustworthy, generous to a fault, and immaculately dressed at all times.”

“If the worst thing you can say about me is that I’m just like my dad, then thank you. I am proud to be his son,” Graves Jr. added.