Earl G. Graves, Sr., the founder of Black Enterprise magazine, has passed away at the age of 85 on Monday (April 6). Graves used his media platform to empowering emerging Black business owners and sharing pathways of wealth via entrepreneurship.
Black Enterprise shared in an article regarding the news of Graves’ passing, with Graves’ son Earl “Butch” Graves, Jr. sharing that his father’s long bout with Alzheimer’s Disease was what took his life.
Graves was born January 9, 1935, in Brooklyn, N.Y. and raised in the borough’s Bedford-Stuyvesant section. Graves’ sharp business acumen began early on when he was a boy in Brooklyn, and he carried that sensibility with him as a student at Morgan State University. Graduating from the Baltimore, Md. school in 1958, Graves went on to serve two years as an officer in the U.S. Army. In 1965, Graves was named as Sen. Robert F. Kennedy’s administrative assistant. After Kennedy’s assassination in 1968, Graves was moved to begin a publication for Black people to learn more about entrepreneurship.
The first issue of Black Enterprise hit stands in August 1970 and with the help of his wife, Barbara, Graves transformed what he called his “modest magazine” into one of the top magazines of its era aimed at Black Americans. Using Black Enterprise to highlight brilliant Black business leaders such as Bob Johnson, Kenneth Chenault, Reginald F. Lewis, Oprah Winfrey and more, the magazine served as an inspiration for future entrepreneurs.
Black Enterprise exists today and has changed with the times, moving from strictly print to covering its favored subjects across all forms of media, most specifically the digital space. Adding to Graves’ success, he was also the CEO of Pepsi-Cola in Washington, D.C., a Black-owned distribution site for the beverage company.
Graves is survived by his three sons Earl Jr., Johnny, and Michael, along with eight grandchildren. Mrs. Graves passed away in 2012.
We’ve amassed reactions from Twitter to the news of Graves’ passing. May he rest powerfully in peace.
Learn more about Earl G. Graves, Sr. here.