Black History Month Blog: Earl “Butch” Graves, Jr.

January 31, 2011 10:05 AM

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Early Graves Jr.

earl graves jr Black History Month Blog: Earl “Butch” Graves, Jr.
By Larry Mullins, 1010 WINS

When you walk into Earl Graves, Jr.’s Fifth Avenue office, the first things you look for are the sideburns. You know…the sideburns which made his dad, Black Enterprise Magazine founder and publisher Earl Graves, Sr. so famous!

Junior took over the reign’s from Senior back in 2006, and just like the magazine, this is definitely not your father’s Black Enterprise.

Growing up in a black family, if you had Black Enterprise on your coffee table (along with Jet, Ebony and Essence), people thought you were pretty business savvy. After all, it has long been established as the source of business and wealth in the African-American community.

To walk into Butch’s office, all decked out in fine vintage trappings (antique chairs, table, picture frames etc.), your eyes are drawn to the history that enshrines the room: a lot of features his iconic dad (and those sideburns he calls “muttons” ) and a who’s who among the biggest and brightest names in business; black or white.

I felt like I was walking through a museum; he’s got the Clintons, Obamas and other presidents on the wall, along with major sports, entertainment and business stars. Butch is featured too, with all the other family photo’s (Graves Senior took a picture for every year his kids grew up….and you could see Butch’s hair disappear gradually each year haha). Sorry Butch.

Anyway, Graves Jr.’s wall of fame includes his years as the star of Yale’s basketball squad, not to mention a quick stint with the NBA Philadelphia 76ers.

History aside though, the thing that defined the Black Enterprise of today that you immediately notice: the staff; not what I expected, at an iconic magazine which thrived on showcasing (particularly on the front pages) the CEO’s and leaders of century-old companies (i.e. insurance agencies, real estate companies, other publishing firms). These are companies that are steeped in tradition and strength.

But not only that, there, sitting on the table (the coffee table in the front lobby)…the latest issue which has Curtis Jackson (rapper 50-cent) on the front cover. Fitty? On the cover of BE?

Graves says it’s the changing of the guard. The audience is getting younger. So BE is no longer “just about being a good business magazine.” Instead, he says it’s now a brand which encompasses the publication, the internet, social media, mobile apps; basically a multi-platform media conglomerate. He says they have to do it that way to keep up. Apparently no one is complaining; under Butch’s “next generation” he modestly told me that their circulation has gone from 200,000 to more than a half million!

So it was cool to visit with this guy, and to hear him talk about what it was like growing up in that household. He says he never knew how significant it would be to see Percy Sutton, Ebony founder John Johnson, Jesse Jackson and other influential leaders show up at his parents house “on the regular”.

Now he knows. And as for me, not only do I have BE on the coffee table at my house, to impress my neighbors and to make them think that I’m also on the pulse of big business (cuz that’s what we did back in the day). Now I also have pictures of the man himself to hang on my wall. Ain’t I something? Thanks Butch!

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