“Earl Graves was a catalyst for change and progress in the African American community … He also provided a bridge from the African American community to the larger White corporate community. He challenged the status quo. And he sought to make the powers and institutions accountable for the neglect African Americans received over the previous 400 years.”
~ Rev. Franklyn Richardson, pastor, Grace Baptist Church, Mount Vernon, New York
A baby boy was born to Earl Godwin and Winifred (née Sealy) Graves on January 9, 1935 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. They named him “Earl”, after the father, and retained the “G” initial but named him “Gilbert”. From an early age, the son learned the values of creativity, determination, dedication and initiative from his parents who had emigrated from the West Indies. Being reared in the close-knit community of Bedford-Stuyvesant, he sold for his uncle boxes of Christmas cards to neighbors when he was just seven years old. Though limited by his father’s stern directive that he could not cross the block, this was Earl’s early advent in entrepreneurship, which became a lifelong passion.
Bright and outgoing, Earl G. Graves matriculated Morgan State University, a historically Black institution of higher learning in Baltimore, Maryland. While there, he noted the dearth of flowers during a Homecoming Weekend. To eliminate this absence, he devised a novel plan with two different florists to sell flowers on the campus during this festive time of celebration.