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Herman Roberts

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Information about Herman Roberts

Profile image of Herman Roberts

Profession

Category:
BusinessMakers
Occupation(s):
Lodging Entrepreneur
Entrepreneur

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Blue
Favorite Food:
Meat, Potatoes
Favorite Time of Year:
Fall
Favorite Vacation Spot:
None
Favorite Quote:
Do the best you can.

Birthplace

Born:
1/21/1924
Birth Location:
Beggs, Oklahoma

Profession

Category:
BusinessMakers
Occupation(s):
Lodging Entrepreneur
Entrepreneur

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Blue
Favorite Food:
Meat, Potatoes
Favorite Time of Year:
Fall
Favorite Vacation Spot:
None
Favorite Quote:
Do the best you can.

Birthplace

Born:
1/21/1924
Birth Location:
Beggs
See how Herman Roberts is related to other HistoryMakers

Biography

Herman Roberts was born in 1924 in Beggs, Oklahoma to James and Ella Roberts as the youngest of six children. An entrepreneur from an early age, Roberts became the nation's foremost African American hotel and motel owner. He is known best for the sixth Roberts Motel, a Chicago institution.

When Roberts was twelve, his family moved to Chicago, Illinois. He began working odd jobs, including delivering papers and washing taxicabs. Within three years, Roberts drove a cab himself and soon earned enough to buy a license. He continued to buy licenses and then started his own cab company. After serving in the military, Roberts returned to Chicago in 1947. He immediately picked up his business again.

Roberts opened the Lucky Spot in 1953, a small lounge on the city's South Side. The Roberts Show Club, which featured entertainers such as Sammy Davis, Jr., Redd Foxx, and Della Reese, opened a year later. Segregation made housing these performers difficult, and Roberts realized the need for a black-owned motel. In 1960, he founded the first Roberts Motel. It opened to such demand that Roberts followed quickly with four others. As he focused more on the needs of families, he redesigned his show club into a bowling alley. In 1970, he launched his sixth motel—a huge, fully equipped complex that included 250 sleeping rooms, twelve suites, two penthouse party suites, a restaurant, lounge, ballroom, travel agency, convenience store and beauty parlor. He continued building his motel business with acquisitions in Oklahoma and Gary, Indiana.

Roberts bought land that had once been an oil field and built a house in his hometown of Beggs. He drilled for oil and struck it in 1981. Roberts then sold his motel business, converted the bowling alley to a skating rink and concentrated on his new venture — he still operates two derricks. He remains a Chicago icon.

Roberts was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on July 24, 2002.

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  • Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Herman Roberts interview
  • Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Herman Roberts's favorites
  • Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Herman Roberts recalls his mother's family
  • Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Herman Roberts describes his father's background
  • Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Herman Roberts discusses growing up in Beggs, Oklahoma
  • Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Herman Roberts remembers his siblings
  • Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Herman Roberts recalls the Great Depression
  • Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Herman Roberts recounts his schooling and recreation
  • Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Herman Roberts discusses his biggest influences
  • Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Herman Roberts explains his family's move to Chicago, Illinois
  • Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Herman Roberts recalls hunting in Oklahoma
  • Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Herman Roberts details the Chicago housing situation in the 1940s
  • Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Herman Roberts explains why he didn't finish school
  • Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Herman Roberts discusses his strategies for success in business
  • Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Herman Roberts recalls his first job, selling newspapers
  • Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Herman Roberts expresses his thoughts on communism
  • Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Herman Roberts details how he got into the taxi business
  • Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Herman Roberts relates his Army experiences
  • Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Herman Roberts discusses business strategy
  • Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Herman Roberts recalls his time in the Army
  • Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Herman Roberts shares his values
  • Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Herman Roberts discusses the business strategy of delegating responsibility
  • Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Herman Roberts details how he started his cab company
  • Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Herman Roberts explains how he got into the nightclub business with Roberts Show Club
  • Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Herman Roberts describes how he booked famous musicians at Roberts Show Club
  • Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Herman Roberts discusses the advantages of a bigger business
  • Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Herman Roberts recalls his transition to the hotel business
  • Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Herman Roberts details his success with the 500 Room at Roberts Motel No. 6
  • Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Herman Roberts describes his business relationship with Marty Faye
  • Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Herman Roberts discusses dealing with illegal activity by his customers
  • Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Herman Roberts explains what black businesses should do to be successful
  • Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Herman Roberts discusses the death of small businesses and towns
  • Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Herman Roberts relates how integration hurt black-owned businesses
  • Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Herman Roberts shares his thoughts on black entertainers
  • Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Herman Roberts discusses his mentors and mentoring others
  • Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Herman Roberts recounts striking oil in Oklahoma
  • Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Herman Roberts reflects on his life and career
  • Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Herman Roberts discusses his current career
  • Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Herman Roberts describes his parents' reaction to his success
  • Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Herman Roberts reflects on retirement and the situation of seniors
  • Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Herman Roberts shares a story about Sammy Davis, Jr.
  • Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Herman Roberts ponders the future of black businesses
  • Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Herman Roberts discusses the problems with black-owned businesses
  • Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Herman Roberts considers his legacy and his future career
  • Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Herman Roberts explains his business acumen
  • Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Photo - Herman Roberts with one of his taxicabs, Chicago, Illinois, ca. 1956
  • Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Photo - Herman Roberts with his brother, Colvin Roberts, and Richard J. Daley, Chicago, Illinois
  • Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Photo - Herman Roberts, ca. 1965
  • Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Photo - Herman Roberts with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • Tape: 6 Story: 10 - Photo - Herman Roberts with Joe Louis, Sugar Ray Robinson, Bobby Prince, and Eddy Plick, Chicago, Illinois, ca. 1958
  • Tape: 6 Story: 11 - Photo - Joe Louis with the Roberettes, Chicago, Illinois, ca. 1953
  • Tape: 6 Story: 12 - Photo - Herman Roberts with Jesse Owens, Chicago, Illinois, 1957
  • Tape: 6 Story: 13 - Photo - Herman Roberts with Dinah Washington and others, Chicago, Illinois
  • Tape: 6 Story: 14 - Photo - Herman Roberts with Muhammad Ali and Joe Louis, Chicago, Illinois, ca. 1966
  • Tape: 6 Story: 15 - Photo - Herman Roberts with James Baldwin, Chicago, Illinois, ca. 1959
  • Tape: 6 Story: 16 - Photo - Herman Roberts with Willie Mays, Chicago, Illinois
  • Tape: 6 Story: 17 - Photo - Herman Roberts with Leroy Winbush and George Jones, Chicago, Illinois
  • Tape: 6 Story: 18 - Photo - Herman Roberts with Adam Clayton Powell, T. K. Lawless, and others
  • Tape: 6 Story: 19 - Photo - Bud Billiken's Parade, ca. 1950s
  • Tape: 6 Story: 20 - Photo - Herman Roberts with Dick Gregory and George Kirby, Chicago, Illinois
  • Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Photo - Herman Roberts with Sammy Davis, Jr. and others, Chicago, Illinois, November 1959
  • Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Photo - Herman Roberts with Mayor Richard Hatcher and his wife, Sonia, ca. 1967
  • Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Photo - Herman Roberts with Clifford Kelly, Bill Murray, Ernie Terrell, T. C. Hooks and others
  • Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Photo - Herman Roberts with Johnny Hartman, Duke Ellington, Al Hibler, and others
  • Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Photo - Herman Roberts with Bill Murray, Sam Cooke, and Barbara Cooke, Chicago, Illinois
  • Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Photo - Herman Roberts with his brother, Colvin Roberts, and Ralph Metcalfe, ca. 1976
  • Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Photo - Herman Roberts with Irv 'Kup' Kupcinet, Chicago, Illinois, ca. 1957
  • Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Photo - Herman Roberts and others prepare to greet Muhammad Ali, Chicago, Illinois, October 1974
  • Tape: 7 Story: 9 - Photo - Herman Roberts with Harold Washington and Marty Faye, Chicago, Illinois
  • Tape: 7 Story: 10 - Photo - Herman Roberts with Wilson Frost, Richard J. Daley, and Muhammad Ali, ca. 1967
  • Tape: 7 Story: 11 - Photo - Herman Roberts with Jimmy Bracken, 'Daddy-O' Daylie, Sid McCoy, McKee Fitzhugh, and others, ca. 1956
  • Tape: 7 Story: 12 - Photo - Herman Roberts with Jesse Jackson and banking executives