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Norma Pratt

Entrepreneur Norma Russell Pratt was born in Indianapolis, Indiana on January 17, 1945 to Mildred Newberry and Fred L. Russell. Pratt's family moved to Philadelphia where she attended West Philadelphia High School, graduating from there in 1962. Pratt then attended Cheyney University, where she graduated with her B.A. in education in 1966. After working as a school teacher, Pratt became a travel agent for Rodgers Travel, Inc., a company that was co-owned by her father. With her father's passing in 1980, Pratt was named President and CEO of Rodgers Travel. In the 1990s, Pratt enrolled her company, which she incorporated years earlier, into the Small Business Administration's (SBA) 8(a) business development program. With infrastructure assistance from the federal program, Pratt was able to secure a $10 million yearly contract with Scott Air Force Base in St. Clair County, Illinois in 1991, Rodgers' first federal government contract.

Through the SBA 8(a) program, Rodgers won a variety of federal government and municipal contracts from the City of Philadelphia’s Department of Human Services, the Department of Defense, as well as several military bases across the country and Lajes Field in Portugal. Under Pratt's leadership, Rodgers Travel, Inc., which has been in business for sixty years, became a multi-million dollar business.

Pratt has been recognized for her leadership of Rodgers Travel, having garnered the Eastern Pennsylvania Minority Small Business Person of the Year award and recognition from publications such as the Philadelphia Daily News, USA Today and Black Enterprise. She is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. and Link, Inc. Pratt lives in the suburban Philadelphia area and has two adult children.

Norma Pratt was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on May 21, 2012.

Accession Number

A2012.132

Sex

Female

Interview Date

5/21/2012

Last Name

Pratt

Maker Category
Marital Status

Divorced

Middle Name

R.

Schools

West Philadelphia High School

Cheyney University of Pennsylvania

Henry C. Lea Elementary School

Andrew Hamilton School

William L. Sayre High School

First Name

Norma

Birth City, State, Country

Indianapolis

HM ID

PRA02

Favorite Season

Summer

State

Indiana

Favorite Vacation Destination

Jamaica

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Pennsylvania

Birth Date

1/17/1945

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Philadelphia

Country

United States

Favorite Food

None

Short Description

Transportation chief executive Norma Pratt (1945 - ) was the president and CEO of Rodgers Travel, Inc., the oldest African American travel agency in the nation.

Employment

Rodgers Travel, Inc.

Favorite Color

Black, Brown

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Norma Pratt's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Norma Pratt lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Norma Pratt describes her mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Norma Pratt talks about the lynching of her maternal great uncle in Hawkinsville, Georgia

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Norma Pratt describes her maternal family's relocation to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Norma Pratt talks about her mother's educational background

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Norma Pratt describes her father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Norma Pratt remembers her paternal grandfather

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Norma Pratt talks about her family's legacy with Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc.

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Norma Pratt recalls her paternal grandmother's family history

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Norma Pratt describes her father's educational aspirations

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Norma Pratt recalls how her parents met

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Norma Pratt describes her parents' personalities

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Norma Pratt talks about her early household

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Norma Pratt remembers her family's relocation to the Southwest Philadelphia neighborhood of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Norma Pratt describes her neighborhood of Southwest Philadelphia in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Norma Pratt recalls her early education

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Norma Pratt describes the sights, sounds and smells of her childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Norma Pratt shares a story about her father's work at North Philadelphia Station

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Norma Pratt talks about her father's position with Rodgers Travel, Inc.

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Norma Pratt describes the history of Rodgers Travel, Inc.

Tape: 2 Story: 12 - Norma Pratt talks about the discrimination against African American travelers

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Norma Pratt remembers the decline of the black travel industry

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Norma Pratt talks about her father's legacy at Rodgers Travel, Inc.

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Norma Pratt recalls attending Henry C. Lea Elementary School and Andrew Hamilton Elementary School

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Norma Pratt remembers her father's guidance in high school

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Norma Pratt recalls her experiences at West Philadelphia High School in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Norma Pratt remembers the March on Washington

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Norma Pratt describes her family's emphasis on college education

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Norma Pratt recalls attending Cheyney State College in Cheyney, Pennsylvania

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Norma Pratt remembers her parents' views on the Civil Rights Movement

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Norma Pratt remembers her father's travel arrangements for Leon Sullivan

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Norma Pratt recalls her experience at Cheyney State College in Cheyney, Pennsylvania

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Norma Pratt remembers meeting her first husband, Kenneth Hamilton

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Norma Pratt talks about her teaching positions in the School District of Philadelphia

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Norma Pratt remembers training at Rodgers Travel, Inc.'s office in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Norma Pratt recalls joining the Society of Travel Agents in Government

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Norma Pratt describes her second husband's background

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Norma Pratt remembers meeting her second husband, Gregory Pratt

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Norma Pratt recalls her decision to manage Rodgers Travel, Inc. remotely from California

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Norma Pratt remembers her first government contract

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Norma Pratt describes Rodgers Travel, Inc.'s government contracts

Tape: 4 Story: 11 - Norma Pratt talks about Rodgers Travel, Inc.'s leisure business

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Norma Pratt describes the necessity of travel agencies in the 21st century

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Norma Pratt describes the responsibilities of travel agencies with government contracts

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Norma Pratt talks about the challenges of modern day travel

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Norma Pratt talks about the impact of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the travel industry

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Norma Pratt describes the clientele at Rodgers Travel, Inc.

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Norma Pratt talks about the state of small business travel agencies

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Norma Pratt describes Rodgers Travel's international business

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Norma Pratt talks about the airline industry

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Norma Pratt talks about the future of leisure travel

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Norma Pratt describes her friend, Sylvia Sprinkle-Hamlin

Tape: 5 Story: 11 - Norma Pratt reflects upon her life

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Norma Pratt describes her hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Norma Pratt reflects upon her legacy

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Norma Pratt talks about her family

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Norma Pratt describes how she would like to be remembered

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Norma Pratt narrates her photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

4$4

DAStory

9$8

DATitle
Norma Pratt remembers her first government contract
Norma Pratt recalls her decision to manage Rodgers Travel, Inc. remotely from California
Transcript
But at that point, that's when I wrote my first proposal for government. Scott Air Force Base [Illinois], and I believe it was--it was in 1991 and I believe that was when Adam--oh my god, what was the general's name that--$$Colin Powell [HistoryMaker General Colin L. Powell].$$Colin Powell I think might have been in charge around that time. And the [U.S.] Air Force wanted to--wanted to use small businesses. Women owned, minority owned, and they--and they were one of the first branches of government that was trying to give women and minorities, and small business, in general, a chance. So Scott Air Force Base was a $10 million a year account. And I wrote the proposal. My husband helped me write the proposal too, and we sat down there and wrote our first government proposal, keeping in mind that I had been going o- going to these meetings [of the Society of Travel Agents in Government; Society of Government Travel Professionals] in Washington D.C. I'd probably had been to ten of those meetings just meeting people, just trying to understand the acronyms and things. You know, 'cause government has all that stuff that I didn't really understand. And I got to meet people and know people and--and understand the nature of that business and I wrote the--I wrote the proposal when it came out for bid. They went out to bid for small business. So I was the first African--I was the first minority woman business [Rodgers Travel, Inc.] to win a government account, and that was in 1991, I believe, maybe--maybe 1992, during that period. I won that. It was a--it was a wonderful time, but you--as I said, it wasn't a credit card account, they didn't have that then. So I had to have seven hundred thousand dollars a month in order to sponsor that. Well, Greg [Pratt's second husband, Gregory Pratt] didn't ha- Greg didn't have that much. You know, he came ov- he ga- gave me about four hundred thousand. So I was about three hundred thousand short and after I won it. You know, you--you know how you say to yourself, now you wanted this thing, now can you really do it? He gave me the four hundred thousand dollars, Greg gave me four hundred, because most of his money was in stock and all that. So, so he was able to come up with four hundred thousand dollars to give me, and one of his--Jack Tramiel--actually was Dick Sanford [Richard D. Sanford] I think, which was one of the other guys in there [Atari] lent me three hundred thousand dollars. Can you imagine that, you know, looking back on that, I said, you know, somebody has enough money to just give you three hundred thousand dollars based on the fact that you say you're gonna do this. I got three hundred thousand dollars for sixty days and I paid him back the entire three hundred thousand dollars in--in the sixty days. Because at the time, we were making 10 percent commission. So it didn't take me long to be able to--at the time, the airlines don't pay commission now. But at the time, the airlines were paying 10 percent commission. So 10 percent of $10 million a year of course is a million dollars. And after two months, I had got enough profit that I could pay--pay him back. And that was the start of it. But I could last thirty days, but I couldn't last thirty--I couldn't last thirty days and one second (laughter), you know what I mean, I had to have. And--and the government was very kind to me and that's why I don't--I'm not angry with the government. You know, when you--you get--you know, you hear a lot of things about the government, but you know what they did for me, they started paying me every two weeks instead of every thirty days, and they made sure I got paid every two weeks. That got me out of the--they made sure that I succeeded. They did not want me to fail as I was the first woman minority business, you know what I mean, to get a government contract in travel. So I--basically that's the phase of--and that's how I actually got started.$Now to get back to me.$$Now this is Greg Pratt?$$Greg Pratt.$$Pratt.$$Greg Allen Pratt [Pratt's second husband, Gregory Pratt].$$Okay.$$He d- he and I are not together now either, but he lives in Bowie, Maryland and still doing well. You can look him up, he's still doing great. But what we did, when we moved to--to get back to how we got in the government. Greg was making a whole lot of money then. So I was living in California and there's another story I got that leads into this. I didn't want to leave Philadelphia [Pennsylvania]. I was living in West Chester [Pennsylvania] at the time. I had my--my business and I wanted to continue with my business. But Greg had moved to California and we were married, and we're supposed to be a family. I'm living in Philadelphia and he's living in California. So after a year or so, he came back--he came and he said, "Okay you gotta make up your mind what you wanna do. You know, are you coming to California with me or you gonna st- stay here and run your business?" It was only a small bus- for his comparison. Rodgers Travel [Rodgers Travel, Inc.] was a small business. So, I went to California. But you know God works in mysterious ways. I sat there and I thought that the travel agency couldn't do--work without me. I thought that it couldn't operate without me. I went in everyday, you know, and. So I--in fact, Rosenbluth [Rosenbluth Vacations] was an example to me. I said well I had read that Rosenbluth was--also a Philadelphia corporation and the grandfather was a friend of my father's [Fred Russell, Jr.]. I said, how do they run seventeen hundred locations? Mr. Rosenbluth [Harold Rosenbluth] ain't at seventeen hundred locations, he probably hasn't even been to them all. You know, he's probably never even set foot in them. So I said now if he can do seventeen hundred locations from a distance, I can certainly do one. That was really a turning point in my business life. Because I had to figure out a way how to run my business without being there. And I did. In fact, the--I've had fifteen travel agency offices at certain periods of time. Now that's dwindled down and I'll tell you why.

Martin Nesbitt

Transportation Chief Executive, Presidential Advisor, and City Government Official Martin Nesbitt was born in Columbus, Ohio on November 29, 1962, to Margaret and Martin Nesbitt. He graduated from Columbus Academy High School and went on to receive his B.S. degree from Albion College in 1985. He began working for the General Motors Acceptance Corporation as an analyst and while there qualified for a fellowship from GM to attend the University of Chicago to attain his M.B.A. degree. After he graduated from the University of Chicago, he went to work for LaSalle Partners as an associate. In 1991, he was promoted to vice president of the company. In addition to meeting his future wife during his time at the University of Chicago, Nesbitt became good friends with future President of the United States Barack Obama.

In 1996, while looking for investors in an airport parking company he was hoping to start, he became acquainted with Penny Pritzker of the Pritzker Realty group. She was impressed with Nesbitt, and invited him to become Vice President of her organization. Nesbitt served in that capacity for two years before receiving the funding to found his own airport parking and transportation corporation called The Parking Spot. Nesbitt began serving as president and CEO of the company.

In 2003, Nesbitt was appointed to the Chicago Housing Authority, which had recently come back under the city of Chicago’s control and had begun to implement the Plan for Transformation to completely overhaul the public housing system in Chicago. Three years later, Nesbitt began serving as vice chairman of the CHA and was quickly appointed chairman by Mayor Richard Daley. In 2007, Barack Obama announced his candidacy for president of the United States and Nesbitt became his campaign treasurer. Obama won the election and Nesbitt returned to work for The Parking Spot, although he and Obama have remained in close contact during his presidency.

Nesbitt has been active in the Big Brothers/Sisters of American program and has served as the Chairman of the DuSable District of the Boy Scouts of America. He is also a trustee of the Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art, a member of the University of Chicago Laboratory School Board, and was a member of the United Negro College Fund Advisory Council.

Accession Number

A2010.101

Sex

Male

Interview Date

8/26/2010

Last Name

Nesbitt

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

H.

Schools

Crestview Middle School

Columbus Preparatory Academy

Albion College

University of Chicago Booth School of Business

Buckeye Preparatory Academy

First Name

Martin

Birth City, State, Country

Columbus

HM ID

NES03

Favorite Season

Fall

State

Ohio

Favorite Vacation Destination

Hawaii

Favorite Quote

Luck Is Where Preparation Meets Opportunity.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Birth Date

11/29/1962

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Chicago

Country

United States

Favorite Food

None

Short Description

Transportation chief executive Martin Nesbitt (1962 - ) was the founder, president and CEO of the airport parking corporation, The Parking Spot. He was also a close friend and advisor of President Barack Obama.

Employment

General Motors Company

LaSalle Partners

Pritzker Realty Group

The Parking Spot

Favorite Color

Green

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Martin Nesbitt's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Martin Nesbitt lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Martin Nesbitt talks about the history of landownership in his father's family

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Martin Nesbitt describes his father's personality and profession

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Martin Nesbitt remembers his paternal grandparents

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Martin Nesbitt describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Martin Nesbitt talks about his mother's upbringing

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Martin Nesbitt describes his mother's personality

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Martin Nesbitt talks about how his parents met

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Martin Nesbitt describes his early years in Columbus, Ohio

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Martin Nesbitt describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Martin Nesbitt remembers Crestview Junior High School in Columbus, Ohio

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Martin Nesbitt talks about his parents' divorce

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Martin Nesbitt describes his early personality

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Martin Nesbitt recalls how he avoided dangerous behavior

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Martin Nesbitt describes his experiences at Crestview Junior High School in Columbus, Ohio

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Martin Nesbitt recalls his black peers at Crestview Junior High School

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Martin Nesbitt talks about his teachers at Crestview Junior High School

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Martin Nesbitt remembers applying for A Better Chance scholarship

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Martin Nesbitt remembers his start at Columbus Academy in Gahanna, Ohio

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Martin Nesbitt remembers his classmates at the Columbus Academy in Gahanna, Ohio

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Martin Nesbitt describes his mentors at the Columbus Academy

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Martin Nesbitt recalls playing football at the Columbus Academy

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Martin Nesbitt remembers his high school basketball coach, Jack MacMullan

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Martin Nesbitt describes the success of his classmates from the Columbus Academy

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Martin Nesbitt recalls the deaths of his childhood friends

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Martin Nesbitt recalls his decision to attend Albion College in Albion, Michigan

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Martin Nesbitt talks about his early career aspirations

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Martin Nesbitt recalls his interest in business

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Martin Nesbitt describes his first year at the General Motors Company

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Martin Nesbitt recalls leaving the General Motors Company to attend the University of Chicago

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Martin Nesbitt describes the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Martin Nesbitt recalls working at the LaSalle Partners in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Martin Nesbitt remembers his early acquaintances in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Martin Nesbitt describes his role as equity vice president at the LaSalle Partners

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Martin Nesbitt recalls starting his company, The Parking Spot

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Martin Nesbitt talks about his partnership with the Pritzker family

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Martin Nesbitt describes his coworkers at the LaSalle Partners

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Martin Nesbitt talks about the early business plan for The Parking Spot

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Martin Nesbitt describes his company, The Parking Spot

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Martin Nesbitt talks about his goals for The Parking Spot

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Martin Nesbitt describes his approach to leadership

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Martin Nesbitt talks about his friendship with the Obama family

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Martin Nesbitt recalls playing basketball with Chicago's business leaders

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Martin Nesbitt describes his support of Barack Obama's U.S. Senate campaign

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Martin Nesbitt talks about U.S. Senator Barack Obama's acceptance speech

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Martin Nesbitt remembers supporting Barack Obama's presidential campaign

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Martin Nesbitt talks about President Barack Obama's election

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Martin Nesbitt describes a presidential campaign rally in Iowa

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Martin Nesbitt talks about the controversies during Barack Obama's presidential campaign

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Martin Nesbitt remembers the night of the 2008 presidential election

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Martin Nesbitt remembers President Barack Obama's first inauguration

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Martin Nesbitt recalls his optimism during Barack Obama's presidential campaign

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Martin Nesbitt describes his friendship with President Barack Obama

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Martin Nesbitt reflects upon his hopes for President Barack Obama's administration

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Martin Nesbitt describes his family, pt. 1

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Martin Nesbitt describes his family, pt. 2

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Martin Nesbitt describes his concerns about the African American community

Tape: 6 Story: 10 - Martin Nesbitt reflects upon his hopes for the United States

Tape: 6 Story: 11 - Martin Nesbitt reflects upon his legacy

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$4

DAStory

10$6

DATitle
Martin Nesbitt remembers his start at Columbus Academy in Gahanna, Ohio
Martin Nesbitt recalls starting his company, The Parking Spot
Transcript
I want--two things I want to ask you. Do you remember the day you got your letter of acceptance? Do you remember that day, and do you remember the first day of school [at Columbus Academy, Gahanna, Ohio]?$$I remember, yes, I--well I remember finding out that I got the scholarship through the counselor at school [Crestview Junior High School, Columbus, Ohio], and not getting a letter at my house. I don't know why. Maybe their letter did come to the house, I just wasn't aware of it, and I remember I played football, little league football once I got to the sixth grade. So I was a football player, I mean I had a lot of experience. First of all, we played football every day practically in the neighborhood and then I started playing little league football when I was in the sixth grade, and then so by the time I got to ninth grade I was, I knew I wanted to play football so I went to campus for two days before school started. So I started going to the school before school started, and I remember the coach asking me if I'd ever played football before and I said, "Yeah," and he said, "What position did you play?" And I said I played cornerback which is a defensive back, right. He thought I said quarterback which I've never played quarterback, right. So he made me a quarterback and that lasted for my whole freshman year 'til he really figured out I couldn't throw a football. You know I was not a very good quarterback, but I couldn't find the way to tell him, "No. I said cornerback not quarterback," (laughter), but so I remember that and I was very small at the time. I was kind of a late bloomer physically so I would--I mean I was, I weighed like 118 pounds and this was a high school. I mean these kids, some kids were over two hundred pounds, and then I remember--so when I got, when school finally started I, there were a certain set of guys that I knew because they were on the football team, but I wasn't respected on the football team because one, we hadn't started playing yet; and two, I was really small. And I remember walking--well, now this was a campus and there were different buildings and it was on you know, I don't know a hundreds of acres that this school was on and I remember walking from one of the academic buildings towards the cafeteria and being challenged by a kid and he was behind me, and we were walking down the stairs and there were a bunch of boys around and he was making you know sort of these, sort of derogatory jabs at me while I had my back turned and sort of poking me on my back and I stopped on the stairs, I turned around and I grabbed him around his neck and I wrapped his head around the rail, this metal rail and he had braces and his mouth started bleeding and I was--just made the statement that it doesn't happen this way, right (laughter). I'm--the guy you think I am, I'm not that guy. I mean I'm a nice guy, I'm gonna be a nice guy and respectful but I'm, you're not gonna bully me, and that sort of established who I was on campus, but I was still very, a very you know nice kid, but I grew up a lot at, at school, both physically and emotionally and.$$In what way?$$You know a lot of things were very different there, the traditions and the hierarchy and sort of the you know, you know the path that you were expected to take and the hurdles you had to cross and just the whole way things were systematized and traditionalized there and I had no, I had no respect for that kind of system when I came. I didn't know how to respect it and I you know, as a freshman I think I was a little immature and sort of ignoring some of the rites of passage and stuff that they had set up there, but I quickly adapted and, and learned to respect sort of the way things worked and, and what the expectations were, but it was also very challenging for me academically because up to that point I was never really challenged academically. I could you know get A's you know without really trying that hard and I--it took me a couple of years to figure out you know you gotta do the work, you gotta do all the work like in advance so you can review it, so you can (laughter) you know, and so there was a period while I was smart enough to do you know okay, I wasn't performing at sort of my potential because I just didn't have the skills. Nobody had taught me how to prepare for the rigor that was at that school. So there was a period of adjustment there.$And unbeknownst to me when we went to make this presentation, Penny Pritzker had been given my name by a headhunter as a potential candidate to fill a position that she needed to have filled in her real estate operations. So, they treated this whole thing like, "Man, not only do we have a chance to look at this parking, investment opportunity, but we get to interview this guy and he doesn't even know it," (laughter), right. So I go to this whole presentation and, and they like me. She called me back and said, "Hey, you know I probably would never do this deal with LaSalle [LaSalle Partners; Jones Lang LaSalle Incorporated, Chicago, Illinois] but you know what's at some point I might think about doing it with you." I was like, "Here's ten reasons why you should do it with LaSalle. Here's twenty reasons why you should do it with LaSalle," we, so we started the dialogue between us and over the course of--once I realized she was serious about not doing it with LaSalle no matter what I said, we started talking about this other thing and this other job she had and all this stuff, and finally I just switched and went over to the Pritzker Realty Group [Chicago, Illinois].$$So what was she saying that they were wanting to do because Pritzker just for context they owned the Hyatt.$$So the Pritzker family has a broad array of holdings, but the, highest profile is the Hyatt Hotels [Hyatt Hotels Corporation] and the Marmon Group of companies [Marmon Holdings, Inc., Chicago, Illinois] which is you know eighty, ninety different manufacturing companies around the world and then there were other holdings like Conwood [Conwood Sales Company LLC; American Snuff Company] and Royal Caribbean cruise lines [Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd.] and so forth that they have. So you know a broad array of holdings and they had--Penny Pritzker was responsible for the family's non-hotel real estate. So she had this function where she was doing office and industrial and retail investment and development, and she had a couple of retail projects that had gone sideways a little bit and she was looking for somebody to come in and sort of rescue 'em. So that's what she was interested in me for and I was like, "You know well that's interesting but this is really what I'm doing." I read this business plan and, and she said, "Well you come and help me fix these problems and then we'll do this parking thing as partners." So I went and I, I went over and fixed the, the couple of retail things and then we started off on the parking thing, went to her Uncle Jay [Jay Pritzker] and made a presentation on the business plan. "This is the business, this is what I want to do," and I was hoping that he'd say, "Okay, well go buy one asset and show me how it works," but we had this long lunch meeting. At the end of the lunch meeting he said, "You know what this sounds really hard and challenging and I'm really not sure about this," and Penny said, "Jay, you had your chance. You were willing to work hard, you wanted to make something successful. Marty [HistoryMaker Martin Nesbitt] wants his chance. He's young, he's willing to work hard, he wants a chance to do it," and he said, "Okay, okay, let's throw $50 million at the idea and see how we like it." So we walked away and I was off and running. She said, "You heard him say 50 million, didn't you?" I said, "Yeah." She said, "Go to work," and I said--and I went off and the first person I called was Kevin Shrier [Kevin J. Shrier] and I hired Kevin Shrier to come and he was the first employee of the company. We started it from scratch with $50 million.$$Marty, what year is this?$$That was 1990, let's see I was at LaSalle for seven years, so that's '96 [1996], so it was, this was '97 [1997] probably when I made the call to Shrier. So '96 [1996] I started with Penny. I got her problems started to get 'em fixed and then '97 [1997] I started the business [The Parking Spot, Chicago, Illinois].

Thomas W. Dortch, Jr.

Thomas W. Dortch, Jr. was born April 12, 1950 in Toccoa, Georgia to Lizzie Dortch and Thomas W. Dortch, Sr. Dortch, Jr. went on to become an influential leader and mentor as well as a successful businessman.

After graduating from Whitman Street High School in 1968, Dortch attended Fort Valley State University in Fort Valley, Georgia and graduated with a B.A. in sociology in 1972. That year, he began his formal career by seeking to aid disenfranchised people through proposing projects for the State of Georgia. In 1974, he became the associate director of the Georgia Democratic Party. In 1978, Dortch began working as an administrative aide for U.S. Senator Sam Nunn and eventually became State Director, the first African American to serve in this position. Dortch worked tirelessly to represent the interests of small businesses, minorities, and other marginalized individuals.

Dortch became civically active during these years, and in 1986 joined 100 Black Men of America, a mentoring program intended to improve the quality of life and opportunities for education and employment for African Americans. He served as chairman of 100 Black Men of Atlanta and became the chairman of 100 Black Men of America's national board of directors. That same year, he earned his M.A. in Criminal Justice Administration from Clark Atlanta University and married Carole Dortch. He also founded the National Black College Alumni Hall of Fame.

In 1994, after more than 16 years of government service, Dortch left his position to pursue his own business interests. He became CEO of the consulting firm TWD, Inc. and Atlanta Transportation Systems, Inc., a Fulton County paratransit company. He still holds both positions.

Thomas Dortch has won numerous awards highlighting his achievements, including a Presidential Citation for volunteerism, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Distinguished Service Award, and the Concerned Black Clergy's Salute to Black Fathers Leadership Award. Dortch has four children.

Accession Number

A2002.018

Sex

Male

Interview Date

3/12/2002

Last Name

Dortch

Maker Category
Middle Name

W.

Organizations
Schools

Whitman Street High School

Speakers Bureau

Yes

Speakers Bureau Availability

Any

First Name

Thomas

Birth City, State, Country

Toccoa

HM ID

DOR01

Speakers Bureau Preferred Audience

Youth, Teens. Adults, Economic Empowerment, Community Organizing, Politics, Monitoring.

Speakers Bureau Honorarium

Yes - Negotiable

Favorite Season

Summer

Speaker Bureau Notes

Preferred Audience: Youth, Teens. Adults, Economic Empowerment, Community Organizing, Politics, Monitoring.

Sponsor

100 Black Men of Atlanta

State

Georgia

Favorite Vacation Destination

Caribbean, Maui

Favorite Quote

We make our living by what we get, we make

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Georgia

Birth Date

4/12/1950

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Atlanta

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Soul Food, Chinese Food

Short Description

Corporate chief executive, community leader, association chief executive, and transportation chief executive Thomas W. Dortch, Jr. (1950 - ) led 100 Black Men of Atlanta, Inc.

Employment

Georgia Democratic Party

United States Senate

100 Black Men of America

100 Black Men of Atlanta

TWD, Inc.

Atlanta Transportation Systems, Inc.

Main Sponsor
Favorite Color

Black, Olive

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Thomas Dortch narrates his photographs, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Thomas Dortch narrates his photographs, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Thomas Dortch narrates his photographs, pt. 3

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Thomas Dortch narrates his photographs, pt. 4

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Thomas Dortch narrates his photographs, pt. 5

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Thomas Dortch narrates his photographs, pt. 6

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Slating of Thomas Dortch's interview

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Thomas Dortch lists his favorites

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Thomas Dortch describes his mother's background

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Thomas Dortch describes his father's background, pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Thomas Dortch describes his father's background, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Thomas Dortch talks about his community in Toccoa, Georgia

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Thomas Dortch explains the origins of his family name, Dortch

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Thomas Dortch describes his siblings

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Thomas Dortch talks about his family's influence on him

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Thomas Dortch describes his earliest memories in Toccoa, Georgia

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Thomas Dortch talks about the importance of community

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Thomas Dortch describes the sights, smells, and sounds growing up in Toccoa, Georgia

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Thomas Dortch talks about attending Whitman Street School in Toccoa, Georgia

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Thomas Dortch talks about his teachers at Whitman High School and Fort Valley State University

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Thomas Dortch describes himself as a student

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Thomas Dortch talks about his mentors that included Julian Bond, Congressman John Lewis, and Lonnie King

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Thomas Dortch talks about his mentors and teachers at Whitman Street High School in Toccoa, Georgia

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Thomas Dortch talks about playing basketball in high school

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Thomas Dortch reflects on terrorism after September 11, 2001

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Thomas Dortch talks about playing basketball in his youth and learning teamwork

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Thomas Dortch describes attending Fort Valley State University, Georgia

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Thomas Dortch describes his academic focus at Fort Valley State University, Georgia

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Thomas Dortch talks about his election as student body president at Fort Valley State University, Georgia

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Thomas Dortch describes his campaign for delegate for the Georgia Democratic National Convention his senior year at Fort Valley State University

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Thomas Dortch talks about his involvement with Georgia state politics as a student at Fort Valley State University, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Thomas Dortch talks about his involvement with Georgia state politics as a student at Fort Valley State University, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Thomas Dortch talks about being awarded the Ford Fellowship at Georgia State University

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Thomas Dortch talks about the differences between running his own business and being a public servant

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Thomas Dortch describes becoming the associate director of the Georgia Democratic Party in 1974

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Thomas Dortch talks about working with Senator Sam Nunn in 1978, eventually becoming the first black State Director for Georgia in 1990

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Thomas Dortch describes learning the political process while working with Senator Sam Nunn from 1978-1995

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Thomas Dortch reflects on African American political leadership

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Thomas Dortch talks about starting his own business after leaving politics

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Thomas Dortch describes starting his companies, including the consulting firm TWD, Inc, and Atlanta Transportation Systems

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Thomas Dortch talks about his involvement with the 100 Black Men organization in 1986

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Thomas Dortch talks about the 100 Black Men Atlanta sponsoring Archer High School students' education in 1987

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Thomas Dortch talks about being elected National President of 100 Black Men in 1994 and the programs they offer

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Thomas Dortch describes the headquarters of the 100 Black Men in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Thomas Dortch compares the 100 Black Men with the Million Man March

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Thomas Dortch talks about his plans for the 100 Black Men

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Thomas Dortch describes building 100 Black Men

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Thomas Dortch talks about being diagnosed with cancer in 1988

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Thomas Dortch describes his hopes for his future and what he wants his legacy to be

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$6

DAStory

6$3

DATitle
Thomas Dortch talks about his mentors that included Julian Bond, Congressman John Lewis, and Lonnie King
Thomas Dortch talks about the 100 Black Men Atlanta sponsoring Archer High School students' education in 1987
Transcript
And then I had some great mentors, from [HM] Julian Bond, and Ben Brown, and [HM] [Representative] John Lewis, and Lonnie King, and, and the late Jondelle Johnson, and, and all those folks, and Andy [HM] [Andrew] Young. I had a short stint as an intern in Andy's off--office. So these people helped me--Judge Horace Ward. But I was also one who was always actively involved. I understood back at home when I got to pass out leaflets that dad and them had me doing; when I got to college and got involved with the upperclassman on issues, including when we were boycotting the restaurant in the campus, 'cause everybody was complaining about the bad food; to the fact that we had instructors you couldn't understand 'cause you had foreign instructors trying to teach English and all. You couldn't--and it wasn't discrimination. You just couldn't tell what they were saying. We were saying how can you have someone teaching when there's a, a communication barrier. We got involved in that. And then the other thing, you know, I was just a little stupid freshman then when the upperclassman were pro--protesting that, that upper class women couldn't stay out past ten o'clock. I didn't understand what the deal was, but I just figured (unclear) you're down here. They ought to be able to stay out past ten in the curfew, so we got involved. But all of that contributed to me being one who's very vocal, who is very confident, and, and myself very confident that I can achieve anything. And my attitude--and I tell everybody--I will give out before I give up. And so that's helped me to, to be and, and to get where I am today. And I'm trying to instill it in my kids. When I say my kids, not only my own children, personal blood children, but to the one hundred thousand plus young people in our organization, and the 100 Black Men, in the college students that I work with through the National Black College Alumni Hall of Fame, and, and, and all the organizations I work with. I believe that young people should have the attitude and should come out and be very positive about themselves and believe that they can do and be anything that they wanna be. It's worked for me; it's a formula that's worked for so many people. And there's no reason that here in 2002 it won't work for the young people of today.$And so in 1987, we decided from the 100 [Black Men] of Atlanta [Georgia] we gotta make a bold statement. Here we are successful black men, and we're talking about we're gonna do all this to change the lives of kids in our community. So a group of us all got together, talked about it, and we said I know, we'll just adopt a school, 'cause we had looked at this program where the, the guy in New York had promised every kid who graduated this bicycle and all of that. We said no, we're gonna promise these kids if they go to school and graduate we'll pay all their college expense. And we wanted to pick a school and be bold. We wanna go where there was no support base. And Dr. Alonzo Crim, the late Dr. Alonzo Crim, who was the first African-American school superintendant this city [Atlanta, Georgia] ever had said well, look, there's some schools that need some support. And he said you ought to go over there and look at Archer [School, Atlanta, Georgia]. Well, Archer was fresh on everybody's mind, because Mayor [Maynard] Jackson--at the time [Mayor] Maynard Jackson, [HM] [Representative] John Lewis, who was a congressman, Michael Lomax was chairman of Fulton County [Georgia] Commission and the chief of police, they had all decided they were gonna go over to Perry Homes, which is one of the toughest public housing neighborhoods in this city, and they were gonna spend the night over there to show their support for the people in that community. And about midnight gunfire broke out, and it got noisy and all, and they rushed all of them out of the public housing communities. It was all on the press. We said that's the community; that's where we need to go, and we went to Archer. Archer was a school with only forty-three percent of all the students who started in eighth grade class graduated, and a small handful actually went to college. And we worked out a program with all the educators and all in our organization, and we made the promise and a contract: if you stay in school, do what you have to do we'll pay one hundred percent of your tuition; made that bold statement in '87' [1987]. And others started to watch us. And we worked with the kids, and four years later we graduated--understanding a school that only forty-three percent graduated, we graduated about ninety-seven percent of all the students four years later who started with us in the eighth grade. And of this class we started it with thirty-five students; twenty-seven qualified and went to college; others went to trade school, and the ones we lost, we went back and were able to get everyone but one to graduate from high school, one young lady who got pregnant that dropped out. But the key for us was working hand-in-hand, one-on-one and group mentoring. We created a Saturday academy. We--somewhere around $117,000. And every Saturday these young kids had to come to Atlanta Metropolitan College for extra instruction and SAT prep. And, and we pay 'em a minimum wage, 'cause we didn't want any excuse about I gotta go to McDonald's, or Burger King, or Kentucky Fried Chicken to work. And we worked with these kids. And we decided the fact that we get 'em out of high school was success. But we fulfilled our promise and paid for all of their college tuition. And we did it an early assessment of all the students when they first got in the program, what they wanted out of life. And they had everything from professional football players to a model. And there was this young lady among all of 'em--'cause all of 'em went on to do great things--Sonya Jolt (ph.) said she wanted to be an executive secretary, and we worked with her. Four years later when they graduated, Sonya was accepted at Syracuse [University, New York]. Of course we paid her tuition like we did all the other kids. I just singled her out as one of 'em. She went on and got her degree at Syracuse [University, New York], came back and said I know you only promised four years. I really wanna go to graduate school; we paid for that. A year or so later she got her master's degree. She works for a Fortune 500 company now and debating on whether to go to law school, the same young lady that said that she wanted to be a--an executive secretary. And the others went on to be teachers, and others--some dropped out, but their making a living for them fam--for their families and doing decent.