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Herman Roberts

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.

Accession Number

A2002.108

Sex

Male

Interview Date

7/24/2002

Last Name

Roberts

Maker Category
Organizations
Schools

Edmund Burke Elementary School

Englewood High School

First Name

Herman

Birth City, State, Country

Beggs

HM ID

ROB02

Favorite Season

Fall

State

Oklahoma

Favorite Quote

Do the best you can.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Interview Description
Birth Date

1/21/1924

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Chicago

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Meat, Potatoes

Short Description

Lodging entrepreneur and entrepreneur Herman Roberts (1924 - ) is a consummate businessman who has founded a taxi company, a night club, a bowling alley and a motel chain in Chicago. He is known best for the sixth Roberts Motel, a Chicago institution.

Employment

Roberts Show Club

Lucky Spot Lounge

Roberts Motels

Favorite Color

Blue

DAStories

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