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James Lowry

Management consultant and entrepreneur James H. Lowry was born in 1939 to Chicago postal workers Camille and William Lowry. Lowry graduated from the Francis W. Parker School in Chicago, and went on to earn his undergraduate degree from Grinnell College in Iowa. Lowry served in the Peace Corps in Tanzania and Puerto Rico before he returned to school to earn his master's degree in public international affairs from the University of Pittsburgh. In 1968, Lowry became McKinsey Consulting's first African American recruit.

At McKinsey, Lowry convinced corporate clients of the value of investing in minority communities and sought to increase the firm's number of African American consultants; he continued this work while attending Harvard Business School, where he served as class president in 1973. On assignment from former Commerce Secretary Juanita Morris Kreps, Lowry produced a report on the status of minorities in the twenty-first century that attracted the attention of numerous municipal and corporate clients, including PepsiCo and Ford. In 1975, Lowry used his knowledge and experience to found James H. Lowry & Associates. Lowry's strategic partnership with Ford led to the automotive giant sourcing more than $3 billion dollars of goods and services to more than 300 minority suppliers. In 1981, Lowry approached his former employer, McKinsey, about its disappointing number of African American consultants, which he helped increase to nearly one hundred by 1999.

In 2000 Lowry was recruited to join the prominent Boston Consulting Group; as a president of the group's Chicago operations, he was credited for his productive involvement in the North American Black Diversity Initiative, a program that fosters the development of African American management consultant professionals on college campuses and within the company. An adjunct faculty member of Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management, Lowry developed a lauded education program for minority business professionals in 2002. Lowry and his wife, Doris, raised a daughter: Aisha.

Accession Number

A2003.026

Sex

Male

Interview Date

1/30/2003

Last Name

Lowry

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Schools

Austin O. Sexton Elementary School

Paul Robeson High School

Grinnell College

University of Pittsburgh

Harvard Business School

Speakers Bureau

Yes

First Name

James

Birth City, State, Country

Chicago

HM ID

LOW01

Speakers Bureau Honorarium

Yes - $5,000 - $10,000

Favorite Season

Fall

Speaker Bureau Notes

773-528-0041 (office); 773-883-0006 (fax)

State

Illinois

Favorite Vacation Destination

Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, Aruba

Favorite Quote

Remember the quid pro quo.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Birth Date

5/28/1939

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Chicago

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Fried Chicken

Short Description

Business consulting executive and management consulting chief executive James Lowry (1939 - ) was president of the Chicago office of Boston Consulting and a leader in fostering and promoting diversity in the workplace.

Employment

Peace Corps

Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation

McKinsey and Company

James H. Lowry and Associates

Boston Consulting Group

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of James Lowry interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - James Lowry's favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - James Lowry remembers his grandparents

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - James Lowry talks about his parents and their courtship

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - James Lowry describes his father's interest in athletics

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - James Lowry discusses his father's career with the U.S. Post Office

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - James Lowry recalls his mother's important role during his childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - James Lowry recalls his childhood neighborhood

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - James Lowry discusses A. O. Sexton Elementary School

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - James Lowry recalls the life of his progressive aunt

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - James Lowry remembers attending Francis W. Parker School

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - James Lowry talks about proving himself academically

Tape: 1 Story: 13 - James Lowry discusses his relationship with the Jewish community

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - James Lowry discusses the strength of the Jewish community

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - James Lowry gives an overview of his high school athletic career

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - James Lowry shares some memories from high school

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - James Lowry explains how his high school experience positively affected his personality

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - James Lowry talks about his social life and interests during high school

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - James Lowry explains his choice to attend Grinnell College

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - James Lowry talks about racism in Appleton, Wisconsin

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - James Lowry describes his experiences at Grinnell College

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - James Lowry discusses an incident of racial harassment at Grinnell College

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - James Lowry compares and contrasts liberal Midwestern colleges

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - James Lowry remembers his entrepreneurial successes during college

Tape: 2 Story: 12 - James Lowry details studying abroad in Tanzania

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - James Lowry explains how he earned extra money in Tanzania

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - James Lowry talks about his experiences in the Peace Corps

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - James Lowry remembers being recruited by Robert F. Kennedy and moving to New York City

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - James Lowry discusses living and working abroad

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - James Lowry recalls Bedford-Stuyvesant and its West Indian population

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - James Lowry describes his early involvement in the television industry

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - James Lowry remembers the forward-thinking spirit and political scene of the mid-1960s

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - James Lowry remembers Robert F. Kennedy and how exposure to cultural diversity broadened his perspective

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - James Lowry talks about his work at McKinsey & Company

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - James Lowry explains his daughter's name

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - James Lowry explains how he founded his own consulting firm

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - James Lowry details the growth of James H. Lowry & Associates

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - James Lowry explains his role in empowering minority entrepreneurs

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - James Lowry talks about Chicago politicians' strides in helping minority businesses

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - James Lowry discusses the reasoning behind 'Minority Business Report' and its success

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - James Lowry explains his passion for empowering minority-owned business

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - James Lowry shares his hopes and concerns for the black community

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - James Lowry discusses the current state of black-owned businesses

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - James Lowry considers his legacy

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - James Lowry considers how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - James Lowry talks of his ambitions for his family

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$4

DAStory

7$1

DATitle
James Lowry talks about racism in Appleton, Wisconsin
James Lowry explains how he founded his own consulting firm
Transcript
When we were seniors, well, juniors actually, our coach at Francis [W.] Parker [High School, Chicago, Illinois] had gone to Lawrence College [now Lawrence University, Appleton, Wisconsin]. And he was very candid, it--I don't know if you know this, but Appleton, Wisconsin was the home of, of Joe McCarthy.$$Old Senator Joseph McCarthy (unclear)--.$$(simultaneously) Oh, and at that time, blacks could not stay overnight in Appleton, Wisconsin. They could not spend the night in Appleton, Wisconsin.$$They could not spend the night?$$They could not spend the night. It was against the law for blacks in the late 50's [1950s] or early 60's [1960s] in Appleton, Wisconsin. So our coach--and he's still living, he says, "I don't think you guys ought to go there." He says, "You know, I went to, I went to Lawrence. It's a great school, but I don't think it's the school for you for the reasons, that reason is my--I don't think it's ready for you." So with that, we, you know, we said, "Fine. You know, we respected the honesty." The only problem, in the senior year, we won all these games and Lawrence offered him the head basketball coaching job. And so they thought that he was gonna bring us with him. And then he changed his story, and he literally took us back to Lawrence, made us meet everybody, took us to the barbershops, and said, "Hey, you know, it's not as bad as I thought." But we didn't follow him. We went to--we continued down the track to Grinnell [College, Grinnell, Iowa]. But it was funny. But back in those days, even when we played sports. And we would go into Wisconsin to play Lawrence, and Ripon [College, Ripon, Wisconsin] that we would stay in another town. We could not spend overnight in Appleton, Wisconsin.$$And it's funny now that Lawrence College is considered a liberal kind of school.$$(simultaneously) It's a very liberal, yeah, things change. Now, I tell you another thing that probably, Al will probably kill when the--cause you may be getting my age, but I played also against another black guy--there weren't too many black players in, in our league at that time. But one of them was a guy named Al Jarreau. And he played at Ripon, see. So he might look younger than I am, but we're the same age (laughs). But he, he was a good athlete.$So, what happened next? Now, you're with--$$I'm with McKinsey [and Company].$$McKinsey, yeah, right.$$And then--is it rolling?$$Yes.$$Yeah, I was withMcKinsey, and then I came back from Tanzania. And my daughter [Camille Aisha Lowry] was born. And, and I said, now, do I want to do this? And one of the things, and to be very honest, is that at--because so many of the, the consultants at McKinsey went to Harvard [University, Cambridge, Massachusetts], I felt I was not as good. And so I asked, they had--Harvard has an executive program. It's not quite a master's degree, but it's, it's a short course of five months. And I said, "I want you to pay my way to Harvard." So they said, okay, cause I'd done well in Tanzania. And so they paid my way to Harvard. I was in the executive program. And it was at Harvard where I was competing with other people in the case method, and I excelled. I really--I mean, and I, I, and it's almost embarrassing to say this. But I finally realized I was just as smart as anybody else or smarter. And, and that, I really felt liberated. And that's when I knew I was gonna start my own business. And I set--my goal was, I was gonna set up a quality consulting firm, that would be, maybe not as good as McKinsey, but on the same level in many ways. And, but I still had a certain an obligation to McKinsey to give them two years of my life because they had paid my way at Harvard. And I had an option to go to San Francisco [California], Cleveland [Ohio] and Chicago [Illinois]. And I opted to come and go to Chicago. And it was great. And I came back home because my parents were getting older. I wanted to come home. My, my wife at that time was from Chicago, Hyde Park. Her father was a doctor. He was getting up in age. And so I came back here to start a public-sector practice for McKinsey in Chicago. And Leon Finney, who I knew from many years back, said, "Lowry, you can't do anything in the public sector in Chicago unless you work for the Democratic Party and Mayor [Richard J.] Daley." And I volunteered to work for Daley's campaign, his last campaign. And we got to be friends. And at the end of the, you know, the campaign, he said, "What do you want to do?" I said, "I don't know." He said, "Why don't you start your own firm, and I'll support you," he said, "Because I was impressed with you, and you're smart, and blah, blah, blah." So that's how I started my firm. Back in those days, you could do that. And I started with two contracts from the City of Chicago, and I had a contract from McKinsey. They put me on retainer to help them. And that's--I started a company in my name, which probably was a mistake. If I had to do it again, I wouldn't do it. And there was this, I went back with Allison Davis [Jr.] who was my roommate, and he gave me--he had a firm at this time. And I had a little room, and that's how I started my firm [James H. Lowry and Associates].$$Now, what year was this?$$That was 1973--no, '75, '75 [1975]. I came back in '73 [1973]. 1975.