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Dominic Ozanne

Construction entrepreneur and chief executive Dominic Ozanne was born on April 10, 1953 in Cleveland, Ohio to Betty and Leroy Ozanne. Ozanne earned his B.S./B.A. degree in finance from Boston University in 1975. He then attended Harvard Law School, where he was senior comments editor for the Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review and received his J.D. degree in 1978.

Ozanne worked briefly for the law firm Thompson, Hine, & Flory, after which he joined the Ozanne Construction Company as general counsel. His father had founded the company in 1956, making it one of the nation’s first black-owned construction companies. In 1990, Ozanne was named president and Chief Executive Officer of the company. He expanded the firm beyond the greater Cleveland area and secured a number of significant contracts for projects such as the Cleveland Metropolitan Schools Rebuilding Program, the Orleans Parish Sherif’s Office Rebuilding Program, the Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority Administrative Campus, and the Elkton, Ohio Correctional Facility.

In recognition of his achievements, Ozanne was awarded the 1991 Engineering New Record Award for Excellence and served as president of the National Association of Minority Contractors from 1989 to 1990. The Ozanne Construction Company was ranked no. 61 on Black Enterprise’s list of the top 100 industrial/service companies in 1998, named the Best-in-Class in Workforce Diversity for middle market companies by the Greater Cleveland Partnership in 2011, and listed in the top 100 Construction Management-for-Fee Firms by Engineering New Record in 2011. The company is a member of the U.S. Green Building Council.

Ozanne has been a member of a number of civic, educational, and professional groups such as the Case Western Reserve University Board of Trustees, the Cleveland Museum of Art Board of Trustees, the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice, Advisory Board – Harvard Law School, the Construction Employers Association Board of Trustees, the Lay Finance Advisory Board, Diocese of Cleveland, the St. Ignatius High School Board of Regents, and member of the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre.

Ozanne is married to Gaile Cooper Ozanne and they have four children; Dominic II, Monique, Olivia, and Joshua. Dominic II has worked as a project engineer at the Ozanne Construction Company’s New Orleans office.

Dominic Ozanne was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on February 13, 2014.

Accession Number

A2014.046

Sex

Male

Interview Date

2/13/2014

Last Name

Ozanne

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Schools

Saint Ignatius High School

Boston University

Harvard Law School

First Name

Dominic

Birth City, State, Country

Cleveland

HM ID

OZA01

State

Ohio

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Ohio

Birth Date

4/10/1953

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Cleveland

Country

United States

Short Description

Construction chief executive Dominic Ozanne (1953 - ) served as president of the Ozanne Construction Company, one of the nation’s first black-owned construction companies.

Employment

Thompson, Hine, & Flory

Ozanne Construction Company

John B. Cruz III

Cruz Construction Company president John Bert Cruz, III, was born on May 7, 1943, in Wareham, Massachusetts. Cruz’s parents, John B. Cruz, Jr., and Madeline Martin Cruz, were the children of first generation emigrants from the Cape Verde Islands, off the Northwest coast of Africa. Descended from whale harpooners, Cruz’s grandfather John B. Cruz, Sr., was a prohibition era business associate of Joseph P. Kennedy. Living with his mother until he was twelve, Cruz attended school in Wareham, Massachusetts, Cleveland, Ohio and Buffalo, New York. Cruz worked alongside his father as a carpenter in Boston in 1956. Completing his studies at Patrick T. Campbell Junior High School, Cruz graduated from Boston Technical High School in 1962; he then enrolled in Wentworth Institute where he studied business administration.

Joining his father’s carpentry business, Cruz took care of the administrative work as superintendent and estimator of jobs. Significant growth led to the two going into the general contracting business with the formation of John B. Cruz Construction Company in 1969. In 1970, Cruz was bonded and accepted his first general contracting job. Mentored by Dennis Blackett, Cruz completed Taurus Apartments, an affordable housing project in 1973. Attending the Minority Developers Executive Training Program of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cruz gained the acumen necessary to build over 1,500 units of housing and to specialize in build-to-suit projects. By 1983, Cruz was building between 300 and 400 units annually, managing a workforce of over 2,000, and managing apartments. The John B. Cruz Construction Company provided general contracting services for various Boston area projects including The Fortress, Council Towers, Massachusetts Biotechnology Research Institute Laboratory Research Institute, Boston Police Department Headquarters, Reggie Lewis Track and Athletic Center, Prang House, and Prang Estates. Cruz handled jobs as large as $17 million as a general contractor and $150 million working with other companies; in 1989, he developed a $36 million, 463 unit project.

As an active member of the Contractors Association of Boston and the National Association of Minority Contractors, Cruz joined with Smoot, Moody, McKissack and other black firms to fight for legislation to ensure parity for minority contractors. Cruz committed to helping Cape Verdean and other minority contractors to develop, and to staying and working in Roxbury, Massachusetts. Cruz also established the John B. Cruz Bridgewater State University Scholarship in his father’s name.

Accession Number

A2007.132

Sex

Male

Interview Date

4/11/2007

Last Name

Cruz

Maker Category
Middle Name

B.

Schools

Boston Technical High School

Martin Luther King, Jr. K-8 Inclusion School

The John D. O'Bryant School of Mathematics and Science

Wentworth Institute of Technology

First Name

John

Birth City, State, Country

Wareham

HM ID

CRU02

Favorite Season

Spring

State

Massachusetts

Favorite Vacation Destination

Caribbean

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Massachusetts

Birth Date

5/7/1943

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Boston

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Seafood

Short Description

Construction chief executive John B. Cruz III (1943 - ) co-founded the John B. Cruz Construction Company, and was an advocate for minority contractors in the United States.

Employment

John B. Cruz Company

Favorite Color

Red

Timing Pairs
0,0:12290,212:12974,224:17230,321:18218,334:22322,441:22854,449:43675,667:48684,685:49524,695:50364,706:53220,757:55152,791:57672,848:64006,922:75772,1161:84420,1202:89176,1299:89832,1309:92538,1367:93194,1376:94342,1397:95162,1414:107888,1651:109900,1667$0,0:4240,62:10611,118:12260,139:27252,372:27735,380:28494,392:31875,465:32841,482:33117,487:37602,561:38430,574:39051,585:39603,594:40500,609:41052,618:50791,650:51517,657:52001,662:57990,769:60851,799:61655,812:62258,822:63062,844:63464,851:65675,901:66010,907:66278,912:69360,968:70298,991:71571,1021:72174,1034:74720,1090:75591,1113:75859,1118:81080,1127:82429,1162:82997,1171:83778,1183:84417,1194:85981,1203:86548,1212:87277,1223:92299,1326:100561,1499:101047,1506:101371,1511:102100,1521:106520,1526:106976,1533:107356,1539:109408,1586:110548,1613:111384,1625:114120,1671:115868,1707:116780,1720:119060,1769:120124,1796:124400,1812:125040,1822:125680,1831:127280,1869:129342,1884:131774,1942:132158,1949:132798,1960:133502,1972:134206,1987:146819,2172:147127,2177:147589,2184:149899,2225:150823,2245:152286,2267:152748,2275:155204,2312:155892,2380:158042,2416:160020,2441:162290,2447:164810,2518:167750,2561:168730,2582:169150,2589:170600,2595
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of John B. Cruz III's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - John B. Cruz III lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - John B. Cruz III describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - John B. Cruz talks about his grandparents' experiences in Cape Verde

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - John B. Cruz III describes his mother's upbringing

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - John B. Cruz describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - John B. Cruz III remembers his paternal grandfather

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - John B. Cruz III describes his father's upbringing

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - John B. Cruz III talks about his paternal grandfather's business

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - John B. Cruz describes his father's profession

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - John B. Cruz III describes his father's experiences of work discrimination

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - John B. Cruz III talks about his father's U.S. military service

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - John B. Cruz III recalls the founding of the John B. Cruz Construction Company

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - John B. Cruz III talks about his relationship with his parents

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - John B. Cruz III describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - John B. Cruz III remembers moving frequently as a child

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - John B. Cruz III lists his siblings

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - John B. Cruz III describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - John B. Cruz III recalls moving from Cape Cod, Massachusetts and Cleveland, Ohio

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - John B. Cruz III recalls his experiences in Buffalo, New York

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - John B. Cruz III describes his elementary school experiences

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - John B. Cruz III describes the Cape Verdean community in Cape Cod, Massachusetts

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - John B. Cruz III describes his community in Buffalo, New York

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - John B. Cruz III talks about racial identity in the Cape Verdean community, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - John B. Cruz III talks about racial identity the Cape Verdean community, pt. 2

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - John B. Cruz III remembers Patrick T. Campbell Junior High in Boston, Massachusetts

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - John B. Cruz III talks about his religious upbringing

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - John B. Cruz III describes his family's musical interests

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - John B. Cruz III remembers Boston Technical High School in Boston, Massachusetts

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - John B. Cruz III describes his parents' personalities

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - John B. Cruz III recalls his start at the John B. Cruz Construction Company

Tape: 3 Story: 11 - John B. Cruz recalls his decision to pursue a career in construction

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - John B. Cruz III remembers his first car

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - John B. Cruz III describes the influences on his early career

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - John B. Cruz III remembers joining the John B. Cruz Construction Company

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - John B. Cruz III recalls meeting his wife

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - John B. Cruz III recalls his first general contracting project

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - John B. Cruz III remembers the influence of Dennis Blackett

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - John B. Cruz III describes his financial obstacles

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - John B. Cruz III recalls the growth of the John B. Cruz Construction Company

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - John B. Cruz III talks about his government contracting work

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - John B. Cruz III describes his apartment developments in Miami, Florida

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - John B. Cruz III describes his plans for the John B. Cruz Construction Company

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - John B. Cruz III talks about the Contractors Association of Boston

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - John B. Cruz III talks about the importance of minority businesses

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - John B. Cruz III talks about his professional obstacles

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - John B. Cruz III describes his accomplishments

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - John B. Cruz III talks about the opportunities in the construction industry

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - John B. Cruz III describes his concerns for the African American community

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - John B. Cruz III reflects upon his career

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - John B. Cruz III reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - John B. Cruz III describes his family

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - John B. Cruz III talks about his community leadership

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - John B. Cruz III describes his children's education

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - John B. Cruz III reflects upon modern racism

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - John B. Cruz describes how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - John B. Cruz III narrates his photographs, pt. 1

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - John B. Cruz III narrates his photographs, pt. 2

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$5

DAStory

1$2

DATitle
John B. Cruz III describes the Cape Verdean community in Cape Cod, Massachusetts
John B. Cruz III talks about the Contractors Association of Boston
Transcript
Your mother [Madeline Martin Allen] married a guy in Buffalo [New York], right?$$Right.$$Right. And so, one of the questions I think would be interesting is how did--we were talking about the difference between Buffalo and Cape Cod [Massachusetts]. And we talked a lot during the break about some of the differences in scenery, and pollution, and--$$Right.$$--water and stuff in Buffalo, opposed to on the cape.$$Well, again, it was a big culture shock. Because here I'd come from basically a Cape Verdean community where Cape Verdean in some homes is spoken more than English. And again, the things of large families, music, all the time close knit. And it's a country town, and beautiful beaches in that part of the country. We used to only have to walk a quarter of a mile to maybe half a mile at the most. And in back of the house was a beautiful pure river we used to go swimming in, and in fact swam naked in there a lot of times. There was actually--one of my fondest memories was my [maternal] grandfather [Casimere Martin] impressing me on his--because if you live in Cape Verde you have to swim, because there's nothing but islands, well most people learn to swim. But he could swim excellent, but he could hold his breath. And I can remember him diving in the water, and I'd be afraid my grandfather would drown because he wouldn't come up until sometime later. And I do the same thing now. People marvel. And I was just impressed with my grandfather. I said, I'm going to do that. I'm going to be able to dive in the water and hold my breath like my grandfather. So it started way back then, positive or negative influence people give you.$You've been part of the movement of the black contractors to, nationwide to unite, I guess, for their own benefit and protection. Tell us about the organizations you've been a part of.$$My first experience, my first experience came with the Contractors Association of Boston [Boston, Massachusetts], which is--for a while--it's no longer in existence. It was the oldest ongoing contractors association in the country. We used to like to boast about that all the time. But about five years ago--it's still chartered, but it's really not active. But we were incorporated before the National Association of Minority Contractors was. And we have a saying here that, "If you're black, whatever you're doing in Boston [Massachusetts], whether you're a businessman or a professional, you'll be doing better at it somewhere else," because of the racial climate in Boston. And it's true, it is true. I don't mean that to knock anybody in particular; maybe I mean it to knock the town and the state, whatever it is. Yeah, fine, but it still is that today. I can tell you, I'm in it. And I know that if I had the same energy. Because of my net worth, the other minority contractors around the country, they are able to do better with less adversities and impediments--better politics, whatever you want to call it. They are able to do better with the same amount of energy that you would spend doing the same thing here in Boston. And that's why a lot of professionals leave Boston. And I'm not saying it's something that people don't know. So, we formed--and what that did do was made bonds. We formed the Contractors Association of Boston, and we went out and we demanded parity and fairness in the construction industry. And we, Massachusetts, was one of the first states that actually came out with a legal set aside on work, and Boston was one of the first cities. Other people came here and copied Boston and Massachusetts, and that's because of Contractors Association of Boston.$$Now when was that achievement? When did you get the--$$We started the Contractors Association of Boston, it was started in I believe 1965 or '66 [1966], it was back then. So even though Boston was adverse and had hardships, it forced something to come up good from it; like my father [John B. Cruz, Jr.] started a business [John B. Cruz Construction Company, Boston, Massachusetts] because of adversity. It started a strong partnership among local people and the contractors who were trying to get into the contracting industry. And again, it was a very active association for over twenty years.

Herbert DeCosta, Jr.

Architect and building contractor Herbert Alexander DeCosta, Jr. was born on March 17, 1923 in Charleston, South Carolina to Herbert A. DeCosta, Sr. and Julia Craft DeCosta. DeCosta’s interest in architecture began when he was thirteen years old while working for the family construction business which was founded in 1899 by his grandfather Benjamin DeCosta. He graduated high school from the Avery Institute in Charleston in 1940 and went on to receive his B.A. degree from Iowa State College in architectural engineering in 1944.

Prior to joining the family business in 1947, DeCosta worked as an architectural engineer for the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA, now known as NASA). He returned to the DeCosta Company as Vice President and became President, serving there until his retirement in 1989. Under his leadership, the company undertook major renovation projects to preserve the historical landscape of Charleston and other areas. One of his most notable projects was the restoration of the Herndon Mansion in Atlanta, Georgia. This mansion was owned by one of the wealthiest African American men in America, Alonzo Herndon, founder of the Atlanta Life Insurance Company.

The H.A. DeCosta Company was named one of the top 100 black businesses in the nation by Black Enterprise magazine in 1979. Upon his retirement in 1989, DeCosta continued to be active in the field of preservation as a restoration consultant and project manager.

DeCosta’s work has been featured in various magazines and newspapers across the country. He has received various awards and recognitions for his contribution to Charleston, including South Carolina’s Governor’s Award and the Frances R. Edmunds Award for Historic Preservation. DeCosta passed away on December 28, 2008.

Accession Number

A2007.041

Sex

Male

Interview Date

2/2/2007

Last Name

DeCosta

Maker Category
Middle Name

Alexander

Schools

Avery Normal Institute

Immaculate Conception School

Iowa State University

First Name

Herbert

Birth City, State, Country

Charleston

HM ID

DEC02

Favorite Season

Spring

State

South Carolina

Favorite Vacation Destination

Europe, South Africa

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

South Carolina

Birth Date

3/17/1923

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Charleston

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Chicken, Fish

Death Date

12/28/2008

Short Description

Construction chief executive and architect Herbert DeCosta, Jr. (1923 - 2008 ) joined his family's business in 1947, a construction company that was in existence from 1899.

Employment

National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics

Langley Field

H.A. DeCosta Company

Favorite Color

Beige

Timing Pairs
0,0:1752,26:2920,43:6980,57:26650,207:30554,288:31018,303:44668,410:98136,904:99394,926:106015,996:117491,1124:123280,1181:125906,1192:136719,1316:152510,1387:163680,1466:166630,1495:189670,1657:202356,1783:202728,1788:224222,2001:227100,2019:232765,2083:233500,2092:266310,2378$0,0:1080,8:1512,13:2700,25:14883,284:22278,378:22614,383:23118,391:23706,400:30390,485:47422,698:56070,776:56880,786:70695,1034:71500,1042:83258,1115:83554,1120:119257,1472:131716,1585:134708,1631:144244,1738:144492,1743:144740,1748:145422,1786:145794,1793:149258,1860:155682,1940:156218,1945:164574,1995:166788,2012:167895,2017:168510,2023:169740,2034:211045,2267:217702,2317:218908,2332:222094,2359:228246,2427:241243,2530:242990,2537:249220,2633:250120,2837:259270,3091:317795,3374:318159,3384:325872,3454:329100,3481:333600,3539
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Herbert DeCosta, Jr.'s interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Herbert DeCosta, Jr. lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Herbert DeCosta, Jr. describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Herbert DeCosta, Jr. describes his maternal great-grandparents' escape from slavery

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Herbert DeCosta, Jr. describes his maternal great-grandparents' life as freemen

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Herbert DeCosta, Jr. talks about his maternal relatives

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Herbert DeCosta, Jr. remembers his maternal grandparents

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Herbert DeCosta, Jr. describes his mother's upbringing and personality

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Herbert DeCosta, Jr. describes his maternal ancestors

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Herbert DeCosta, Jr. describes his father's family background

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Herbert DeCosta, Jr. describes his father's career

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Herbert DeCosta, Jr. recalls his father's contracting business

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Herbert DeCosta, Jr. describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Herbert DeCosta, Jr. describes his neighborhood in Charleston, South Carolina

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Herbert DeCosta, Jr. describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Herbert DeCosta, Jr. remembers his early education

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Herbert DeCosta, Jr. remembers the Avery Normal Institute in Charleston, South Carolina

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Herbert DeCosta, Jr. describes his experiences at the Avery Normal Institute

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Herbert DeCosta, Jr. recalls the music curriculum at the Avery Normal Institute

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Herbert DeCosta, Jr. describes his extracurricular activities

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Herbert DeCosta, Jr. describes his decision to attend the Iowa State College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Herbert DeCosta, Jr. describes his college housing, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Herbert DeCosta, Jr. describes his college housing, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Herbert DeCosta, Jr. recalls his upbringing in a wealthy family

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Herbert DeCosta, Jr. recalls his influences at the Iowa State College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Herbert DeCosta, Jr. recalls his early career

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Herbert DeCosta, Jr. recalls joining his father's construction business

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Herbert DeCosta, Jr. remembers his construction projects, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Herbert DeCosta, Jr. remembers his construction projects, pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Herbert DeCosta, Jr. remembers his construction projects, pt. 3

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Herbert DeCosta, Jr. describes his renovation work throughout the South

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Herbert DeCosta, Jr. remembers the Citizens Committee of Charleston County

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Herbert DeCosta, Jr. describes his civil rights activities

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Herbert DeCosta, Jr. remembers the assassinations of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and President John Fitzgerald Kennedy

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Herbert DeCosta, Jr. talks about his organizational involvement

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Herbert DeCosta, Jr. describes his daughters

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Herbert DeCosta, Jr. talks about his marriage

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Herbert DeCosta, Jr. talks about selling his construction company

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Herbert DeCosta, Jr. describes his advice to future generations

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Herbert DeCosta, Jr. describes how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Herbert DeCosta, Jr. narrates his photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

1$4

DAStory

4$5

DATitle
Herbert DeCosta, Jr. describes his maternal great-grandparents' escape from slavery
Herbert DeCosta, Jr. remembers his construction projects, pt. 1
Transcript
Well, they were both born slaves in Macon, Georgia. And decided, they were still young, and I believe they were married in Macon, I'm not sure, but anyway, they had decided that they, no I don't think they were married, they wanted to get married and have children, but under the law at that time, the children would be slaves, you see. So they didn't want their children born as slaves so they decided that they would escape, and Ellen [Ellen Craft] was a seamstress and William [William Craft] was a carpenter and so, and she decided to disguise herself as a white gentleman. You see, she was very fair and she looked like a white person, so that's what she disguised herself as. And she had, they bought a top hat, then she had her arm in a sling and wore dark glasses, and then a bandage around her mouth because see she couldn't speak in, you know, good English, and she didn't want to be asked questions you see, so that was the reason for the bandage around the mouth so she would not have to talk. So they decided and, of course, William to be her slave, and they were supposed to be going, now they told their owners that they were going to visit their relatives and friends on Christmas Day on some nearby plantation. See, slaves, as I understand it, were permitted to visit relatives and friends on Christmas, so then, so that morning they left and boarded a train, and they ended up in Baltimore [Maryland]. Now Baltimore was the last stop before Philadelphia [Pennsylvania], which was, you know, in a free state, so the officials were very careful, you know, about slaves traveling into freed states. So then they asked for all kind of identification and they almost got caught. So it was Christmas Eve and they said, somebody told them, they said, "I traveled with them, or with him, this gentleman all the way from Macon, Georgia, and he's all right, it's Christmas Eve, just let them go on," and so that's how they got past the customs in Baltimore, and then they ended up in Philadelphia, and they lived in someone's farmhouse, and then they were taught to read and write, but things were sort of, hot you might say, so to speak, in Philadelphia, so they thought they better move on to Boston [Massachusetts]. So some friends helped them to get to Boston and while in Boston, William opened a carpenter shop or cabinet shop and Ellen continued to sew.$You had some information about buildings that you worked on early on (simultaneous).$$(Simultaneous) Yeah. It was my early days here [at H.A. DeCosta Company]. One, we built the North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance [North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company] building, corner of Coming [Street] and Cannon Street. I designed that and built that. And that was designed to take care of adding a second story if they wanted to, but they, the Clemmons [ph.] family just sold it the other day, I see, and the father died, and the two boys inherited, of course they're not boys, they are grown men, and they decided to sell the building 'cause they got a good price for it so they sold that. And then rebuilt an educational building on Johns Island [South Carolina] for the Methodist church. See Johns Island back in those days was really kind of rural see. There wasn't any Kiawah [Kiawah Island Golf Resort, Kiawah Island, South Carolina] down there, or one on the other end, and nothing like that. It was just a sort of rural country place, and they built this building to take care of the people so they'd have some place to go up for recreation, and you know, have meetings and programs and things of that type. So that's what we built. And then we also remodeled the Carolina Savings Bank, and that was one of the banks, one of the big banks in Charleston [South Carolina]. We remodeled that. Put in new counters, a new safety deposit vault, and did things, that type of thing. Then I remember I did the drawings for the vault and then also built a parish house for our church. One of the first things we did.$$And this was St. Mark's Church [St. Mark's Episcopal Church, Charleston, South Carolina]?$$Yes.$$So you worked with your father [Herbert DeCosta, Sr.] and you become president in what year (simultaneous)?$$(Simultaneous) Nineteen--$$Nineteen sixty [1960]?$$Sixty [1960]. I think that's what it was.$$And tell me what happened after that.$$Well--$$Did you become more into undertaking more major renovation projects?$$Well, we did major renovations, you know, when he was, that was the main thing that he was interested in, you see. See then, I'm looking at this little sheet that had--(pause) we did a lot of work for a storage house and foundation. See that's the foremost preservation society in the city, and we knew a lot of people who were members of that. So when they organized about sixty years ago, we did a lot of their work. See we did 61 Laurens Street, 82 Anson Street. These were all houses that we did before the foundation and then we also did a house at 25 East Battery [Street], and that was the residence of Mr. and Mrs. Charles Drayton [Emily Beatty Drayton and Charles H. Drayton, Jr.]. He was a very wealthy northerner, who married a Charleston girl, and we, they had this big house that we renovated for them. Course it used to be a planter's townhouse and he had a house in the country and then they had beautiful townhouses. It was a beautiful townhouse that he lived in, and we, and it was someplace and we restored this, and then they also had in the back a place for servants or guests 'cause that was a two-story residence. And whether they used that, I mean, 'cause I didn't see any other places on the property that slaves could live 'cause this was, they built this place just before the Civil War see. So that must have been their house but that was a nice house, and then there was a little land, we restored a small kitchen building. It was behind that house you see.

Cheryl McKissack Felder

Cheryl McKissack Felder, civil engineer and CEO of The McKissack Group, was born with her twin sister, Deryl, on May 15, 1961 in Nashville, Tennessee. Felder comes from a family of architects that start with an enslaved Ashanti ancestor in 1790. Grandfather Moses McKissack founded the family business in 1905. Her father, William DeBerry McKissack, took it over in 1968. Felder’s mother, Leatrice Buchanan McKissack, grew the business after her husband died. Felder attended Peabody Demonstration School, graduating in 1979, in the meantime earning her B.S. degree in civil engineering in 1981 and her M.S. degree in 1983 from Howard University.

At the United States Department of Defense, Felder provided quality assurance and quality control for government research projects, including MX missile silos, the United States Embassy anti-terrorist program and a large space structures project for NASA. From 1985 to 1989, she worked as a civil engineer for Weidlinger Associates and, in 1989, she served as an estimator for Turner Construction, both New York City firms. Felder also served as the estimation manager for the $2.5 million restoration/addition of the historic Schomburg Theatre. In 1991, she formed The McKissack Group (TMG), a full service construction management firm based in New York City. In 1999, Felder launched McKissack and McKissack Associates, an architecture and design company.

As The McKissack Group’s chief executive officer, Felder managed construction of the US Airways maintenance hangar in Philadelphia. She also served as project executive for the Medgar Evers Academic Building and Student Support Services buildings in Brooklyn, New York. Felder was the principal in charge of Philadelphia’s $395 million Lincoln Financial Field football stadium, the $450 million US Airways International Terminal in Philadelphia and the $1.5 billion renovation and reconstruction of the School District of Philadelphia. Other projects include the Brooklyn NBA Stadium, the University of Pennsylvania Hospital, the New York School Construction Authority and the African Burial Ground Monument in New York City. Felder and her husband Fred Felder belong to the 25,000-member Christian Cultural Center in Brooklyn, New York.

Accession Number

A2005.043

Sex

Female

Interview Date

2/9/2005

Last Name

McKissack-Felder

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Organizations
Schools

University School Of Nashville

First Name

Cheryl

Birth City, State, Country

Nashville

HM ID

MCK07

Favorite Season

All Seasons

State

Tennessee

Favorite Vacation Destination

Caribbean

Favorite Quote

I Can Do All Things Through Christ That Strengthens Me

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date

5/15/1961

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

United States

Favorite Food

None

Short Description

Construction chief executive Cheryl McKissack Felder (1961 - ) was the CEO of The McKissack Group and McKissack and McKissack Associates, an architecture and design company. As The McKissack Group’s chief executive officer, Felder managed many large projects and was the principal in charge of Philadelphia’s Lincoln Financial Field, the US Airways International Terminal in Philadelphia and the renovation and reconstruction of the School District of Philadelphia.

Employment

McKissack and McKissack

Turner Construction

Weidlinger Associates

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Cheryl McKissack Felder's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Cheryl McKissack Felder lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Cheryl McKissack Felder describes her maternal family background, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Cheryl McKissack Felder describes her maternal family background, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Cheryl McKissack Felder talks about her paternal ancestry, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Cheryl McKissack Felder talks about her paternal ancestry, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Cheryl McKissack Felder describes how McKissack and McKissack was founded

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Cheryl McKissack Felder talks about McKissack and McKissack's early notable achievements

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Cheryl McKissack Felder remembers her father, William McKissack

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Cheryl McKissack Felder talks about her sisters

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Cheryl McKissack Felder describes her earliest childhood memory

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Cheryl McKissack Felder remembers her childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Cheryl McKissack Felder describes the sights, sounds and smells of her childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Cheryl McKissack Felder describes her neighborhood and her childhood home

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Cheryl McKissack Felder describes herself as a young girl

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Cheryl McKissack Felder talks about her time in grade school at Peabody Demonstration School, Nashville, Tennessee

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Cheryl McKissack Felder remembers growing up in Nashville, Tennessee during the Civil Rights Movement

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Cheryl McKissack Felder remembers her mother's relationship with Wilma Rudolph

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Cheryl McKissack Felder talks about her aspirations when she was in high school

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Cheryl McKissack Felder recalls her time at Howard University in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Cheryl McKissack Felder remembers inspiring teachers and students at Howard University in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Cheryl McKissack Felder talks about her graduate research at Howard University in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Cheryl McKissack Felder describes her early professional career as an engineer

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Cheryl McKissack Felder recalls returning to Tennessee to join the family firm, McKissack & McKissack, in 1990

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Cheryl McKissack Felder talks about her preferred projects

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Cheryl McKissack Felder talks about her mother, HistoryMaker Leatrice McKissack, taking over the family business, McKissack & McKissack

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Cheryl McKissack Felder talks about projects completed by McKissack Group Incorporated

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Cheryl McKissack Felder talks about expanding goals and opportunities for minority-owned and women-owned businesses, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Cheryl McKissack Felder talks about expanding goals and opportunities for minority-owned and women-owned businesses, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Cheryl McKissack Felder reflects upon the disadvantages minority and women-owned businesses face

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Cheryl McKissack Felder talks about the three firms she started

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Cheryl McKissack Felder describes M and M Solutions LLC's first project for the City of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Cheryl McKissack Felder talks about upcoming large-scale projects for McKissack & McKissack

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Cheryl McKissack Felder talks about her goals and aspirations for McKissack & McKissack

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Cheryl McKissack Felder talks about her husband and children

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Cheryl McKissack Felder describes her hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Cheryl McKissack Felder reflects upon her life

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Cheryl McKissack Felder reflects upon her legacy

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Cheryl McKissack Felder talks about her plans for African American monuments in New York, New York and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Cheryl McKissack Felder talks about the institutions she plans to support with the Second Century Celebration

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Cheryl McKissack Felder describes how she would like to be remembered

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Cheryl McKissack Felder talks about her membership in Christian Cultural Center in New York, New York

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Cheryl McKissack Felder narrates her photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

4$1

DAStory

5$7

DATitle
Cheryl McKissack Felder describes M and M Solutions LLC's first project for the City of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Cheryl McKissack Felder describes how McKissack and McKissack was founded
Transcript
We [Felder's company, M and M Solutions LLC] looked at the needs, the IT [information technology] needs in the City of Philadelphia [Pennsylvania]. Philadelphia has spent $20 million on getting information in digital form, whether it's tax information. They were getting ready, (unclear) information, property information, and they were getting ready to spend another five to $6 million on getting water, the water department records into a digital form. So the question, what do you do with all of this? How do you use it? How do you take the legacy system in the city and marry them into new systems, whether it's accounting, whether it's security, police department? I mean some of the stuff we saw was absolutely incredible. When we saw how the fire department operated, we couldn't believe it, you know. It was a big board, and they turned switches. This is an old city. So evaluated that with Deloitte and Touche [Deloitte] and then we wrote recommendations and prioritized what the city should do in the way of IT. We also identified funding sources from the federal government and from the state. And what it did for us was create just a whole platform of, whole smorgasbord of opportunities that we could just select from. And so what happened is, from that we ended up doing the uniform land map, which is putting the entire city in digital form. And then you use a, the geographic system to overlay databases. So if you, it's all based to a map. It's all based on a map. So if you wanna know how many vacant properties are there for a developer close to SEPTA [Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority] station or close to the highway or close to the airport, you could query this system and come up with it, come up with that information. At the same time, the Mayor [John F. Street] was doing the NTI, which is the Neighborhood Transformation [Initiative]. And so there were sixty-six thousand or more sites identified that needed to be demoed. So he needed a software package that would allow him to walk in a community, walk up to a site, go onto his telephone and pull down all the tax information on a particular site. So we wrote that system for him, and we started working for the--Street's department. And they wanted to compile traffic reports to see where, you know, the largest traffic report--or traffic incidences were in the city so they could begin to correct the roads. And then that just grew. And now it's into [U.S. Department of] Homeland Security.$$The Homeland Security director is Tom Ridge. He just resigned last month, I guess. He was a senator from Pennsylvania.$$He was a governor.$$Governor, right, that's right. You're right, I'm sorry. Governor of Pennsylvania. So what--have you, you know, gained a bit of business in security since--$$The uniform land map will be the basis for security for the City of Philadelphia. What we found out in our study was, we could write the software, but we didn't have the infrastructure. So the city said, okay, we're gonna take twelve buildings. We want to lay fiber optics. We wanna own our own telephone lines. And so we're doing that project right now. We've been working on that for the last eighteen months. And what that allowed the city to do was reduce their Verizon bill. They essentially own their own telephone lines. So once they finish the twelve buildings, they'll do all sixty buildings that the city owns. That would be the basis, along with the uniform land map, for Homeland Security or for security for the City of Philadelphia.$$Now, did you all--$$So it's starting from the ground up.$$I know in the mid-'90s [1990s], the city started to us--well, Chicago [Illinois] started using MapInfo [Corporation], I think to do crime mapping for the police department. That was one thing they were doing. And I think MapInfo, do you all use that program?$$No, we use Esri, which is Esri, which is, I guess, has kind of surpassed MapInfo.$$MapInfo was created by insurance companies I think, I remember it was first used by insurance companies to determine who (unclear)--$$Um-hm.$$--to charge the most money to for (unclear) (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Oh, okay.$$It really was a, it was almost like a redlining tool.$$I wanna say it didn't have open architecture or something like that. Esri is a software where you can interface with Oracle and other software, so it's considered to have an open architecture.$So they're [Felder's paternal ancestors, Moses McKissack III and Calvin McKissack] really the founders of the family business [McKissack & McKissack] as we know it now, right?$$Yes. And in 1905, there were no such thing as architectural license. So they were just considered builders, constructors. And they built homes basically. And they built homes for the very wealthy in Nashville, Tennessee. In 1921, is when the state instituted architectural licensing, and it was a requirement to have a license to practice architecture, which they had already been practicing for fifteen, sixteen years. So they went to architectural school through correspondence and then petitioned to take their exam. Of course, they were denied because they were black. And, but they continued to pursue the process, and being denied over and over again. They finally met with a board member who found favor in them, and he convinced other board members to let them at least take the exam. They took the exam and passed the first time. Then they were denied their license. So the board member again lobbied on their behalf and the State of Tennessee finally granted them license 118 and 119--117 and 118 in the State of Tennessee. And those are the licenses are out in the lobby.$$And when did they finally get their license?$$Nineteen twenty-two [1922].$$Okay, so that's not too bad. They're about a year, but they had to take the test over and over again.$$They didn't have to take the test over. They just, it was just getting--$$Oh, lobbying.$$Right. They're the first black men known to have architectural licenses in the country.$$Okay, now before they required licenses, did they experience, it seemed like they were fairly successful as builders and designers of buildings and architects prior to the licensing, but I mean in a state like Tennessee which is a prejudice place, I mean in those days, and Ida B. Wells was run out of Tennessee.$$Oh, yeah, the Ku Klux Klan [KKK] started in Pulaski, Tennessee.$$Right, exactly, so I mean that's not the easiest place to operate a black business necessarily. So how were they able to, are there any stories about, you know, what they had to do to remain successful in that kind of environment?$$It was a period of time where black people really worked together to build economic strength. It's interesting you ask that because over the holidays when I was home, my mother [HistoryMaker Leatrice McKissack] and I had that conversation because I do a lot of travel because we have an office in New York [New York]. But New York is only ninety miles from here [Philadelphia, Pennsylvania]. They did work not only in Tennessee, but Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, on, you know, the East Coast. And so, I mean the conversation, the question is, how did they travel? Where did they stay? How did they, you know, get around the prejudice and, you know, your life was on the line everywhere you went. And they were in Texas. And so my mother was telling me what happened, they had crews all over. And they had friends. So they could stay at their homes when they traveled. And they would get in a car and they would drive all day and barely get out of the State of Tennessee and stay with friends. And while they were there, they would check on their projects in that area. Then they would move on to the next city and to the next city and to the next city.$$Okay, now, in those days, I mean were they primarily working on black projects, black building projects because I know in those days, people were building black schools. The black colleges [HBCUs] were being built?$$They did black colleges.$$Churches.$$Black churches. We built Tuskegee University [Tuskegee, Alabama], a lot of those projects there. We built the Tuskegee Air Force Base [Sharpe Field, Tuskegee, Alabama], Rust College [Holly Springs, Mississippi]--$$Down in Holly Springs [Mississippi], right?$$Um-hm, so it's a list, Xavier [ph.]. There was some work done there. At Meharry [Medical College, Nashville, Tennessee], we built all of the buildings there except for one; Tennessee State [University, Nashville, Tennessee], Howard University [Washington, D.C.]. In, actually, in 1990, we renovated a building at Tuskegee that my grandfather [Moses McKissack III] built in the early 1900s. So can you imagine traveling from Nashville to Tuskegee, Alabama? We have done probably two thousand churches.$$Okay.$$So they had crews everywhere.