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Leonard Graham

Engineering executive Leonard J. Graham was born on December 12, 1949 in Kansas City, Kansas to Leonard A. and Alma James Graham. He attended Kansas City, Kansas public schools and graduated from Southeast High School in Kansas City, Missouri. In 1974, Graham earned his B.A. degree in liberal arts and sciences from the University of Missouri-Kansas City, and his B.S. degree in civil engineering in 1975, from the University of Missouri-Columbia. He went on to obtain his M.A. degree in civil engineering from the University of Missouri-Columbia in 1978.

While in college, Graham worked as an application engineer at Fairbanks Morse Pumps, in Kansas City. Following his undergraduate studies, he went to work as an engineer for the regional office of the United States Environmental Protection Agency, in Kansas City, Missouri. In 1976, Graham joined the Kansas City-based consulting engineering firm Schlup Becker & Brennan as an engineer. Named partner in 1984, he worked there for sixteen years. In 1992, Graham joined and purchased the land surveying and civil and structural engineering services firm Taliaferro and Browne, Inc. as co-owner. He has served as president for twenty-seven years, where his role and area of expertise has been general civil engineering and project management including site development, storm water and wastewater engineering, roadway and transportation planning and design.
The firm has been recognized for “engineering excellence” to being “one of the top 25 largest engineering firms in Kansas City”.

From 2001 to 2002, Graham served as Honorary Chairman, Port Authority (now PortKC). In 2004, he received the Missouri Honor Award for Distinguished Service in Engineering, from the University of Missouri-Kansas City College of Engineering. Graham served as a member of the Mid-America Regional Council from 2012 to 2013, and board member for The Main Street Corridor Development Corporation from 2012 to 2018. He was the recipient of the Lucille H. Bluford Special Achievement Award from the Kansas City NAACP.

Graham has held memberships in Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Sigma Pi Phi, Midwesterners and the American Society of Civil Engineers. He was recognized as a member of the Civil and Environmental Engineering Academy of Distinguished Alumni Members at the University of Missouri.

Leonard J. Graham was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on November 8, 2019.

Accession Number

A2019.124

Sex

Male

Interview Date

11/8/2019

Last Name

Graham

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

James

Schools

Keiling Elementary School

Harriet Beecher Stowe

Northeast Junior High School

Southeast High School

University of Missouri, Kansas City

University of Missouri

First Name

Leonard

Birth City, State, Country

Kansas City

HM ID

GRA20

Favorite Season

Fall

State

Kansas

Favorite Vacation Destination

Europe and Africa

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Missouri

Birth Date

12/12/1949

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Kansas City

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Tacos

Short Description

Engineering executive Leonard J. Graham (1949- ) served as co-owner and president of land surveying and civil and structural engineering services firm Taliaferro and Browne, Inc.

Employment

Fairbanks Morse Pumps

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Schlup Becker and Brennan

Taliaferro and Browne

Favorite Color

Green

Ralph Tyler

Ralph Sheldon Tyler, CEO and president of Ralph Tyler Companies and the son of the founder Ralph C. Tyler and Mabel Saundra Tyler, was born on June 30, 1950 in Cleveland, Ohio. Tracing his ancestors back to slavery through the 1700’s, Tyler is a descendent of James Seneca Tyler, the first African American elected clerk of the Ohio House of Representatives. Tyler’s grandfather, Ralph M. Tyler, was an engineer as was his father, Ralph C. Tyler, a former captain of the Ohio State University Track Team, who attended Cleveland’s Central High School with Langston Hughes. Ralph C. Tyler was the first licensed black civil engineer in Ohio and formed Ralph Tyler Companies in 1978.

Tyler grew up in Cleveland where he attended Miles Standish Elementary School, Moses Cleveland School, Howe Military School and graduated from Shaker Heights High School in 1968. He earned his B.A. degree from Ohio University and his J.D. degree from Case Western Reserve University Law School in 1974.

Tyler’s professional career includes positions with Citibank in New York City and TRW in Cleveland where responsibilities ranged from managing state government relations to overseeing legal and regulatory matters. Prior to joining his father’s business, Tyler served as executive director of the Greater Cleveland Roundtable where he coordinated the group’s activities in education, labor management, race relations and minority economic development.

As CEO and president of Ralph Tyler Companies, Tyler has contributed to the Cleveland community through development projects like the Cleveland Public Library, the Federal Courthouse, the Hopkins Airport expansion and the Cleveland Browns Stadium. The firm has offices in Detroit, Newark, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Toledo. Ralph Tyler Companies is a two time recipient of the Weatherhead 100 Award from Case Western Reserve University. A volunteer for a number of causes in Cleveland, Tyler gives six to seven minority scholarships to young engineering students each year.

Residing in the Cleveland area, Tyler is married to a direct descendent of black inventor, Garrett A. Morgan.

Accession Number

A2006.047

Sex

Male

Interview Date

3/22/2006

Last Name

Tyler

Maker Category
Organizations
Schools

Shaker Heights High School

Miles Standish Elementary School

Moses Cleaveland Elementary School

Howe Military School

The Ohio State University

Case Western Reserve University School of Law

First Name

Ralph

Birth City, State, Country

Cleveland

HM ID

TYL01

Favorite Season

Spring

State

Ohio

Favorite Vacation Destination

Caribbean

Favorite Quote

Let's Have Fun And Make Money.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Ohio

Interview Description
Birth Date

6/30/1950

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Cleveland

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Turkey

Short Description

Engineering executive Ralph Tyler (1950 - ) was president and CEO of Ralph Tyler Companies, founded by his father Ralph C. Tyler in 1978. Prior to joining his father’s engineering business, Tyler served as executive director of the Greater Cleveland Roundtable.

Employment

Citibank

TRW, Inc.

Ralph Tyler Companies

Favorite Color

Green

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/336775">Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Ralph Tyler's interview</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/336776">Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Ralph Tyler lists his favorites</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/336777">Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Ralph Tyler describes his mother's family and education background</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/336778">Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Ralph Tyler describes his father's ancestry</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/336779">Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Ralph Tyler talks about his paternal ancestors</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/336780">Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Ralph Tyler describes his paternal uncle</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/336781">Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Ralph Tyler describes his paternal great grandfather, Ralph Waldo Tyler</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/336782">Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Ralph Tyler describes his grandfather's experiences of World War I</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/360497">Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Ralph Tyler talks about the racial unrest that followed World War I</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/360498">Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Ralph Tyler describes his great grandfather's famous connections</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/360499">Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Ralph Tyler describes his grandfather's occupation and his father's childhood</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/360500">Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Ralph Tyler describes his father's education at The Ohio State University</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/360501">Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Ralph Tyler describes how his parents met</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/360502">Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Ralph Tyler describes his father's experiences as an engineer</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/360503">Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Ralph Tyler recalls his father's promotion to service director of Cleveland</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/360504">Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Ralph Tyler talks about his father's business</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/360505">Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Ralph Tyler describes his parents' personalities</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/360506">Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Ralph Tyler describes his earliest childhood memory</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/338743">Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Ralph Tyler describes the black-owned businesses of Cleveland, Ohio</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/338744">Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Ralph Tyler describes his childhood church in Cleveland, Ohio</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/338745">Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Ralph Tyler recalls taking over his father's company</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/338746">Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Ralph Tyler reflects upon his business obstacles</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/338747">Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Ralph Tyler recalls his elementary school experiences</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/338748">Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Ralph Tyler describes his experience at Howe Military Academy</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/338749">Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Ralph Tyler recalls studying law and working at Citibank and TRW, Inc.</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/338750">Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Ralph S. Tyler describes his family</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/338751">Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Ralph Tyler shares his business philosophy and practices</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/338752">Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Ralph Tyler describes his business, Ralph C. Tyler, P.E. P.S., Inc.</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/338753">Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Ralph Tyler describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/336804">Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Ralph Tyler reflects upon his life</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/336805">Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Ralph Tyler talks about coping with his illness, familial tremors</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/336806">Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Ralph Tyler describes his future business goals</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/336807">Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Ralph Tyler reflects upon his legacy</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/336808">Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Ralph Tyler describes how he would like to be remembered</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/336809">Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Ralph Tyler narrates his photographs</a>

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$3

DAStory

3$4

DATitle
Ralph Tyler recalls taking over his father's company
Ralph Tyler reflects upon his business obstacles
Transcript
You were asking me about my history a little bit. I came in the business with Dad [Ralph C. Tyler] after he had heart attack and stroke, and I was trying to buy a manufacturing company and my mother [Mabel Webb Tyler] said, "Well, can you help your dad out?" And I went to the hospital and he said, "Well, I don't care what you do with the company. I had heart attack, a stroke, I just need to calm down in my life and get the pressure off of me, and you can do whatever you want." So I went in with my personal understanding that I'd be there for six months, shut it down, and go back to doing what I had come to find out that I really loved, which was in the industrial manufacturing arena. And this was after, you know, the experience of having graduated from law school [Case Western Reserve University School of Law, Cleveland, Ohio] and undergraduate school at Ohio State [The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio], and working for Citibank and then a company called TRW [TRW, Inc., Cleveland, Ohio]. I thought it would be a short term stint and I'd get everything shut down. And the company had actually gone into bankruptcy. And, when I got here, I found out maybe I had something that I was looking for and it was ability to lead an organization, and become successful with that organization. And I had a willing buyer because he didn't make me pay anything for it, and although it was bankrupt and I would subsequently use all my personal resources to pull the company out of bankruptcy, I--$$Or a willing seller you mean, your father, right, he was willing to sell it to you (simultaneous)?$$(Simultaneous) Yeah, he was, he was, he was a seller in a way, because he, he was still willing to mentor me in the business and from a technical standpoint you couldn't have found a finer engineer. And from a business marketing, financial standpoint, you probably couldn't find a better partner in the business. And I had--I'm not--maybe I'm patting myself on the back but at least it was somebody that he could trust and knew that he, they had his best interest at heart. So we started out, of the ten or so people we had, we fired all but two or three and started from scratch, and built an organization now that has a--well over a hundred people nationally, a hundred people in Cleveland [Ohio] and more than that nationally in two distinct corporations, one company that's actually still owned by my father or my father's trust, that's Ralph C. Tyler, P.E. P.S. [Ralph C. Tyler, P.E. P.S., Inc.; Ralph Tyler Companies, Cleveland, Ohio] and RCT Engineering [RCT Engineering, Inc., West Palm Beach, Florida], a company that I own in Florida.$$Okay.$$The experience has been--you couldn't ask for a better period of time of the six or seven years I worked with my father.$(Simultaneous) What was the biggest hurdle that you had to overcome in making this a successful--?$$The lack of financial resources and the ability to secure good talent to work on projects, and get projects done in a cost-effective way. African Americans aren't traditionally accepted very well in professional service arena, and, so a lot of, and in a lot of ways you're, even in today's enlightened market, you still are a pioneer in educating people that you can do services just as well--professional services just as well as anyone else. And we still, even with the accomplishments we've made in development of people and project lists, and resumes, and hist- as to all type of both historical as well as current data that reflects our competence, every day you're still trying to go out and prove yourself professionally. And, my dad [Ralph C. Tyler] use to say, "You know, son, no one's ever gonna ask us to do minority engineering, so don't try to sell minority engineering. Sell the professional services that we have to offer and that you'll do it, and do it right the first time and if you get it, you make a mistake, you're gonna stand by your work, and you're gonna do it right the second time." And, he was very adamant about that kind of thing. And, while there are some good solid programs that are being attacked nationally, we still need to have strong minority business programs that encourage African Americans to become entrepreneurs and business leaders because that's the way you can have the political force and clout you need to have to be successful in this very competitive American business environment.