The Nation’s Largest African American Video Oral History Collection Mobile search icon Mobile close search icon
Advanced Biography Search
Mobile navigation icon Close mobile navigation icon

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

Birth Date

6/30/1950

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Cleveland

Country

United States

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
0,0:2772,65:5313,130:6930,164:7931,178:8855,193:9317,219:10164,240:11781,279:13860,333:14399,342:22152,430:28643,516:30381,542:31566,564:32040,572:32751,585:33304,593:39910,665:41090,676:42624,690:45090,711:47490,763:48015,772:52182,932:52922,944:53958,964:54476,972:59200,1038:59950,1044:63090,1078:63378,1083:65106,1124:65394,1129:73218,1188:73749,1198:74221,1209:75224,1232:76826,1243:77294,1251:78464,1269:78932,1276:79712,1287:80024,1292:80336,1297:97032,1570:101080,1659:102048,1676:106032,1695:106362,1701:108078,1729:108804,1742:109134,1749:109728,1759:114901,1824:115517,1833:116210,1844:116903,1854:118597,1888:118982,1895:119444,1902:120368,1917:125876,2005:126444,2014:126941,2028:128432,2065:128716,2070:134753,2126:136954,2165:140026,2183:140322,2188:142539,2210:146398,2259:147730,2288:148322,2298:149210,2319:149506,2324:151208,2361:152318,2379:153502,2403:154464,2421:162850,2565:176090,2717:177986,2753:178381,2759:178855,2767:179487,2782:180490,2789$0,0:4720,104:5200,112:5920,122:9040,163:12570,199:23860,292:28986,362:29416,375:31824,415:33372,438:34146,448:37640,455:39255,480:41805,516:42315,524:46236,553:51216,619:52272,630:55088,678:57200,721:57552,731:62170,756:63006,773:63386,779:78630,1010:81250,1019:81766,1027:82282,1035:84738,1074:86580,1084:86930,1090:88680,1147:89170,1156:89450,1161:95854,1240:100659,1304:101227,1313:101724,1322:102079,1328:112065,1378:112665,1387:113265,1396:113865,1405:114165,1410:118980,1466:119588,1475:120120,1483:120652,1491:122020,1514:122552,1523:123236,1533:125440,1572:127036,1596:127872,1608:128480,1617:131450,1638
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Ralph Tyler's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Ralph Tyler lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Ralph Tyler describes his mother's family and education background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Ralph Tyler describes his father's ancestry

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Ralph Tyler talks about his paternal ancestors

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Ralph Tyler describes his paternal uncle

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Ralph Tyler describes his paternal great grandfather, Ralph Waldo Tyler

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Ralph Tyler describes his grandfather's experiences of World War I

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Ralph Tyler talks about the racial unrest that followed World War I

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Ralph Tyler describes his great grandfather's famous connections

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Ralph Tyler describes his grandfather's occupation and his father's childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Ralph Tyler describes his father's education at The Ohio State University

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Ralph Tyler describes how his parents met

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Ralph Tyler describes his father's experiences as an engineer

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Ralph Tyler recalls his father's promotion to service director of Cleveland

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Ralph Tyler talks about his father's business

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Ralph Tyler describes his parents' personalities

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Ralph Tyler describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Ralph Tyler describes the black-owned businesses of Cleveland, Ohio

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Ralph Tyler describes his childhood church in Cleveland, Ohio

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Ralph Tyler recalls taking over his father's company

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Ralph Tyler reflects upon his business obstacles

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Ralph Tyler recalls his elementary school experiences

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Ralph Tyler describes his experience at Howe Military Academy

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Ralph Tyler recalls studying law and working at Citibank and TRW, Inc.

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Ralph S. Tyler describes his family

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Ralph Tyler shares his business philosophy and practices

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Ralph Tyler describes his business, Ralph C. Tyler, P.E. P.S., Inc.

Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Ralph Tyler describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Ralph Tyler reflects upon his life

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Ralph Tyler talks about coping with his illness, familial tremors

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Ralph Tyler describes his future business goals

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Ralph Tyler reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Ralph Tyler describes how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Ralph Tyler narrates his photographs

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.