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Larry Huggins

Pioneering construction executive Larry Andrew Huggins was born on February 5, 1950 in the Englewood neighborhood of Chicago, Illinois to Mary Hightower. The second of four siblings, he graduated from Englewood High School in 1968 and continued his education at Washburne Trade School, where he got his painter’s certificate in 1972.

Huggins began his career as a painter for the black-owned Brown’s Drywall Company in 1975. His own company, Riteway Construction, began as Riteway Painting and Decorating in 1983, and with help from mentoring by larger firms and projects set aside in affirmative action programs, Huggins’ company acquired several of the most pivotal construction projects of the time including the Harold Washington Library, the United Airlines terminal at O’Hare Airport and the Chicago Board of Trade building. Huggins’ company, Riteway Construction, saw continued success in the 1990s and landed a joint deal as contractor for the Unicom Thermal Technologies, Inc., the $6 million district cooling plant. Huggins was a founding member of Black Contractors United, which continues to support and pave the way for African Americans in the construction industry.

Huggins and Riteway Construction have committed to many projects on Chicago’s West and South Sides. Riteway Construction continues to flourish as an award-winning construction service, obtaining major municipal, residential and commercial ventures each year, including the 2005 McCormick Place expansion and remodeling an apartment complex defaulted by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in 1997. In 1997, Huggins became the first African American to sit on the board of Chicago’s commuter rail system, Metra. In 2001, Riteway Construction was contracted on the ten-year re-development of the Ida B. Wells housing projects, which a team including Riteway Construction have worked to rebuild into market-rate, affordable housing for the Chicago Housing Authority.

Many of Huggins’ numerous philanthropic efforts lead back to his childhood community in Chicago. He gives scholarships to single-parent children and created a $10,000 yearly scholarship at Englewood High School. Huggins is a continuous participant in the Chicago Public School’s “Principal for a Day” Program. In 1996, he gave $7,000 worth of toys to children in his old neighborhood of Englewood. Many organizations have recognized Huggins for his groundbreaking career and service to the Chicago community, including the Chicago Defender, the Chicago Urban League, the African American Contractors Association, Bank of America and the Chicago Economic Development Corporation. He is still a resident of Chicago and was honored by Englewood High School with the Larry Huggins Basketball Shootout.

Huggins was interviewed by The Historymakers on February 4, 2008.

Accession Number

A2008.007

Sex

Male

Interview Date

2/4/2008

Last Name

Huggins

Maker Category
Schools

Englewood High School

Wesley Avenue School

Beale Elementary School

Washburne Trade School

First Name

Larry

Birth City, State, Country

Atlanta

HM ID

HUG06

Favorite Season

Summer

Sponsor

Emilie McKendall

State

Georgia

Favorite Vacation Destination

Bahamas

Favorite Quote

At The End Of The Day.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Interview Description
Birth Date

2/5/1950

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Chicago

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Steak

Short Description

Construction entrepreneur Larry Huggins (1950 - ) owns Riteway Construction Company founded in Chicago, Illinois. Ritway Construction Company was contracted to re-develop the Ida B. Well Housing Projects.

Employment

Riteway Huggins Construction Services, Inc.

M. Ecker and Company

The American Company

R.S. Bailey and Associates, Inc.

R. Jack Construction Company

Main Sponsor
Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Larry Huggins narrates his photographs

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Slating of Larry Huggins' interview

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Larry Huggins lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Larry Huggins describe his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Larry Huggins recalls his maternal grandparents

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Larry Huggins describes his father's work ethic

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Larry Huggins lists his siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Larry Huggins describes his earliest childhood memories

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Larry Huggins describes his home life

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Larry Huggins describes his brothers' personalities

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Larry Huggins talks about his grandmothers

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Larry Huggins describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Larry Huggins recalls the summers in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Larry Huggins recalls his early personality

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Larry Huggins describes his early education

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Larry Huggins recalls living with his aunt

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Larry Huggins remembers moving to Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Larry Huggins describes the Englewood neighborhood of Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Larry Huggins remembers the gang activity in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Larry Huggins describes his extracurricular activities

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Larry Huggins recalls his influences at Englewood High School in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Larry Huggins remembers the impact of Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.'s assassination

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Larry Huggins recalls his decision to attend the Washburne Trade School in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Larry Huggins describes his training at the Washburne Trade School

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Larry Huggins remembers integrating the Washburne Trade School

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Larry Huggins recalls his first position as a professional painter

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Larry Huggins recalls his painting apprenticeship at the Washburne Trade School

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Larry Huggins describes lessons from his career as a painter

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Larry Huggins recalls his decision to become a self-employed contract painter

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Larry Huggins remembers the African American general contractors in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Larry Huggins recalls the founding of Riteway Painting and Decorating, Inc.

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Larry Huggins describes his role as the president of Riteway Painting and Decorating Company, Inc.

Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Larry Huggins describes Chicago Mayor Harold Washington's minority business initiative

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Larry Huggins remembers founding the Black Contractors United

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Larry Huggins recalls the election of Chicago Mayor Jane Byrne

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Larry Huggins talks about the construction contracts at Chicago O'Hare International Airport

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Larry Huggins remembers his contracts at Chicago O'Hare International Airport

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Larry Huggins recalls his political activism in the City of Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Larry Huggins recalls a conflict within the Black Contractors United

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Larry Huggins recalls his role in Harold Washington's mayoral administration

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Larry Huggins recalls the end of Chicago's minority business initiative under Mayor Richard M. Daley

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Larry Huggins recalls his contract to paint the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Larry Huggins recalls his contract to paint the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Larry Huggins remember the mentorship of Gerald McCollam

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Larry Huggins describes his firm's relationship with the Tribco Construction Company

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Larry Huggins recalls lessons from his career as a general contractor

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Larry Huggins talks about his bankruptcy

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Larry Huggins describes his relationship with the Turner Construction Company

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Larry Huggins recalls his first project as a general contractor

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Larry Huggins recalls his collaboration with Nelson Carlo

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Larry Huggins describes the difference between a joint venture and subcontracting

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Larry Huggins recalls his endorsement of Jim Edgar's gubernatorial campaign in Illinois

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Larry Huggins recalls his work on the McCormick Place in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Larry Huggins recalls the divisions within the Black Contractors United

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Larry Huggins recalls his decision to leave the Black Contractors United

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Larry Huggins talks about his departure from the Black Contractors United

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Larry Huggins remembers his nomination to the Metra board

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Larry Huggins recalls the issues during his tenure on the Metra board

Tape: 6 Story: 10 - Larry Huggins remembers organizing the Chicago Football Classic

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Larry Huggins recalls the creation of the Chicago Football Classic

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Larry Huggins talks about the Chicago Football Classic

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Larry Huggins describes the Christmas in Englewood Foundation

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Larry Huggins talks about his civic activities in the Englewood community

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Larry Huggins reflects upon his career

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Larry Huggins reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Larry Huggins describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Larry Huggins reflects upon his life

Tape: 7 Story: 9 - Larry Huggins describes his advice to aspiring construction company founders

Tape: 7 Story: 10 - Larry Huggins describes how he would like to be remembered

DASession

1$1

DATape

4$5

DAStory

1$2

DATitle
Larry Huggins remembers founding the Black Contractors United
Larry Huggins recalls his contract to paint the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, pt. 1
Transcript
--Campaign for Harold Washington, were you, you were really just an entrepreneur trying to make money, right--$$But--yes, I was.$$Okay.$$Well, let me, let me go back to-$$Okay.$$Well, you know, in 1979 when we formed Black Contractors United.$$So you, that, okay.$$I was one of the founding members of Black Contractors United.$$Can you talk about that, then? Oh, you are gonna talk about that, okay.$$Yes, I definitely--well, Murray Brown, Murray Brown who was my partner at the time [at Riteway Painting and Decorating, Inc., Chicago, Illinois], James Martin [ph.] of, which is Robert Martin's brother, C.F. Moore [Charles F. Moore, Sr.], and Lawrence Woods [ph.], and a guy by the name of Reverend A.I. Dunlap [Alexander I. Dunlap], and of course, there was Taylor Cotton [Taylor Cotton, Jr.] with Chicago Urban League [Chicago, Illinois] and Glenn Harston [Glenn M. Harston] and Rufus Taylor from the West Side. You know when (background noise), what's essentially Dearborn Park [Chicago, Illinois]-$$Hold on one second. Hold on. While you're talking about Black Contractors United, what, was, was Paul King [HistoryMaker Paul J. King] in that at all?$$(OFF CAMERA VOICE): No, that's your office calling.$$Paul King came later. Paul King had another organization [West Side Builders Association; The United Builders Association of Chicago], which was before Black Contractors United.$$That was Black, Black--$$Was it community builders?$$Okay.$$Not community builders, but they were on the West Side [Chicago, Illinois], so they had another organization.$$Okay.$$But BCU was actually formed and came together after the success of Dearborn Park where, when he was building that, the Urban League was able to get the developer to use black contractors down there, and like Ernie Bush [Ernest Bush, Sr.] built so many of the homes, James Martin built a lot of the homes and now the first time that you have a lot of black contractors working on a single project at one time, but with the success of Dearborn Park, the Urban League decided let's come together and form another contractors association [Minority Contractors Alliance], and, of course, our first meeting was at Army and Lou's [Chicago, Illinois], where we met for lunch one day and, of course, I was there, Steve Garth [Steven A. Garth, Sr.] was there at the time, and of course Taylor Cotton [Taylor Cotton, Jr.], James Martin, Glenn Harston [Glenn M. Harston], Rufus Taylor, Lawrence Woods [ph.], and like I said, Reverend A.I. Dunlap [Alexander I. Dunlap]. And, what we talked about is putting together an organization and we decided to name it Black Contractors United and the purpose of that was to make sure that African Americans got an opportunity to participate mainly in a lot of the downtown projects which, at that particular point in time, just really did not exist for us. So that's how we became more advocates, so one of the things that we did is that, of course, in the early stages of that, you know, if we went and we identified a project and they weren't using contractors, you know if we have to march or picket, we were always prepared really to do that so it was, of course, during the time when Harold Washington decided to come to run for mayor was when, from a political standpoint, we began to have help raise money during Harold Washington's candidacy which, at the time, when I think you had Bush, was a real strong supporter of Harold Washington and also Charlie Moore, so a lot of the money that we raised as contractors, we gave it to Ernie Bush and Charlie Moore, and they, in turn, contributed to the campaign.$Let me ask this and I want to back to '83 [1983], but just a couple thin- you know, you mentioned several things that I'd like to address. What, how were you guys showing discrimination [in the predicate study]? What were the stories, like when you brought people in front to testify before, what were they, what things of discrimination were they talking about?$$Let me give you the best example that really happened to me. When, under, during the Washington [Harold Washington] administration, as I said, when minority contractors got an opportunity to go downtown to do work in the Loop [Chicago, Illinois], at the time I was painting the Federal Reserve Bank [Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois]. I was the only minority contractor that was working at the bank at the time and there was another guy, I can't think of the contractor's name. He had a little small masonry job, but we had to contract to paint the entire Federal Reserve Bank under Pepper Construction Company [Pepper Construction Group, LLC, Chicago, Illinois]. Everything that I did, if there was a little spot on the wall, you know, when the architects came to punch list my work, anything that he saw he made me do it over and over again. And because I was the only contractor there, you know, there was a lot of change in the work, you know, Pepper wouldn't process to change orders and I remember going to Gene Sawyer [HistoryMaker Eugene Sawyer], Congressman Savage [HistoryMaker Gus Savage], Chicago Urban League [Chicago, Illinois], John Stroger [HistoryMaker John H. Stroger, Jr.] was the county board commissioner at the time, Allan Streeter, Bob Shaw [HistoryMaker William E. Shaw], Beavers [William M. Beavers], and I was telling them about the fact that Pepper wouldn't pay me, and this architect [Bertrand Goldberg] kept making me do work over and over again, and what they were doing, they were going to bankrupt me into bankruptcy because when I submitted a pay application to get paid, instead of them saying I was 30 percent complete, they would say I was only 20 percent complete, so which meant that I was taken another whole thirty days, they have to bill for the additional 10 percent. The unions came at me because when I went downtown, at one time, I used to have an all-black crew that made me put on a lot of white employees, so between the unions telling me that to a certain extent, you can't bring all these African Americans down here and work and made me put on some of their members at a Local 147 [Chicago Painters District Local 147], which was that downtown local, from the architect that scrutinized my work. As a matter of fact, I even got a letter from the union saying that basically my work, the work that I was doing was up to painting standards, so I even had a letter from the union that said that this architect was very picky.