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

Norma Pratt

Entrepreneur Norma Russell Pratt was born in Indianapolis, Indiana on January 17, 1945 to Mildred Newberry and Fred L. Russell. Pratt's family moved to Philadelphia where she attended West Philadelphia High School, graduating from there in 1962. Pratt then attended Cheyney University, where she graduated with her B.A. in education in 1966. After working as a school teacher, Pratt became a travel agent for Rodgers Travel, Inc., a company that was co-owned by her father. With her father's passing in 1980, Pratt was named President and CEO of Rodgers Travel. In the 1990s, Pratt enrolled her company, which she incorporated years earlier, into the Small Business Administration's (SBA) 8(a) business development program. With infrastructure assistance from the federal program, Pratt was able to secure a $10 million yearly contract with Scott Air Force Base in St. Clair County, Illinois in 1991, Rodgers' first federal government contract.

Through the SBA 8(a) program, Rodgers won a variety of federal government and municipal contracts from the City of Philadelphia’s Department of Human Services, the Department of Defense, as well as several military bases across the country and Lajes Field in Portugal. Under Pratt's leadership, Rodgers Travel, Inc., which has been in business for sixty years, became a multi-million dollar business.

Pratt has been recognized for her leadership of Rodgers Travel, having garnered the Eastern Pennsylvania Minority Small Business Person of the Year award and recognition from publications such as the Philadelphia Daily News, USA Today and Black Enterprise. She is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. and Link, Inc. Pratt lives in the suburban Philadelphia area and has two adult children.

Norma Pratt was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on May 21, 2012.

Accession Number

A2012.132

Sex

Female

Interview Date

5/21/2012

Last Name

Pratt

Maker Category
Marital Status

Divorced

Middle Name

R.

Schools

West Philadelphia High School

Cheyney University of Pennsylvania

Henry C. Lea Elementary School

Andrew Hamilton School

William L. Sayre High School

First Name

Norma

Birth City, State, Country

Indianapolis

HM ID

PRA02

Favorite Season

Summer

State

Indiana

Favorite Vacation Destination

Jamaica

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Pennsylvania

Birth Date

1/17/1945

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Philadelphia

Country

United States

Favorite Food

None

Short Description

Transportation chief executive Norma Pratt (1945 - ) was the president and CEO of Rodgers Travel, Inc., the oldest African American travel agency in the nation.

Employment

Rodgers Travel, Inc.

Favorite Color

Black, Brown

Timing Pairs
0,0:2430,42:3960,61:14890,158:15802,217:26256,311:30345,364:32550,395:33075,401:39819,478:40473,484:41563,496:43740,507:44793,531:45441,541:47253,557:47608,563:48318,576:53148,630:64565,763:65410,790:65995,801:66255,806:66775,817:67035,822:67555,831:68010,840:68335,846:71170,950:72990,999:73315,1005:74095,1019:74550,1027:76890,1078:78125,1134:79620,1155:80790,1181:81050,1186:81765,1197:82025,1202:88135,1347:88460,1353:99172,1488:106765,1563:116772,1704:117202,1710:117804,1718:119782,1746:121756,1755:122330,1763:122658,1770:127564,1898:128444,1917:130996,1966:133049,1976:142000,2116:142525,2124:143125,2133:146350,2202:147175,2216:150870,2258:151310,2263:152080,2271:152960,2280:164112,2386:168592,2443:169277,2449:170236,2457:171332,2466:172612,2524:173476,2548:174772,2582:175276,2591:175636,2597:176788,2622:177292,2640:185487,2752:186021,2759:186466,2765:187089,2773:187801,2782:189136,2801:192340,2861:194508,2922:197260,3013:197708,3021:202964,3085:203573,3093:206039,3107:213064,3175:214594,3186:217828,3230:218356,3237:220732,3287:221260,3294:222052,3307:225396,3392:225748,3397:234296,3525:234812,3532:237392,3594:241854,3639:242149,3645:242503,3652:246770,3706:249740,3764:254630,3818:255110,3827:256250,3868:256850,3879:266410,3975$0,0:8214,216:21436,349:22570,371:23326,393:27677,425:29693,479:29945,484:33271,514:36608,615:37460,630:38028,640:38596,649:43442,690:44387,708:44639,713:47915,804:48860,820:49742,857:53333,957:53963,968:55916,1011:56168,1016:56987,1035:57302,1042:59759,1118:75345,1273:77609,1288:92520,1526:98215,1686:99070,1696:99735,1704:111550,1839:113488,1857:114406,1867:114916,1874:117820,1909:118233,1918:118646,1927:119059,1935:129692,2011:132470,2020:133002,2028:145480,2183
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Norma Pratt's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Norma Pratt lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Norma Pratt describes her mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Norma Pratt talks about the lynching of her maternal great uncle in Hawkinsville, Georgia

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Norma Pratt describes her maternal family's relocation to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Norma Pratt talks about her mother's educational background

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Norma Pratt describes her father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Norma Pratt remembers her paternal grandfather

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Norma Pratt talks about her family's legacy with Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc.

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Norma Pratt recalls her paternal grandmother's family history

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Norma Pratt describes her father's educational aspirations

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Norma Pratt recalls how her parents met

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Norma Pratt describes her parents' personalities

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Norma Pratt talks about her early household

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Norma Pratt remembers her family's relocation to the Southwest Philadelphia neighborhood of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Norma Pratt describes her neighborhood of Southwest Philadelphia in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Norma Pratt recalls her early education

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Norma Pratt describes the sights, sounds and smells of her childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Norma Pratt shares a story about her father's work at North Philadelphia Station

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Norma Pratt talks about her father's position with Rodgers Travel, Inc.

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Norma Pratt describes the history of Rodgers Travel, Inc.

Tape: 2 Story: 12 - Norma Pratt talks about the discrimination against African American travelers

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Norma Pratt remembers the decline of the black travel industry

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Norma Pratt talks about her father's legacy at Rodgers Travel, Inc.

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Norma Pratt recalls attending Henry C. Lea Elementary School and Andrew Hamilton Elementary School

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Norma Pratt remembers her father's guidance in high school

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Norma Pratt recalls her experiences at West Philadelphia High School in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Norma Pratt remembers the March on Washington

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Norma Pratt describes her family's emphasis on college education

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Norma Pratt recalls attending Cheyney State College in Cheyney, Pennsylvania

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Norma Pratt remembers her parents' views on the Civil Rights Movement

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Norma Pratt remembers her father's travel arrangements for Leon Sullivan

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Norma Pratt recalls her experience at Cheyney State College in Cheyney, Pennsylvania

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Norma Pratt remembers meeting her first husband, Kenneth Hamilton

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Norma Pratt talks about her teaching positions in the School District of Philadelphia

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Norma Pratt remembers training at Rodgers Travel, Inc.'s office in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Norma Pratt recalls joining the Society of Travel Agents in Government

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Norma Pratt describes her second husband's background

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Norma Pratt remembers meeting her second husband, Gregory Pratt

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Norma Pratt recalls her decision to manage Rodgers Travel, Inc. remotely from California

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Norma Pratt remembers her first government contract

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Norma Pratt describes Rodgers Travel, Inc.'s government contracts

Tape: 4 Story: 11 - Norma Pratt talks about Rodgers Travel, Inc.'s leisure business

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Norma Pratt describes the necessity of travel agencies in the 21st century

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Norma Pratt describes the responsibilities of travel agencies with government contracts

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Norma Pratt talks about the challenges of modern day travel

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Norma Pratt talks about the impact of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the travel industry

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Norma Pratt describes the clientele at Rodgers Travel, Inc.

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Norma Pratt talks about the state of small business travel agencies

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Norma Pratt describes Rodgers Travel's international business

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Norma Pratt talks about the airline industry

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Norma Pratt talks about the future of leisure travel

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Norma Pratt describes her friend, Sylvia Sprinkle-Hamlin

Tape: 5 Story: 11 - Norma Pratt reflects upon her life

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Norma Pratt describes her hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Norma Pratt reflects upon her legacy

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Norma Pratt talks about her family

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Norma Pratt describes how she would like to be remembered

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Norma Pratt narrates her photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

4$4

DAStory

9$8

DATitle
Norma Pratt remembers her first government contract
Norma Pratt recalls her decision to manage Rodgers Travel, Inc. remotely from California
Transcript
But at that point, that's when I wrote my first proposal for government. Scott Air Force Base [Illinois], and I believe it was--it was in 1991 and I believe that was when Adam--oh my god, what was the general's name that--$$Colin Powell [HistoryMaker General Colin L. Powell].$$Colin Powell I think might have been in charge around that time. And the [U.S.] Air Force wanted to--wanted to use small businesses. Women owned, minority owned, and they--and they were one of the first branches of government that was trying to give women and minorities, and small business, in general, a chance. So Scott Air Force Base was a $10 million a year account. And I wrote the proposal. My husband helped me write the proposal too, and we sat down there and wrote our first government proposal, keeping in mind that I had been going o- going to these meetings [of the Society of Travel Agents in Government; Society of Government Travel Professionals] in Washington D.C. I'd probably had been to ten of those meetings just meeting people, just trying to understand the acronyms and things. You know, 'cause government has all that stuff that I didn't really understand. And I got to meet people and know people and--and understand the nature of that business and I wrote the--I wrote the proposal when it came out for bid. They went out to bid for small business. So I was the first African--I was the first minority woman business [Rodgers Travel, Inc.] to win a government account, and that was in 1991, I believe, maybe--maybe 1992, during that period. I won that. It was a--it was a wonderful time, but you--as I said, it wasn't a credit card account, they didn't have that then. So I had to have seven hundred thousand dollars a month in order to sponsor that. Well, Greg [Pratt's second husband, Gregory Pratt] didn't ha- Greg didn't have that much. You know, he came ov- he ga- gave me about four hundred thousand. So I was about three hundred thousand short and after I won it. You know, you--you know how you say to yourself, now you wanted this thing, now can you really do it? He gave me the four hundred thousand dollars, Greg gave me four hundred, because most of his money was in stock and all that. So, so he was able to come up with four hundred thousand dollars to give me, and one of his--Jack Tramiel--actually was Dick Sanford [Richard D. Sanford] I think, which was one of the other guys in there [Atari] lent me three hundred thousand dollars. Can you imagine that, you know, looking back on that, I said, you know, somebody has enough money to just give you three hundred thousand dollars based on the fact that you say you're gonna do this. I got three hundred thousand dollars for sixty days and I paid him back the entire three hundred thousand dollars in--in the sixty days. Because at the time, we were making 10 percent commission. So it didn't take me long to be able to--at the time, the airlines don't pay commission now. But at the time, the airlines were paying 10 percent commission. So 10 percent of $10 million a year of course is a million dollars. And after two months, I had got enough profit that I could pay--pay him back. And that was the start of it. But I could last thirty days, but I couldn't last thirty--I couldn't last thirty days and one second (laughter), you know what I mean, I had to have. And--and the government was very kind to me and that's why I don't--I'm not angry with the government. You know, when you--you get--you know, you hear a lot of things about the government, but you know what they did for me, they started paying me every two weeks instead of every thirty days, and they made sure I got paid every two weeks. That got me out of the--they made sure that I succeeded. They did not want me to fail as I was the first woman minority business, you know what I mean, to get a government contract in travel. So I--basically that's the phase of--and that's how I actually got started.$Now to get back to me.$$Now this is Greg Pratt?$$Greg Pratt.$$Pratt.$$Greg Allen Pratt [Pratt's second husband, Gregory Pratt].$$Okay.$$He d- he and I are not together now either, but he lives in Bowie, Maryland and still doing well. You can look him up, he's still doing great. But what we did, when we moved to--to get back to how we got in the government. Greg was making a whole lot of money then. So I was living in California and there's another story I got that leads into this. I didn't want to leave Philadelphia [Pennsylvania]. I was living in West Chester [Pennsylvania] at the time. I had my--my business and I wanted to continue with my business. But Greg had moved to California and we were married, and we're supposed to be a family. I'm living in Philadelphia and he's living in California. So after a year or so, he came back--he came and he said, "Okay you gotta make up your mind what you wanna do. You know, are you coming to California with me or you gonna st- stay here and run your business?" It was only a small bus- for his comparison. Rodgers Travel [Rodgers Travel, Inc.] was a small business. So, I went to California. But you know God works in mysterious ways. I sat there and I thought that the travel agency couldn't do--work without me. I thought that it couldn't operate without me. I went in everyday, you know, and. So I--in fact, Rosenbluth [Rosenbluth Vacations] was an example to me. I said well I had read that Rosenbluth was--also a Philadelphia corporation and the grandfather was a friend of my father's [Fred Russell, Jr.]. I said, how do they run seventeen hundred locations? Mr. Rosenbluth [Harold Rosenbluth] ain't at seventeen hundred locations, he probably hasn't even been to them all. You know, he's probably never even set foot in them. So I said now if he can do seventeen hundred locations from a distance, I can certainly do one. That was really a turning point in my business life. Because I had to figure out a way how to run my business without being there. And I did. In fact, the--I've had fifteen travel agency offices at certain periods of time. Now that's dwindled down and I'll tell you why.