Harry C. Alford, the president/CEO and co-founder of the National Black Chamber of Commerce (NBCC), died Dec. 6 in the District. His wife, Kay DeBow, vice president and co-founder of the National Black Chamber, preceded him in death five months ago.
In 1993, Harry C. Alfred moved the newly-established National Black Chamber of Commerce from Indianapolis to the District. The first board chairman, Dr. Arthur Fletcher, the “Father of Affirmative Action,” had once served as assistant Secretary of Labor.
Today, the National Black Chamber serves as the largest Black business organization in the world, consisting of regional organizations of Black Chambers in the U.S., eight countries in Africa, eleven membership Chambers in the Caribbean and five Black Chambers in Central and South America. Alford also established Black Chambers in London and Paris.
In addition to coordinating global operations, Alford spoke before Congress on behalf of Black business, often several times a month. For many years, he served on the Board of Directors of the most influential Chamber in America, the United States Chamber of Commerce, in Washington, D.C.
“When President George Bush asked Harry Alford to assist him with a strategy to identify any Black-owned businesses remaining in the Hurricane Katrina impact zone and a plan for helping them survive, he selected the right man,” said Arnold Baker, president of Baker Ready Mix, LLC.
“Harry brought a fresh perspective and renewed vision that nothing was impossible and held the White House accountable for making available unfettered access to the Corps of Engineers, HUD, the Department of Commerce and DOT for the nation’s greatest rebuild.”
“Today the lessons learned and visioning processes that Harry and Kay brought to fruition are responsible for tens of billions of dollars in small business inclusion programming which are now the basis for every disaster relief program. They not only made history in New Orleans but designed the base principals for recovery programs now implemented across the globe,” Baker said.
John Harmon, who serves as the president of one of the most successful Black Chambers in New Jersey, said Alford guided him through many business initiatives. He also said it was because of his influence that he served on the NBCC Board and the Board of Directors of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
Members of the NBCC Board of Directors including Fred Jordan, NBCC’s member of San Francisco and Oakland, representing the west coast, said that the future of NBCC remains bright. Charles H. DeBow, III currently serves as executive director.
Current NBCC Board chairman and president of the Illinois State Black Chamber of Commerce, Larry Ivory, said, “Harry Alford was the Godfather of Black Chambers in the United States and from his Washington, D.C. headquarters, gave Black business a seat at the table for over 28 years. Harry and Kay’s legacy will live on as we continue moving the National Black Chamber of Commerce’s agenda forward.”