Recognizing Black PR Pioneers During Black History Month
In celebrating Black History during the month of February, it is key to recognize the Black PR Pioneers who founded this industry. Many times, we tend to look over people of color and their accomplishments compared to their white counterparts, but we have to acknowledge the founders of the public relations industry.
Each week, we will take time out of our meeting to recognize three PR pioneers who were fundamental in the growth of public relations and communications. Below you can find a short summary of each person’s accomplishments in their lives. If you are interested in reading more, feel free to visit The Museum of Public Relations website.
Dr. Jesse. J. Lewis, Sr.
In 1952 as a student at Miles College, he began a small marketing firm. In his time working for this firm, he was able to spread his business to numerous campuses across the country.
In 1975, Dr. Lewis was appointed as the first Black man to serve as a cabinet member for the Governor of Alabama, George Wallace. He also served as the president of Lawson State Community College from 1978-1987.
In 1995, Dr. Lewis established the Lewis Group, a public policy consulting firm.
In her career, she found there were minimal opportunities for people of color in her field, so she began her own company. In 1983, she began Tobin and Associates.
Over the years, her client list included Spike Lee, Wells Fargo, Nestle USA, Rebook International, Ltd., Walt Disney Feature Animation, Sony, the Los Angeles chapter of the NAACP and Representative Maxine Waters (D-CA).
“For 25 years in Los Angeles she was viewed by many as a queen of public relations, master of the fine art of networking, and guru of event planning, particularly among the city’s African Americans,” said the Los Angeles Times in Pat Tobin’s obituary. Her own firm acclaimed, “... Tobin’s unique brand of public relations focused on building long-lasting relationships in the community, corporate America and Hollywood.”
Joseph Varney Baker
Joseph Varney Baker was born in Abbeville, South Carolina and moved to Philadelphia as a teenager and graduated from Central High School. He studied journalism at Temple University and then was hired at the Philadelphia Tribune.
In 1934, he formed his own public relations firm, Joseph V. Baker Associates. This firm was the first Black-owned public relations firm in the country.
Among many other accomplishments, here are a few of Baker’s firsts: