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General George S. Patton

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Bro. James S. Avery Sr.

Omega Psi Phi 28th Grand Basileus, Corporate Executive, Community Leader, and Author; March 24, 1923 - May 3, 2011

Brother James S. Avery, Sr., a former corporate executive, who served as Omega’s 28th Grand Basileus, did not merely open doors for Black people in this country; he changed marketing strategy throughout the corporate world. In his autobiography, “Others Thought I Could Lead,” Brother Avery shares in vivid, candid and often poetic detail, the secrets of his success and unique work ethic, his moral values, and an uncompromising belief in himself that allowed him to persevere in the face of adversity.

His destiny of leadership was the result of preparedness, opportunity and commitment. For James Avery, this was evident early in his life. In his autobiography, he wrote, “when I was a student at Cranford High School, I had teachers who never let me forget that I could achieve my goal… Through this kind of support and encouragement, one becomes better able to face life’s challenges and to seize opportunities that can make a difference in the world around us.”

After an honorable discharge from the Army, he returned to Columbia University and received his Bachelor’s degree and continued to receive a Master’s degree in Education. He started his working career in his hometown of Cranford, N.J. as a teacher and coach, for which he received numerous honors and awards. The quality of service you provide in your daily life and the manner in which you perform whatever responsibility you’re given, never goes unnoticed. For Brother Avery, opportunity knocked while he was teaching. It happened to be the father of one of his students. This particular parent was an assistant manager at Esso Standard Oil Company (now Exxon). Based upon feedback from his child and the observations of others, the gentleman called on James Avery and indicated that Esso was looking for a professional employee with a background in education and experience in community service, who could function in the company’s educational and race relations programs.

During his tenure at Esso Standard Oil Company, James Avery forged many partnerships, alliances and affiliations with high profile individuals and national organizations. Yet it was at the start of his career that he decided to seek membership into the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. He was impressed by several local businessmen and community leaders in Plainfield, NJ. for their community involvement. He was friend and neighbor to Raymond Cruse, Bill McKnight, Washington & Joel Nelson, and Donald Van Blake. The men demonstrated a friendship and mutual respect that inspired Brother Avery. He saw these characteristics in casual situations, in organized social occasions and on a one on one basis. He was initiated into Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. through the Omicron Chi Chapter in 1957. Chartered in 1955, Brother Avery was its first initiated member.

Serving as National Co-Chairman of the United Negro College Fund for three national campaigns from 1965-67, he helped raise over $12 million for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU’s) and during his involvement with UNCF, Esso Standard Oil Company established a grant to UNCF which grew from $50,000 to $150,000 per year. He felt strongly about building financial resources Black colleges and universities needed for the preparedness of Black students.

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