Last week marked the 30th anniversary of financier Harold Doley becoming the first black American to own a seat on the New York Stock Exchange. The watershed event was commemorated with a few interviews, though little more. Perhaps an appropriate way to celebrate an occurrence that so subtly and almost imperceptibly changed the sense of future possibilities for a generation of American-black children.
Let's recap: Doley is one of those rare few to stumble on his life's calling at a young age. He was thirteen when a family vacation took him to Wall Street. Immediately, the child attached wonder to what he saw: the ambitious hustle of the brokers wading through the waves of people, young messenger boys wheeling boxes crammed with securities zigzagging around wall street. "It was amazing" recalls Doley. "I set my sights on becoming a member of the stock exchange."
Thirteen years later the ambitious child purchased a seat on the exchange for $90,000. Thus emerged Doley, the business visionary, who later founded Doley Securities Inc., the oldest American-black owned investment-banking firm in the nation. Along the way, Doley Securities Inc. has served as the sole placement agent for over one hundred million dollars in negotiated transactions with African institutions and garnered enough prestige that President Regan accorded Doley ambassadorial rank while he was serving as United States Representative to the African Development Bank (AfDB) from 1983 to 1985.
Despite the business accolades, Doley the person seems surprisingly humble. One is immediately struck by his casual ease, his graciousness, the hearty laughter that draws you into his confidence. With most businessmen, the highly personalized style serves to camouflage one's true motives. And to be sure, beneath Doley's confidential gazes lurks a relentless energy that hauls along an almost preternatural ambition. Still, one is drawn in by his humble charm.
The embryo of that charm was formed in the modest grocery store where Doley spent much of his young life working. "When you grow up in a grocery store," explains Doley, "you learn what it is to work hard, but you also learn what it is to interact with others… you meet and interact with different personalities all the time. So it's kind of a microcosm of society. And you learn people at an early age. It's always amazing to me how many politicians grew up in grocery stores."
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