Trailblazer Was One of the First African-American Managers In Corporate America

Photo Credit: Marcelo Montealegre

PURCHASE, N.Y. – May 2 – Edward F. Boyd, one of the first African-American managers in corporate America, died on Monday, April 30, in Los Angeles. He was 92.

In September 1947, Pepsi-Cola President Walter S. Mack hired Mr. Boyd from the National Urban League to lead an expansion of a unique effort to hire an all-black sales force to sell Pepsi to the African-American community nationwide. The group was featured in a 2007 book titled “The Real Pepsi Challenge,” by Stephanie Capparell (WSJ Books/Free Press).
During his tenure, Mr. Boyd helped integrate the professional ranks of a large American corporation while changing the image of the African-Americans in advertising from caricatures to attractive, everyday, middle-class Americans. One of his groundbreaking advertisements appeared in 1949 featuring seven-year-old child model Ron Brown, who went on to become U.S. Secretary of Commerce in the Clinton Administration.

As an assistant sales manager based in New York, Mr. Boyd led a team of a dozen talented, college-educated men from schools such as Hampton, Harvard and his alma mater UCLA to push Pepsi to every corner of America. They went to gatherings big and small and spread good will for the company as well as took orders from bars, campus concessions, grocery stores and other outlets.

The traveling salesmen were out to capture the so-called “Negro Market,” valued at $10 billion at the time. Working in the days of Jim Crow segregation laws, they had to ride at the back of buses and in separate train cars, eat behind curtains in train dining cars and look for restaurants and hotels that would take them. But they persevered and their work led to double-digit sales increases.

“I was deeply saddened to hear of Ed Boyd’s passing, as were all of us in the PepsiCo family,” said Indra Nooyi, PepsiCo Chairman and CEO. “We offer our most heartfelt sympathies to Ed’s family and friends. His groundbreaking history with Pepsi and the powerful, lasting impact that Ed made on both our company and our nation speak for themselves. I had come to know and appreciate Ed even more in the last several months through ‘The Real Pepsi Challenge,’ which chronicles the legacy work of his pioneering sales team. When I reflect upon people who have made a profound difference on our company, Ed Boyd’s name will be foremost among them. I believe his passion and tenacity are the embodiment of the very best of what PepsiCo strives to be every day. For all Ed has given, we are eternally grateful and incredibly blessed. Every PepsiCo associate across the globe joins me in celebrating Ed Boyd’s amazing life and journey.”

“On behalf of everyone at PepsiCo, I want to extend my heartfelt condolences to Ed’s family,” said Donald M. Kendall, retired chairman and CEO, PepsiCo. “He wasn’t just a great salesman, Ed was a great American. When he joined Pepsi-Cola in 1947, Ed carried the dreams of future generations of African-Americans. Jackie Robinson may have made more headlines, but what Ed did — integrating the managerial ranks of corporate America — was equally groundbreaking. Long before most companies came to see the power and potential of the black consumer, Ed put doors where previously only walls existed. He and his team made a difference and made us all better.”

Mr. Boyd’s sales team was broken up in 1951 as several salesmen took regional posts with the company. Boyd left Pepsi that year for a position with Sherman & Marquette Inc. ad agency. Later, in 1962, one of his sales team members at Pepsi, Harvey C. Russell, became the first black man promoted to the post of vice president at a major company.

In 1954, Mr. Boyd became a mission chief for CARE, the international aid agency, and later worked for the Society of Ethical Culture in New York. In the 1960s, he went to work for Wyeth International, a unit of American Home Products, based in Radnor, Pa. He helped the company establish a foothold in Africa to sell baby formula, particularly in Ghana. In the 1970s, he worked in Washington with a computer-marketing firm and later set up his own market-research consultancy, Resources Management Ltd. Mr. Boyd retired in 1981 to his home on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. In his retirement, he set up an alpaca farm at his second home in Bethel, New York.

Mr. Boyd is survived by his wife of 63 years, Edith Jones; his children Rebecca and Brandon of Manhattan, Edward Jr. of Boulder and Timothy of Chicago; their spouses Paul Driver and Josie Duckett of Manhattan and Lily Daniel of Chicago; a granddaughter Angelique, also of Chicago; and many nieces and nephews.