Edward Boyd, Helped Break Corporate Color Barrier, Dies

Led Sales Team for Pepsi That Transformed Image of African-American Consumer

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CHICAGO (AdAge.com) -- Edward F. Boyd, one of the first African-American executives to break the color barrier, died April 30 in Los Angeles of complications from a stroke.
Edward F. Boyd
Edward F. Boyd

Mr. Boyd, 92, leaves a marketing legacy that set a standard of equality toward African Americans years before segregation ended and helped change the sales trajectory of beverage giant Pepsi-Cola.

"When I reflect upon people who have made a profound difference on our company, Ed Boyd's name will be foremost among them," Indra Nooyi, PepsiCo chairman-CEO, said in a statement. "His groundbreaking history with Pepsi and the powerful, lasting impact that Ed made on both our company and our nation speak for themselves. Every PepsiCo associate across the globe joins me in celebrating Ed Boyd's amazing life and journey."

Joined a struggling Pepsi
Born in 1914, Mr. Boyd left the National Urban League to join a struggling Pepsi-Cola in September 1947 at the behest of Pepsi President Walter Mack to create an all-black national sales team to sell the soft drink to African-Americans, at the time a $10 billion market. Though Mr. Mack described the job using a racial insult, Mr. Boyd accepted the post as assistant sales manager.

Mr. Boyd formed a team of a dozen men who traveled the country to sell and market the drink to stores, colleges, bars and restaurants. Despite the sales team's charge to redefine the image of African-Americans in advertising from that of demeaning racial caricatures to one of middle-class consumers, the men faced Jim Crow discrimination and often stayed in family homes after being refused rooms by hotels. But Mr. Boyd and his team drove sales up by double digits, according to the marketer. One of the team's 1949 ads featured 7-year-old child model Ron Brown, who later become U.S. Secretary of Commerce under President Clinton. The team's story is chronicled in a new book, "The Real Pepsi Challenge," by Stephanie Capparell.

The team broke up in 1951 as several of the salesmen moved into regional corporate positions. Mr. Boyd that same year left Pepsi to join the Sherman & Marquette advertising agency, but his influence on the company and the industry persisted. In 1962, Harvey C. Russell, one of Mr. Boyd's original team members, became the first black man promoted to VP at a major company.

'Made a difference'
"Ed carried the dreams of future generations of African-Americans," Donald M. Kendall, retired chairman-CEO of PepsiCo, said in a statement. "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."

In 1954, Mr. Boyd became a mission chief for the international aid agency CARE, later joining the Society of Ethical Culture in New York. In the 1960s, he worked for American Home Products' Wyeth International to help the company to sell baby formula in Africa. A decade later, he worked in Washington with a computer-marketing firm and later set up his own market-research consultancy, Resources Management.

Mr. Boyd retired in 1981, splitting time between his homes on New York's Upper West Side and an alpaca farm in Bethel, N.Y. He is survived by his wife of 63 years, Edith Jones; and four children, Rebecca and Brandon of New York; Edward Jr. of Boulder, Colo.; and Timothy of Chicago.
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