The National Black Chamber of Commerce announced this week the death of its co-founder Kay DeBow Alford on July 19. Highly focused, efﬁcient and determined, Alford was the linchpin of the chamber, deﬁning multitasking to its highest degree.
Kay, as she was affectionately known, was named Kayanne at birth on Dec. 12, 1957 to her parents Charles DeBow Jr. and Aurelia Jane Stuart in Indianapolis, Ind. Her family were known educators and entrepreneurs. Her father was one of the ﬁrst four Tuskegee Airmen serving in World War II. Her maternal family were the Stuarts, who were entrepreneurs owning several successful businesses in the greater Indianapolis area.
A graduate of Shortridge High School in Indianapolis, Alford received her bachelor’s degree from Indiana University in Bloomington. She began her professional career at Colgate-Palmolive in Detroit, Mich. It was in Detroit that Kay met husband-to-be Harry Cicero Alford Jr. They were married on Oct. 31, 1980.
The Alfords made their home in Indianapolis. Kay pursued government work and became the director of marketing for the Hoosier State Lottery. The couple also became entrepreneurs owning several video stores and private ventures.
Through their business experiences, the Alfords early on realized the need for a national connection. When they moved
to Washington, D.C. in September 1994, they had already founded the National Black Chamber of Commerce on May 23, 1993. They had begun to ﬁll the void by founding the Hoosier Minority Chamber of Commerce in Indianapolis which evolved into the NBCC.
The NBCC was crafted from the empowerment principles of Booker T. Washington, the business acumen of Congressman Parren Mitchell, and enforced by the father of afﬁrmative action, Arthur Fletcher. The Alfords took the mission to new heights. Their organization comprised of chapters throughout the United States expanded its reach internationally to France, Mexico, England, Brazil, Costa Rica, Colombia, Kenya and Ghana.
Kay coordinated and singlehandedly organized and produced the national and international conventions and conferences. She helped guide the NBCC, assuring its participation in business discussions on Capitol Hill and their interaction with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
John E. Harmon, Sr., founder, president and CEO of the African American Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey (AACCNJ) remembered her by saying, "Kay’s words, although spoken softly, were at times, penetrating, yet nurturing and impactful. Her commitment to attaining the best for blacks was the cornerstone of her advocacy. I am grateful for the moments we shared together and her investment in my development as a chamber executive which has led to huge dividends for many and will never be forgotten."
“The business community lost one
of its champions with the passing of Kay DeBow Alford,” said Dorothy R. Leavell, a previous NBCC board chairman, adding that Alford “was the power behind the scenes of the many accomplishments of the NBCC” along with her husband.
FAMILY MATTERED TOO
As serious and fierce as she was in the business arena, Alford was equally invested in her family as a devoted wife of 41 years and mother of twins Harry III and Thomas, both successful sportsmen and businessmen. Her most recent pride was being grandmother to Tatum and Archer. Her love stretched to her brothers Charles Henry DeBow III and William Weir DeBow; sister Natalie Jane; nephew Jonathon C. DeBow; and countless nieces and nephews.
Services will culminate with burial in Shreveport, La., entrusted to the Winnfield Funeral Home, Shreveport.