Sadly, as I and other members of the Indiana Minority Business Magazine staff were finalizing this first issue of 2015, we were given the painful duty of reporting on the death of the publication’s owner and publishers, William “Bill” Mays.
This issue had long been planned to focus on the progression of Civil Rights in the state of Indiana. As we worked to complete this issue, the realization dawned upon me that Mays’ life and many aspects of progressive Civil Rights era are deeply intertwined.
Mays, who came of age in racially divided, segregated city of Evansville, Ind. would nonetheless brilliantly fulfill his potential, and eventually attain the success and opportunities that equality advocates always envisioned.
Mays was an African-American male reared in Southern Indiana during a time when racial unrest was at its peak, yet even as a youth, he was determined to simply be the best – regardless of color, class or creed.
Part of that staunch determination came from Mays’ parents who were both educators and the other part came from Mays’ personal willpower, his innate ability and sheer determination to succeed.
Mays never considered his ethnicity as a reason something couldn’t happen. Instead, he tackled every obstacle and goal with the grit of a prized fighter – and usually, he emerged the victor.
The great thing about Mays is that while he effectively transitioned into the majority culture, he never forgot his own roots. As a matter of fact, Mays was a lifelong, staunch supporter of minority entrepreneurship, helping countless entities start their own businesses.
Mays was a self-made man who spoke the language of success. His hard work and skill set afforded him opportunities that few others were given and he paved the way for others who came behind him to have a seat at the table.
I imagine that’s exactly what those countless freedom fighters advocated for time and time again: an opportunity for minorities to have a seat at the table.
Diversity is a mosaic rainbow that is not only comprised of various colors, but also various perspectives. That is why the Civil Right Movement of the 60s is still a major item of discussion, as are present-day Civil Rights issues. We need diversity of thought to make this state and nation a better place. Bill Mays saw the beauty of diversity. Now it’s up to us to see the beauty of his life’s impact by striving to be more Mays-like.
Since his passing, I’ve heard numerous people state that there will never be another Bill Mays. While that certainly seems true, it’s also very unfortunate. Why? We need more business leaders like Bill Mays. We need more people who are unafraid to take those giant leaps of entrepreneurial faith. We need people who are committed to helping others.
Bill Mays was just one man, yet his influence impacted so many people. Imagine how much further along we would as a state and nation if there were more Bill Mays. Moving forward, we can preserve the legacy of Bill Mays and contribute to Indiana’s economic and social fabric by investing in one another more and being daring in our pursuit towards self-sufficiency.