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Appreciation: My Friend Earl Hayes

My friend Earl Hayes — a native of Baltimore and a tireless advocate for the nation’s historically Black colleges and universities, an avid boater and a good friend to many across this great country — left us early on the morning of August 29, 2006 following a brief battle with throat and neck cancer. Those of us who knew Earl, whether personally or professionally, loved his dry sense of humor, warm friendship and ever ready smile, as well as his deep commitment to expanding educational opportunities for African-American youth and enhancing the HBCUs.


For almost two decades, Earl labored at the U.S. Department of Education, where he served as senior program manager, deputy director and special assistant with the White House Initiative on HBCUs. Earl’s personality was well-suited to the job, and his preference was to work behind the scenes. He helped generate millions of dollars in federal grant awards and corporate gifts for the HBCUs. As program manager for the Science and Technology Cluster for the White House Initiative, he linked the HBCUs to 12 federal departments and agencies, which between 2001 and 2003 provided 36 percent of the research dollars to America’s Black colleges and universities. More recently, he worked with key Siemens Corporation executives to forge a partnership between the HBCU engineering schools and the company.


Earl’s love for HBCUs was natural and developed as a result of personal experience. A graduate of Frederick Douglass High School in Baltimore, he enrolled and ran track at Kentucky State University in Frankfort, Ky., and later graduated from Morgan State (College) University, following a tour of duty in the United States Air Force during the Korean War. Earl used his Bachelor of Science degree from Morgan to help prepare Black youth for the educational and life challenges in their futures as a geography and history teacher with the Baltimore City Public Schools at Cherry Hill Junior High. Both of his children, following in their father’s footsteps, attended HBCUs — Donna at Morgan State and James at Grambling State University.

Prior to his service with the White House Initiative, Earl spent the 1970s and early 1980s as corporate vice president with ARA Food Service, Inc. in Philadelphia; as director of federal relations with the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education; and as outreach and corporate community relations officer for Good Foods Services, Inc., a comprehensive food service provider to the HBCUs. He took time during his days in Philadelphia to earn a Masters of Science Degree in political and urban studies from Penn State.


Earl was a very private person. There was much about him that even his closest friends did not know. There was no secret, however about his love for the Lord. His early years were spent in the home of the late Rev. Beale Elliott, who was also the pastor at Sharon Baptist Church were Earl attended. As an adult, he helped found and served in leadership roles at New Hope Baptist Church in Forestville, Md., sang in the men’s choir at Ebenezer AME Church in Ft. Washington, Md., and more recently attended Shiloh Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., with his friend and long-time companion Amy Tate Billingsley.  

Earl loved boating and owned five powerboats during his life — ranging from a 17-footer to the 38-foot cabin cruiser, the Nita Lynn II. I had the pleasure of sharing his final two craft with him — the Nita-Lynn and the Nita-Lynn II. Earl loved nothing more than to spend his summer weekends sitting on the rear deck “talking trash” with members of the Seafarers Yacht Club of Annapolis, or simply cruising to Baltimore for the annual Seafarers Summer Dance in August. He taught me everything I know about boating, and in 2000 brought me into the Seafarers — the second oldest African-American yacht club in America. Even as cancer was sapping his strength, we talked in late June about selling the Nita-Lynn II and buying a refurbished 42-foot Chris Craft! He loved the special friendships and the camaraderie among the Seafarers’ even more than he loved boating. For Earl, personal relationships and friendships were the most important things in life. Joseph Parry’s “Old Friends” expresses the importance that Earl attached to that special kind of friendship that we will all miss:

Friendships that have stood the test-

Time and change – are surely best;

Brow may wrinkle, hair grow gray,

Friendship never knows decay.

Cherish friendship in your breast –

New is good, but old is best;

Make new friends, but keep the old;

Those are silver, these are gold.”

— Blakey is a Washington, D.C.-based lawyer who is an active writer on subjects related to minority access to higher education, the historically Black colleges and universities, affirmative action in employment and admissions and intercollegiate athletics and academics. 


Reader comments on this story:

There are currently 2 reader comments on this story:


Many thanks for the beautiful piece written by you on our dear friend Earl Hayes.

     We, past and present members of the higher education community, loved, admired, respected and appreciated Earl for his commitment to HBCUs. Had not it been for Earl, as our point man in the department of education, a large number of our institutions would have suffered .

     Once again Buddy, thanks for articulating so well the feelings of all of Earl’s friends in the higher education community.

-Dr. Joseph B. Johnson

Fairburn, GA

“an advocate for HBCUs”

Thanks for providing an excellent article on my dear friend, Earl.  I worked with him on many issues involving HBCUs while serving at NASA headquarters and did not know that he had passed away.  Earl truly was an advocate for HBCUs and his presence and influence will be missed.

-Dr. Lynwood P. Randolph
Magnolia, TX

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