June 30, 2005 - Issue: Vol. 151, No. 90 — Daily Edition109th Congress (2005 - 2006) - 1st Session
SIDNEY BARTHWELL, BLACK ENTREPRENEUR, BELOVED FATHER, AND ROLE MODEL; Congressional Record Vol. 151, No. 90
(Extensions of Remarks - June 30, 2005)
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[Extensions of Remarks] [Pages E1409-E1410] From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov] SIDNEY BARTHWELL, BLACK ENTREPRENEUR, BELOVED FATHER, AND ROLE MODEL ______ HON. JOHN CONYERS, JR. of michigan in the house of representatives Wednesday, June 29, 2005 Mr. CONYERS. Mr. Speaker, I rise tonight to honor a great man and fellow Detroiter, Mr. Sidney Barthwell. As a child and young adult in Detroit, I grew up aware of the legacy of Mr. Barthwell. Later, I was blessed to both meet and come to know him personally. He was one of the first African American entrepreneurial beacons of Detroit to exemplify the ``American Dream.'' Many watched him succeed in business and sought to replicate his success. I was and remain extremely impressed with both his humanity and his brilliance. He never bought in to the notion that to have economic success made him better than those who may have been struggling financially. He treated everyone, regardless of title of or income, in the same manner, with kindness and warmth. Not only was he an astute businessman, but he was also a role model, a mentor, a benefactor and I am proud to say a friend. I would like to insert into the Record the article below which appeared on June 25, 2005 in the Detroit Free Press: Sidney Barthwell: His Life's Success Inspired Others (By Alexander B. Cruden) In many ways, Sidney Barthwell's life was the story of 20th-Century Detroit. Born elsewhere, with few resources, he arrived as a teen in the city, studied hard, overcame tough situations, made much from nothing and provided opportunities for his family and hundreds of others. In many ways, his life was also the story of the creation of black success in Detroit. Mr. Barthwell, who founded and ran, under his own name, what was once the largest black-owned drugstore chain in the country, died of heart failure on Thursday at Harper Hospital in Detroit. A steady, friendly, slyly humorous and discerning man, he was 99. When he came to Detroit with his family from Cordele, Ga., in 1922, he was 16. He graduated from Cass Technical High School and earned a bachelor's degree in pharmacy in 1929 from what is now Wayne State University. But with the prevalence of discrimination, the only pharmacy that would hire him was unlicensed, and it failed early on in the Depression. Mr. Barthwell took over the store and built his business from there. He was a good observer of what people wanted and worked tirelessly to fulfill opportunities. At the peak, he had 13 stores around the city, providing substantial employment, especially for younger people. ``I think my operation became the bridge for many blacks to achieve their goals,'' Mr. Barthwell said at a 1996 dinner attended by hundreds to launch a WSU pharmacy scholarship in his name. The scholarship built on a loan fund established in his honor in 1975. His own children were high achievers as well. Daughter Akosua Barthwell Evans is a Yale Law School graduate and a lawyer and banker for J.P. Morgan in New York. Son Sidney Barthwell Jr. graduated from Harvard Law School and is a 36th District Court magistrate in Detroit. Mr. Barthwell made it a point to see that other black pharmacists found job opportunities. He recalled that at least 30 pharmacists got their start by working with him. [[Page E1410]] ``He was very wise, very understanding, very optimistic . . . just an amazing person,'' his daughter said Friday. He had a quick grasp of difficult concepts ``but was always down to earth . . . He always respected people . . . regardless of their station in life.'' In his business achievements, Mr. Barthwell was both a trendsetter and typical member in Detroit's growth from the 1930s on. As well, he was a model for what is now a broadly established black middle class, serving for a time as president of the Booker T. Washington Business Association in Detroit. He was a delegate to the Michigan Constitutional Convention in 1962, elected without party affiliation and serving on the judiciary and education committees. He was a life member of Detroit Branch, NAACP, and a charter member of the Alpha Beta chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi at WSU. In 1998, Mr. Barthwell was named by the Detroit Urban League as a Distinguished Warrior. A meaningful moment was being invited to give a black history lecture at his grandson's exclusive prep school, the Lovett School in Atlanta. There, he spoke to an audience of wealthy white people. In the back of his mind were the racial humiliations of his Georgia childhood. He said later the Atlanta experience was a very rewarding interaction. He loved his family deeply, his daughter and son said, though always mindful of the value of work. His wedding day was a prime example. He and his wife, Gladys, were married about 11 p.m. Christmas Day in 1936, after a full day at the store. As his son recalled, laughingly, if you woke up ill, Mr. Barthwell would say: ``Get up and go to work. You'll feel better as the day goes on.'' The younger Barthwell said his father was a man of ``high integrity, high character. To say he was unpretentious is an understatement. . . . He was very egalitarian; a great father.'' His grandson, Walter Evans, said ``he was always very loving, very interested in what I was doing,'' and as well kept up with what was going on in the world, right to the end. Perpetually a committed Detroiter, Mr. Barthwell nonetheless saw national chain stores and shopping malls edge out smaller city businesses. The construction of 1-75 knocked out the core of a busy commercial area of Detroit. He began closing his stores, selling the last one in 1987. He lived in Detroit's Boston-Edison neighborhood. An avid bridge player, he was an active member of the Plymouth United Church of Christ in Detroit. The funeral will be at his church, 600 E. Warren, at 11 a.m. Thursday. A family hour is scheduled at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Thompson Funeral Home, 15443 Greenfield, Detroit. Memorials are requested to the Sidney Barthwell Scholarship Fund at the WSU College of Pharmacy and Health Services, 259 Mack Ave., Detroit 48201. ____________________