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Little-Known Black History Fact: Clarence Otis Jr.

Posted by BuellBoy

Clarence Otis Jr.

Clarence Otis Jr.

Clarence Otis Jr. has become a household name in America. Well, families at least talk about and visit his chain of restaurants every day of the week.

Since 2004, Otis, 53, has served as the chief executive officer of Darden Restaurants – which includes Olive Garden, Red Lobster, Longhorn Steakhouse, The Capitol Grille and Bahama Breeze restaurants – and he is Black. It is the world’s largest company that owns and operates its own restaurants.

Business leaders have called Otis “the Barack Obama of the business world.”

Though they use them in his restaurants, Otis wasn’t raised with a silver spoon in his mouth. He grew up in Watts in the 1960’s, born to a father who dropped out of school and worked as a janitor, and a mother who was a homemaker. Otis was nine years old when the riots broke out in his neighborhood, killing 34 and injuring 1,000 residents. He watched friends turn to gangs for comfort, and a few perished. Fighting was inevitable for Otis, but he was tough. His father once said that his son would occasionally get into fights at school, but would never come home beat up.

Otis found his peace and strength at the library. His father would often drive the family through Beverly Hills to show them what was obtainable to them if they worked and studied hard. He gained a philosophy of appreciating people with passion and allowing others to be leaders around him.

As a result, Otis ranks high among the few African-American CEOs of Fortune 500 companies in America. He earned his bachelors from Williams College, then a law degree from Stanford. After hitting Wall Street, he got on board with several large companies, eventually landing at Darden Restaurants. Now, instead of serving customers as a waiter in an LAX airport restaurant, he’s serving 400 million meals worldwide through his 180,000 employees.

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