This Day In History: February 12

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On February 12, 1970, Joseph Searles III shatters a deeply entrenched color barrier by becoming the first Black member of the New York Stock Exchange.

In the historically white dominated financial industry, people of color were routinely denied access not only to services, but to employment opportunities. Searles made history when, as a partner for Newburger, Loeb & Co., he became the first Black floor broker of the New York Stock Exchange. He followed in the footsteps of Clarence B. Jones, who three years earlier was the first African American to become an allied NYSE member, but without trading floor access. 

Throughout his long career, Searles also served as vice president of public finance at Manufacturers Hanover Trust Co., deputy commissioner of the New York City Economic Development Administration and the first chairman of Harlem's 125th Street Business Improvement District, among other appointments.

Known as a community-oriented businessman devoted to supporting Black enterprise, Searles established minority led businesses throughout New York and organized New York’s first minority franchising fair in 1969.

Born in 1942 and raised in Fort Hood, Texas, Searles attended Killeen High School during its first year of integration. He initially found success as a star football player for Kansas State University, where he graduated with a degree in political science. After briefly playing football professionally for the New York Giants, Searles returned to the classroom in 1967 and completed law school at George Washington University.

Searles died in July of 2021 at age 79. 

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