The BLDC Honors Black History Month

by Bill Nickerson, BLDC General Manager

Photo by Julia Zhogina, courtesy of The Bay State Banner

As the nation celebrates Black History Month, you hear many stories of the struggles, successes, trials and triumphs of our nation’s African-Americans. I have had the pleasure of knowing, working with, and calling a friend a man who is the living embodiment of, and has been throughout his life, a key player in that history. That man is Marvin Gilmore Jr.

The grandson of slaves, Marvin rose from poverty to achieve the American dream. At 95 years young, he continues to lead his life in the way that firmly established his status as a revered local leader. Marvin has, throughout his life, embraced many roles. He has been a civil rights activist, community developer, decorated World War II veteran, music club owner, and mentor to many generations of future leaders.

Marvin is also a long time member of the Board of Trustees of the Boston Local Development Corporation (BLDC). This is only one example of Marvin’s lifelong commitment to jobs and economic growth for Boston, while at the same time striving for a more equitable City that provides opportunities for all of its residents.

Marvin co-founded Unity Bank and Trust Company in Roxbury, Massachusetts, the first African-American owned and operated commercial bank in Boston. Today it is called One United Bank.

In 1973, Marvin became president and CEO of the Community Development Corporation of Boston. This led to forty years of striving to develop Boston’s then blighted neighborhoods while providing economic empowerment for the City’s disadvantaged residents.

During World War II, Marvin served with the 458th Battery “A” Anti-Aircraft Artillery Battalion. His unit landed on the Normandy beaches on D-Day. Like many African American soldiers of his generation, he was denied the medals and honors that were his due. However, in 2010, Marvin’s service was finally recognized when he received France’s highest award. He was named a Chevalier of The Legion of Honor for his heroic service in World War II.

Following the war, Gilmore studied music at New England Conservatory. He later opened and operated The Western Front night club for forty years.

Just last month, Marvin was recognized with a Drum Major award at the 50th anniversary Martin Luther King Day Memorial Breakfast.

Marvin, with all of his accolades and successes, never wavered in his life-long support of the disenfranchised and his efforts played a key role in helping Boston outgrow its racial divisions. He is clearly one of the founding fathers of the new Boston that we have today.