Breaking Wall Street's Color Barrier: Echoes
By Kristin Aguilera
This article was originally published on February 13, 2012.
Feb. 12, 1970, was a historic day on Wall Street. For the first time in the 178-year history of the New York Stock Exchange, a black man joined the trading community on the exchange floor.
Joseph L. Searles III, the Newburger, Loeb & Co. partner who achieved this milestone, took a meandering route to the Street. He had been a professional football player for the New York Giants and later made a name for himself in politics as an aide to New York City Mayor John Lindsay. But Searles's experience in finance was extremely limited.
The New York Times article announcing his proposed membership on Jan. 31, 1970, read, "The poised and assured Mr. Searles said that he had never owned any stocks or bonds and that his modest stake in the Newburger, Loeb partnership represented his first investment."
Although Searles was the first black trader on the exchange's floor, he was technically not its first black member. That distinction goes to Clarence B. Jones -- counsel and speechwriter to Martin Luther King Jr. -- who became an allied member of the exchange in 1967 when he was named a partner at Carter, Berlind & Weill Inc. As an allied member, Jones had voting stock in a member firm, but he didn't have floor access.
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