ATLANTA, GA - – In 1957, an introduction by a contact in the National Urban League’s San Francisco office lead Ken Jarvis to a position as UPS’s first African American driver. Jarvis used this opportunity as a stepping stone, ultimately serving as a vice president of UPS Human Resources. But this was not only his opportunity, by continuing to build and maintain relationships with civic and community organizations, Jarvis worked to open the doors of UPS to thousands of qualified and diverse applicants throughout his 37 year career.
Following his military service, Ken contacted employment agencies to help him find a job. The first agency seemed very excited about Ken’s military background made some calls and then sent him for an interview. After sitting for an hour and forty-five minutes, he was asked to come into an office by a pleasant looking middle aged man and told the agency had made a mistake and that his company did not hire Negroes. Ken’s experience at the next two agencies was similar.
After talking with his father about his treatment, Ken followed his father’s suggestion that he make contact with a family friend who then referred him to The Bay Area Urban League. Ken met the Mr. Fletcher the Executive Director. Mr. Fletcher told Ken that in November of 1956, a man by the name of Whitney M. Young Jr. had given a talk to the business community of San Francisco where he had implored this group to utilize this great human resource called the Negro community.
In this group of business men was the Northern California District Manager for United Parcel Service, George Morton. George had been so moved by Whitney’s talk that he immediately made contact with Mr. Fletcher and said to give him a call if he had a “good one.” Ken was that “good one,” working for one-month as a part-time loader and unloader. He was then offered a job as a driver and moved his way up, working for UPS for 37 years. Throughout his career at UPS, Ken worked with the National Urban League to recruit and hire qualified minorities.
This historic summer in Washington, D.C. the Centennial Conference of the Urban League has brought together an extraordinary group of the nation’s leading business, community, and political figures. This monumental milestone represents 100 years of empowering communities and changing lives. Ken’s story is indicative of the progress of African Americans thanks to the efforts of the National Urban League.