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African-American business leader Haysbert dies

BALTIMORE — Raymond V. Haysbert Sr., whose Parks Sausage Co. became the first black-owned business in the U.S. to go public in 1969, has died at age 90.

He died Monday at Union Memorial Hospital in Baltimore after suffering from congestive heart failure, his son Brian Haysbert said Tuesday.

Born in poverty, Haysbert later became a World War II fighter pilot and member of the famed Tuskegee Airmen, serving in Africa and Italy before settling in Baltimore. There, he joined the company started by Henry Parks that became well known throughout the Northeast by advertisements featuring a hungry boy asking, "More Parks Sausages, Mom, please!"

Former Baltimore congressman and National Association for the Advancement of Colored People leader Kweisi Mfume said that in addition to his role as chief executive at Parks, Haysbert was a political adviser and community leader who became "synonymous with the struggle for entrepreneurship among African Americans at a time when it wasn’t very popular."

Haysbert was also campaign treasurer for Sen. Harry Cole, the first black state senator in Annapolis, and helped integrate Baltimore politics by working to get Parks elected to the council in 1963.

Haysbert, who had suffered several heart attacks in recent years, remained chairman of the Greater Baltimore Urban League until his death, bringing the organization back from the brink of bankruptcy.

Born in Cincinnati, Haysbert worked for a coal company before joining the Army Air Corps. He is survived by his wife and four children.

Brian Haysbert said his father always had time to help those trying to start their own businesses, and taught him that "success is always tied to someone else and not just to yourself."

"He always figured he didn’t have enough time to get all he wanted accomplished," said another son Reginald Haysbert, 62. "He was terrifically motivated to make the world a better place."

Mayor Stephanie C. Rawlings-Blake said in a statement that Haysbert’s death marked the end of an era.

"He remained active in his family business well into the time when he should have been enjoying his retirement," the mayor said. "Mr. Haysbert was a unique and dynamic man, and he will be missed."

Mfume remembered Haysbert inviting him to his home, where they discussed his political future in a sunroom at the house overlooking Lake Montebello.

"There were a lot of people who sat in that house, there in the sun room, who got lectures on life from Ray Haysbert," the former NAACP president said. "When he pulled you in, you knew you were in an elite class. Everybody wanted to be asked to be in that sunroom."

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