While the New Pittsburgh Courier honors 50 of today’s men who are making great strides in the various aspects of the community at the Men of Excellence awards reception on Oct. 27, there are five men who will also be recognized for the legacy they left behind through the work they accomplished during their lives.

The late John Adams, Nate Smith, Armon Gilliam, Dave Epperson and El Gray will be honored during a special memoriam presentation during the reception. Each of these men dedicated their lives to giving back and making a better way for future generations.


John Adams, who passed away in June, was a prominent figure and advocate for Black business. He was a reporter for the Pittsburgh Courier; owner of the John H. Adams Agency, which specialized in insurance, sales, advertising, public relations and notary; and later was appointed director of the Pittsburgh Business Resource Center, which included the Pittsburgh Regional Minority Council, now known as the Western Pennsylvania Minority Supplier Development Council. It was created to encourage local and national purchasing of goods and services from minority business owners. He believed that Black business had a place in the community.

Nate Smith, who died in March, was largely known for his tremendous contributions to the Black labor movement in Pittsburgh and nationwide. One of his greatest accomplishments was Operation Dig, which served as the construction trades’ training and employment vehicle for the Pittsburgh Plan to integrate trade unions. His marches and protests paved the way for thousands of Blacks to gain union employment. His accomplishments got him front cover coverage in Jet magazine.

Armon Gilliam, who is recognized as one of the greatest players to grace the game of basketball, will be remembered for his hard work and efforts to give back to the community. Gilliam died in July, but up until his unexpected death, he remained active in the community and involved in the game he loved. He managed to work his way through high school and college to get drafted into the NBA. He played professionally until 2000 and still remained a figure in the community, through basketball camps that he started and participated in. He made sure that that today’s and tomorrow’s youth would have the resources he never did growing up.

Dave Epperson, who died in June, was the former dean of the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Social Work, and holds the record as the longest serving dean at any American school of Social Work, according to the University. While heading the school, its enrollment more than tripled and became ranked as one of the top schools for graduate programs in social work. Due to his dedication and compassion, fewer families are plagued by societies issues.

El Gray, who died in August, used his life to fight and bring awareness to the senseless violence plaguing the streets. He was most known for his work with One Vision One Life, where he led rallies and vigils in the streets and held mediations between groups and individuals involved in violence. Rain, snow, or shine, Gray was out there with his bullhorn and a positive message.

While each of these men are no longer here, their legacies remain for others to build upon. They each dedicated their lives and their talents to make positive impact in all aspects of the community.

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