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Clarence Otis Jr.
*The birth of Clarence Otis Jr. on this date in 1956 is marked on this date. He is a Black lawyer and businessman.
When he was six, his family moved from Vicksburg, Mississippi, to the Watts and Compton area of Los Angeles. In his youth, his family took him through Beverly Hills on Sundays. His father, a janitor, took his family there not to gawk in envy but to show the kids another world was out there and let them know it wasn't out of their reach.
A high school guidance counselor recommended him for a scholarship at Williams College. Otis graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Williams and earned a law degree at Stanford. Since becoming an attorney, he was vice president of First Boston Corp. from 1987-90, managing director of Giebert Municipal Capital from 1990-91, vice president of Chemical Securities, Inc, 1991-92, managing director from 1992-95, vice president and treasurer, 1995-97; senior vice president, finance, 1997-99; and chief financial officer, 1999-2004 of Darden Restaurants, Inc.
Otis was president of Smokey Bones unit in 2003, Darden Restaurants, and chief executive officer in 2004. He's one of only a handful of Black CEOs running Fortune 500 companies. A resident of Orlando, Florida, he and his wife, Jacqui, are amassing a collection of African American art.
In Florida, Otis continued a commitment to community involvement that had begun in New York with his memberships on the boards of the YMCA of Greater New York and One Hundred Black Men, Inc., among other organizations. He served on the boards of numerous Florida nonprofits, including Enterprise Florida and Preserve Eatonville. He faced numerous challenges as Darden CEO: the company's flagship Red Lobster and Olive Garden chains were mature, and each had suffered from flat sales at times.
Otis was able to boast of strong sales increases for those two chains in a conference call with investors in the summer of 2005. He looked to future initiatives, such as expanding the small Darden health-food chain Seasons 52, as he built on his own impressive record of successes and accomplishments. Clarence Otis was named the 11th most powerful person in Central Florida by the Orlando Sentinel in 2010.
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