When Dr. Theophilus B. Boyd III and his wife, Yvette, speak about their family, images of the Huxtables come to mind.
“When our kids were growing up it was a lot of fun. It was a very busy, very active household," Dr. Boyd recalls. "Let’s see, it would be me, my wife, three kids, often their friends, 16 goldfish, one rabbit, and something like a rat…whatever it was, I made my son keep it in a cage in his room!” Today the Boyds have four adult children: Theophilus B. IV, 41, works in finance; LaDonna, 27, named “Miss Black Tennessee” in 2010, received her M.B.A. from Tennessee State University; Shalae, 24, is a senior at Tennessee State University and Justin, 21, is a junior there.
Few African American families can relish in their history like the Boyds. For them, fertile ground was laid, and the dream and the hope of the slave was planted. The family owns R.H. Boyd Publishing Corporation in Nashville, Tennessee, the largest publishing center in the Southeast. Their lineage is one of desire, common sense, hard-work, self-determination and, as a result, four generations of prosperity. The Boyd dynasty is a rich story, from “way back.” They have been in business for 116 years!
Richard Henry Boyd, for whom the company is now named, was born a slave. He could not read. He could not write. Yet this did not stop him from seeing the light of opportunity when there was one. After the Emancipation Proclamation was signed and he “won” his freedom, he fearlessly pursued the sides of himself that were not allowed to exist in the mind of a slave. “My great grandfather wanted to explore life beyond his preset boundaries,” says Dr. Boyd. After moving to Texas he worked as a cowboy, a foreman at sawmills, and he learned to read and write. Dr. Boyd continues, “When he became a preacher, he found that in his readings there was nothing that reflected his [Black American] religious experience.”
Richard Henry respected the importance of being able to see one’s self reflected in the imagery of the word. He reacted as any good publishing mind would: he responded to a need. “He gathered all the people he could find who were educated and had biblical knowledge, and they began to write religious texts for African Americans.” Dr. Boyd continues, “This is how many Blacks learned to read.”
After gaining momentum for his publishing idea, dream in tow, Richard Henry moved to Nashville, Tennessee, where he received support from a local minister at the Mount Olive Missionary Baptist Church. He built his company in 1896, and, by 1897 they were in their offices, a place, appropriately called, the Brown Building. In 1905, the Globe Publishing Company was established along with the National Baptist Church Supply Company.
From here, the Boyd Family saga continued to flourish. Upon Dr. R. H. Boyd’s death, his son Dr. Henry Allen Boyd took the reigns. Henry Allen is one of the founding fathers of Tennessee State University. By 1934, the publishing company serviced 20,000 Sunday Schools and 8,000 churches. Then, Dr. T. B. Boyd, Jr., took over in the 1960’s, and strove to modernize the company’s facilities. And in honor of family, he worked closely with his wife in marriage and ministry.
In the 1970s, the publishing company gave generous financial support to the National Baptist Convention and continued to give to Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights Movement. When Dr. T. B. Boyd III, was appointed President and CEO after his father passed, he simultaneously served as Chairman of the Board of Directors of Citizens Trust and Saving Bank.
Dr. Boyd III, then expanded the company’s product line. Perhaps taking a note from his forefather, he gathered an exceptional team of Christian songwriters, musical directors, and singers to create the hymnal found behind the bench in most Baptist churches in America and the Caribbean, The New National Baptist Hymnal, 21st Century Edition.
Yvette Jean Duke, a graduate from Tennessee State University, met Dr. Boyd at a college football game. She recalls, “I was with a girlfriend who knew him, and I was like, 'Who is that?!' My friend looked at me and said, 'Don’t you know?’” Fortunately, she and Dr. Boyd felt similarly. Before meeting her, he saw her and thought, “ That’s for me right there!” They have been married for 28 years.
About town, the Boyds of today are active in community service, scholarships, and various charities. They enjoy a gown-and-tux-social life and are admiringly called ‘the Black Barbie dolls’ by friends. Along with his many accolades in business, finance and education, Dr. Boyd’s exceptional style was given a nod when he was once named Nashville’s Best Dressed Man Of The Year. He says, “In life, you have to take what you have naturally and do the best you can with it. If you want to be a leader in your field, you have to look the part. You always have to give 100%.”
The sweet smell of success has followed the Boyd family through four generations of higher education and effective organizing. It has not been without hard work that this legacy has maintained. “I didn’t grow up with this sort of privilege. My family was what I would call, ‘comfortable,’” says Mrs. Boyd. “Being in the Boyd family has afforded me better things in life, but I always remain humble. You can go to the doctor one day and everything could change.” Mrs. Boyd ensured her children understood this. “I always kept my kids grounded,” she says. “They grew up in a White neighborhood, but they led a Black lifestyle. I made sure that they knew they were blessed, and they were not to take these blessings for granted.”
The Boyds look forward to their children’s succession. “You want the legacy to continue, but you have to give your children some rope and let them figure it out”, Mrs. Boyd says. “In life, you have to love what you do."
The Coolest Black Family in America is an EBONY.com original series: an ongoing look at the intricacies, layers and compelling beauty of African-American family life. Of course, "The Coolest Black Family” is not one family but many. In fact, we’ve found that there are as many Coolest Black Families as there are versions of cool. Also consider that family does not always mean mother + father + kids. What we know is that what defines family is connected hearts and supported souls. Ride with us weekly as we criss-cross the country in search of kinfolk whose cool is so palpable and real, it comes second only to their love.
Joicelyn Dingle travels to find the Coolest Black Family in America exclusively for EBONY.com. She splits her time between Savannah and Brooklyn. She is currently completing a documentary on the making of Honey magazine and the 90's urban publishing era. Friend her on Facebook. Follow her @editorialgenius