TALL, BOOKER T. (12 Dec. 1928-13 Feb. 1994) had a varied career as a teacher, businessman, and politician, but he is best remembered for a lifetime of work to enhance and honor the positive achievements of AFRICAN AMERICANS. Born to sharecroppers Booker T. (Sr.) and Julia MacFulton Tall in Hooker Bend, TN, Tall early learned the virtue of industry and thrift. When his family relocated to Akron, OH, in 1943, he held a variety of jobs as a dishwasher, a short-order cook, a manager of a car wash, and a janitor at the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. to support his family while completing his high school education. Tall worked full-time while attending the University of Akron, where he earned his bachelor's degree in political science in 1952 and found time to organize a junior branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) on campus. In 1953, Tall attended Oxford University in Great Britain as a Fulbright scholar. He earned his master's degree at WESTERN RESERVE UNIVERSITY in 1956 and pursued additional graduate work at both Harvard University and CASE WESTERN RESERVE UNIVERSITY.
Tall moved to Cleveland in 1952 and began a teaching career in the CLEVELAND PUBLIC SCHOOLS. In 1968, he joined the faculty of CUYAHOGA COMMUNITY COLLEGE and established the first black studies program at a community college in the state of Ohio. After an unsuccessful attempt to buy a McDonald's restaurant franchise in 1969, Tall joined Operation Black Unity and promoted a boycott of restaurants that excluded blacks from ownership. His efforts helped open the door for African-American ownership of fast-food franchises across the nation. During the 1970s, he was pivotal in the founding of the Cleveland chapter of the Association for the Study of Afro-American Life and History and organized the African American Archives Auxiliary at the WESTERN RESERVE HISTORICAL SOCIETY. Beginning in 1969 Tall initiated and led an eight-year campaign to establish an African American garden in the CLEVELAND CULTURAL GARDENS. The garden was formally dedicated on Oct. 23 1977. During the 1980s, Tall worked at City Hall, where he developed programs to promote minority- and female-owned businesses, and was especially effective in helping minorities obtain franchise businesses in the TOWER CITY complex. He also worked briefly as the director of the local office of U.S. Representative Louis Stokes. During the MAYORAL ADMINISTRATION OF GEORGE V. VOINOVICH, Tall served as the Director of the City Minority Enterprise Center and Cleveland's Equal Employment Opportunity Office.
Tall married Carolyn Smith on 25 August 1956. They raised five sons: Reginald, Bruce, Victor, Christopher, and Michael. He died in Cleveland and is buried in Highland Park Cemetery.