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By Chinta Strausberg

 

When Betty Clawson’s brother, Johnny, introduced her to Black hair care giant Joe Louis Dudley, Sr. back in 1971her life has never been the same, but because of his energy and motivation she has passed on his dream to her children and generations of others.

Clawson, who is the director of the Dudley Beauty College, 8501 So. Green Street, was so awed by Mr. Dudley that she took a leave-of-absence from her job with the Southern Bell Telephone Company and clung to the dreams and hopes of Mr. Dudley.

“At that time, Mr. Dudley had a direct sales operation where he was teaching people to become self-sufficient in back of Dudley Beauty Center in Greensboro, S.C.,” she recalled. “At that point, he proclaimed that he would spread all over the country and teach people how to become self-sufficient. I was so impressed with his motivation that I began selling door-to-door.”

Clawson wanted to be a part of Mr. Dudley’s team to build up the African American community and she never went back to the Southern Bell Telephone company.

“I have been able to introduce my children, my siblings, relatives to this Dudley experience and all of our lives have been influenced in a better way because of the Dudley teaching,” said Clawson.

Her daughters moved to Brazil and opened up the Dudley operation where they had to learn to speak Portuguese. “I am truly blessed,” said Clawson. “I am blessed to have been introduced to the Dudley’s and for them to have given me the kind of responsibility and trust that they have. They trusted me to open businesses and they didn’t even have keys to those businesses. I am grateful to that,” she said. Dudley has been an excellent role model both for business and for hundreds of families.

Once a stutterer who planned to drop out of high school, Mr., who recently turned 75-years-old and is now a multi-millionaire, cherishes his family the most saying they are “God’s gift to me.”

Born on May 9, 1937 in rural Aurora, NC, Dudley is the fifth son born to second-generation farmers Gilmer and Clara Dudley who were the parents of 11 children and who never finished the eighth grade.

He and his siblings, Leroy, William, Clifton, Alfred, Joe, Martha, Cornelius (CC), Mardecia (Ruth), Elsie, MacArthur and George, grew up in a three-room shack. They had no indoor plumbing or heat. They had to use the outhouse. Later, their house burned to the ground.

All of the Dudley children worked the farm and could only go to school when it rained because they were needed to work the land. Mr. Dudley also had a speech impediment and when he did go to school his teachers initially would accuse him of being the “class clown” then later classified him as being mentally retarded.

Dudley thought he could out-smart his teacher by copying his sister Martha’s homework and it worked until one day he met the love of his life in 1953.

Dudley fell in love with his high school sweetheart walking 12-miles each way just to see her. Dudley thought he had it all figured out including his proposal to her after he quit high school. That didn’t happen because his heartthrob dumped him for his best friend and to add insult to injury she told Dudley her new beau was smarter than he was which crushed his ego, his pride and his spirit.

Turning to his mother, Dudley listened to her wise advice. “Don’t let this one bad thing ruin you,” she told her son. “You are a smart boy. I’ve always believed that you could do anything you set your mind to. I believe in you. You can be somebody. I want you to fool them all.”

So, Dudley took his mother’s advice and went to the library checking out books beginning from the first grade. He mastered them all and graduated Valedictorian of his S.W. Snowden High School in 1956. Dudley promised himself that he would never be dumb again. The Dudley’s were proud parents of 11 college graduates with some having higher degrees.

After changing majors at NC A&T State University, Dudley graduated in 1962 with a Bachelor’s degree in business administration.

He married Eunice Mosley, who worked at the Fuller Products branch in Brooklyn, NY, in 1961, and he worked under John E. Johnson, who is the brother of George Johnson of Johnson Products, Inc. They had three children, Joe Louis Dudley, Jr., Ursula Vondeece Dudley and Genea Yvette Dudley.

His son graduated from Northwestern University with an MBA degree in marketing and finance from Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management majoring in marketing, finance and strategic planning. Ursula earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology from Harvard and Radcliffe College and a law degree from Harvard University. She and President Obama were law school classmates.

Mr. Joe Dudley met and was mentored by the late S.B. Fuller, who with a $25.00 investment began the historic Fuller Products Company, Napoleon Hill, author of “Think and Grow Rich” and other books and Clement Stone, a businessman and philanthropist. Fuller collaborated with the Dudley’s and by 1973 Dudley became the number one distributor of Fuller products.

In 1984, the Dudley’s moved to Greensboro and acquired the rights to Fuller Products and the manufacturing equipment.

After Fuller passed on October 24, 1988 at the age of 83, Dudley carried on the Fuller legacy saying, “I cannot give Mr. Fuller enough credit for what he has meant to my life. Today, I continue to build upon the foundation he laid down years ago. I am grateful for the opportunity to have been among the many lives that he touched, influenced and directed along the path of achievement.”

It was in 1957 when Dudley took his $10 Fuller Products sales kit and hit the streets of Chicago. In 1960 he met Eunice Mosely and his door-to-door salesmanship paid for the couple’s college education.

However, the Fuller Products met with financial problems and the 1969 acquisition of the Rosebud Cosmetics forced Mr. Dudley to began to study and experiment with the manufacturing of cosmetics. With no formal training, Mr. Dudley repeated his boyhood ritual of going to the library. After researching chemicals, he mixed and refined hair products right in his own kitchen.

As a father, Dudley quoted Mr. Fuller telling his children, “Reading people are ruling people.” He made them read books and the bible every day. When his daughter, Ursula, was in the sixth grade, she wanted a clarinet so she could be in the band. Mr. Dudley told her he would buy her one only if she would read the New Testament of the bible.

His wife, and children would package the products in the early morning, and his salesmen, who soon number more than 400, would sell them door-to-door. Dudley launched the Dudley’s Quality Plus (Q+) Products, which went national, and by 1976 his company included a chain of beauty supply stores, beauty salons, a beauty college and a manufacturing arm.

In 1971, the Dudley’s bought the Maco Beauty College in downtown Greensboro, NC and changed the name to Dudley Beauty College. They opened the second one in Charlotte, NC in 1988. Expanding their dream, the couple opened similar schools in Washington, D.C. in 1991, a beauty school in Chicago in 1993, which this writer covered, and a reopening in Greensboro in 1995.

In 1976, Dudley moved his family to Chicago to help rebuild the Fuller Products. Under Dudley’s leadership, the company expanded to London, England. In 1984, he moved back to the South and built a new 37,500 headquarters and plant in Greensboro in 1986. The majority of his employees followed him, and his business remains a “family affair” to this day.

In the late 1980’s, Dudley purchased 54.5 acres of land in Kernersville and opened his Dudley Cosmetology University, the Dudley Cosmetology University Inn, and later the Dudley Travel Agency. In 1994, Mr. Dudley built a new 80,000 square foot manufacturing facility in Kernersville. In 1995, his company expanded internationally to Brazil and Zimbabwe.

In 1999, Dudley included these products in the late Ken Bridges’ national “MATAH” network, which sold products online that were produced by African Americans. On October 11, 2002, Bridges, 53, was a victim of the D.C. Sniper. He was fatally shot by 17-year-old John Lee Malvo one of two snipers.

Bridges, a close friend, had just signed a $100 million contract for his MATAH Network. Before he left, his friends told him not to stop at a gas station near Fredericksburg, VA, he wanted to talk to his wife whom he affectionately called his princess. Bridges was shot while talking to her. He had been inspired by Mr. Dudley’s entrepreneurial spirit.

Dudley is the author of “Walking By Faith,” “I AM,” and  “I CAN & I WILL.” Today, Dudley Beauty Corp, LLC markets and distributes more than 400 products nationally and internationally and operates a number of beauty schools throughout the U.S. Mr. Dudley continues to push entrepreneurship to those who want to share his dream of being self-sufficient.

Many officials wished Dudley a happy birthday including North Carolina Gov. Beverly Eaves Perdue who said, “Yours is truly an American story of ingenuity, and North Carolina is proud that you call our state home. As co-founder of Dudley Products, you provide quality hair products and jobs that keep communities strong. Your commitment as an entrepreneur is matched only by your dedication to improving the lives of others, and many North Carolinians have been touched by your generosity and goodwill.”

Dawn H. Morgan, the mayor of Kernersville, N.C., issued a proclamation praising Dudley for heading one of the largest black owned manufacturers and distributors of ethnic hair care and cosmetics in America.

Mr. Dudley’s message and recipe of success has not changed since his high school days. He urges everyone to get an education because that is something “no one can take from you” and today at 75, he continues to educate and graduate students from around the world.

Happy belated birthday, Mr. Dudley, who has been a friend for many years and a source of inspiration to me and for generations to come.

Chinta Strausberg is a Journalist of more than 33-years, a former political reporter and a current PCC Network talk show host. You can e-mail Strausberg at: Chintabernie@aol.com.

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