Former Head of Special Markets, BBDO New York

Clarence LeRoy Holte was a pioneer specialist in ethnic markets and publisher and founder of Nubian Press Inc. in New York City.

Clarence Holte was born February 19, 1909 in Norfolk, Va. He attended Lincoln University (Pa.), the American Institute of Banking and the New School of Social Research, both in New York City. He joined Batten, Barton, Durstine & Osborn, Inc. (BBDO) in 1952 and was the first African-American to reach the executive level in a general-market advertising firm. In his work at BBDO, he often traveled to Europe and Africa, where he found inspiration to develop the first advertising campaign that associated a brand with black history. It was called “The Ingenious Americans” campaign and was created for National Distillers’ Old Taylor brand.

Prior to joining BBDO, Holte worked as a teller at Dunbar National bank in Harlem in the 1930s before joining the Works Progress Administration. In 1944, he was hired as a sales representative for Lever Brothers Company.

Holte remained with BBDO for about 20 years, leaving to start Nubian Press in 1971. Its first product, Nubian Baby Book, was designed to acquaint black children with their African-American heritage.

An avid book collector, Holte had a collection of over 7,000 books acquired from all over the world on black history and culture. At one time, it was considered one of the largest and most valuable (over $400,000) private collection of its kind in the world.

In 1979, the Clarence L. Holte Literary Prize was created to recognize work dealing with the cultural heritage of black Americans. And in 1981, Lincoln University awarded him an honorary doctorate degree.

Since 2001, BBDO has sponsored the American Association of Advertising Agencies (AAAA) Clarence LeRoy Holte Multicultural Advertising Intern Program (MAIP) award. The award is given each year to a student who exemplifies outstanding leadership an initiative and a passion for our business, who embraces its principles, and who demonstrates poise, compassion and consideration of the team effort.

Clarence Leroy Holte, a personification of all of the aforementioned attributes, died in Oakland, Calif., at the age of 85 in 1993. He is survived by his daughter, Helen Holte, DDS, and two grandchildren.