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Karim Shamsi-Basha for American Essence
Jul 18, 2022
Shelley Stewart was 6 years old when he watched his alcoholic father, Huell Jerome Sr., kill his mother, Mattie C., at their Rosedale home in Alabama. This was back in 1939, and there was never an investigation. Shelley ran away shortly after and became homeless. A family took him in to live in their basement, and he remained in school at Rosedale Elementary. Mamie Foster, his first-grade teacher, told him what would turn his life around: “If you learn how to read, you can be anything you want to be.” Shelley did well in school and became a successful radio DJ, hanging out with BB King, Nat King Cole, and Odis Redding. During the ’60s, the outspoken radio star became a target for the KKK. They spray-painted his studio with death threats, but Shelley continued the fight. In 1967, his friend Cy Steiner asked him to partner with him. They started O2ideas, which became one of the leading advertising agencies in the country.
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