Bullock, Steve 1936–
Steve Bullock 1936–
Non-profit organization executive
Steve Bullock’s life epitomizes the incredible accomplishments of African Americans who surmount family hardships. The youngest of 22 children, Bullock overcame the burdens of history and poverty to rise into the upper echelons of the American Red Cross. In fact, when Elizabeth Dole stepped down as head of the national organization to pursue her own political aspirations in January of 1999, she selected Bullock to serve as acting president.
Bullock’s father, William Henry Bullock, was born in North Carolina in 1865, the beginning of the Reconstruction era. Word of the emancipation of the slaves was slow to spread throughout the countryside, and Bullock’s father was technically born into slavery. William Bullock eventually worked as a sharecropper in North Carolina. He was 72 years old when his youngest son, Steve, was born in July of 1936 in Enfield, NC, the youngest of 14 children born to William’s third wife, Ida Mayo Bullock. Ida gave her youngest child the middle name of Delano in the hope that it would encourage him to emulate President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s commitment to the disadvantaged. It proved to be a name that Bullock would honor throughout his life.
At approximately the same time that Steve was born, his father was severely injured in a farming accident. Therefore, his mother became the sole financial and emotional support system for Bullock and his older siblings. Not surprisingly, Bullock’s mother proved to be one of his greatest sources of inspiration. “Just seeing her make something out of nothing made me determined to go out and do something for myself and others,” Bullock commented in Reflections Magazine. “She was really a driver,” he added in an interview with Pat Jenkins in Kaleidoscope Magazine. Bullock recalled his mother’s response when she learned that he had graduated fifth in his high school class of 42: “Well,” she declared, “that’s what happens when you just do enough to get by.”
Like many people of his generation, Bullock was greatly influenced not only by his mother’s incredible work ethic, but also by racism. Having picked cotton and peanuts, Bullock was determined to attend college in order to escape the sharecropper’s lifestyle. He attended Virginia Union University and focused on a life of public service. “My calling,” Bullock explained to Courtland Milloy of the
At a Glance …
Born Steve Bullock in July 1936, in Enfteld, NC; son of Ida Mayo Bullock and William Henry Bullock; married to Doris Kelly Bullock; children: Eric, Brian, Kelly. Education: Virginia Union University, BA; University of St. Thomas, St. Paul, MN, MBA; Georgia State University, graduate work in urban administration.
Career : American Red Cross, 1962-, including assistant manager, Washington, D.C. chapter, 1973; executive director, St. Paul Area chapter, manager, Minnesota-Wisconsin Division, 1976–82; chief executive officer. Greater Cleveland Chapter, 1982–90; acting president, 1998-
Selected memberships: Association of MBA Executives; American Society for Training and Development; NAACP; Urban League; Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity.
Awards: President’s Award for Employee Excellence in Management, American Red Cross, 1997; Black Professional of the Year, Black Professional Association, Cleve-land, 1997.
Addresses: Offices-American Red Cross, Greater Cleve-land Chapter, 3747 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland, OH 44115–2596; American Red Cross, National Headquarters, 1621 N. Kent Street, Arlington, VA 22209–2106.
Washington Post, “came out of seeing so much suffering in my life, and I became determined to spend my life trying to relieve that suffering wherever I found it and whatever the cause may be.”
After graduating from Virginia Union with degrees in history and sociology, Bullock was drafted. During his tour of duty, he spent most of his time in Niagara Falls, New York and also served in Vietnam. Following his discharge from the Army, he joined the American Red Cross as a case worker on military installations in Europe and South-east Asia. Bullock suddenly found himself doing exactly what he envisioned, traveling internationally and helping others.
Throughout his career with the Red Cross, Bullock gained a reputation as a caring man who helped to build bridges between people. As Dr. Marvin A. McMickle, his pastor and friend from the Antioch Baptist Church in Cleveland, explained in a discussion with Tom Pope and Paul Clolery of the NonProfit Times, “He has an interactive ability to bring people together.” Bullock used his talents to direct special Red Cross international projects and, in 1968, visited American prisoners of war in Southeast Asia as a member of a Red Cross team.
From 1976 to 1982, Bullock served as executive director and manager of the Minnesota-Wisconsin division. He then became chief executive officer of the Greater Cleve-land Chapter in 1982. Under Bullock’s guidance, the Cleveland chapter evolved from an agency which offered only CPR training and disaster relief to one that provided smoke detectors for low-income residents, developed emergency evacuation plans, and trained disadvantaged people for careers in medicine. He successfully drew the American Red Cross national convention to Cleveland and, in 1998, brought in Elizabeth Dole for a fund-raising event.
Bullock was an active member of several local organizations, including the Mayor’s Black on Black Crime Commission and Leadership Cleveland. During his tenure as executive director of the Greater Cleveland Chapter, Bullock tripled the organization’s funding, built a new headquarters, and significantly increased the amount of donations received from the African American community. He also cultivated relationships with the national leadership team and worked closely with them on strategic organizational issues. In 1988, Bullock served as chairman of the President’s Advisory Council for the Red Cross, a group of senior Red Cross field executives which counsels management on issues facing the organization. In 1995 Elizabeth Dole, the national head of the Red Cross, appointed Bullock to lead the 1996 National American Red Cross Marketing and Fund-raising Campaign. The American Red Cross honored Bullock with the President’s Award for Employee Excellence in Management in 1997.
Bullock’s professional success can be attributed to several factors. Colleagues note his effectiveness in hiring qualified people to manage the day-to-day operations of his organization and empowering them to lead, thereby freeing himself to raise publicawareness of the Red Cross and its goals. His belief in a Supreme Being and his willingness to accept the consequences of his own actions are also cited as important factors. When he’s not working with the Red Cross, Bullock enjoys playing golf and listeningto jazz.
Clevelandlife, March 1991.
Cleveland Plain Dealer, January 24, 1999, p. B1, 3.
Kaleidoscope, August/September, 1996.
NonProfitTimes, February 1999.
Sun Press, January 28, 1999.
Washington Post, March 24, 1999, p. B1, 4.
Additional information for this profile was obtained from American Red Cross press releases.
—Lisa S. Weitzman
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