HAWTHORNE, KENNETH L.
“I’ve never forgotten where I came from.” Kenneth L. Hawthorne, age 83, passed away on October 8, 2017. He was born in Mobile, Alabama on February 16, 1934, to Gertrude Wiley Hawthorne and William J. Hawthorne, Sr. Ken’s father was owner of the Hawthorne ESSO Station in Pittsburgh’s Hill District and a skycap for United Airlines. Mrs. Hawthorne was a homemaker and met her husband in Mobile before migrating together to Pittsburgh. Ken was the second of three brothers in whom their parents instilled a quiet pride and a philosophy that one gets ahead by constantly striving to better himself.
Ken was always a good student, and was popular throughout his school years. At Schenley High School, he excelled in sports, was a member of the mile ready team and a star tackle. At Virginia State College, he studied business administration and was a football player until he injured his knee.
Ken worked in his father’s service station from age 12. By the time he had graduated from high school, 1952, he had all kinds of good ideas on how to expand the family business and the station became one of the first successful black enterprises on The Hill. He would become the station’s manager and, later decided to apply for a job at Gulf Oil he felt he had a great deal to offer the oil industry.
In September of 1963, Ken Hawthorne began at Gulf Oil as a Retail Consignment Representative. He was responsible for collection of money and checking on the inventory of the gasoline consigned to dealers in his territory. He held the job for nine months. By June of 1964, Ken was promoted to Sales Representative. Sales seemed a natural to him, especially because of his own background as a dealer. It became evident he was excellent at dealer recruiting, and he began to receive assignments in more and more responsible territories. Ken would eventually be appointed Pennsylvania Turnpike Supervisor. The job required him to move his wife, Eugenia, and his three children to Harrisburg, Pa. In the seven months he held the post, he covered 24,000 miles over the vast 340-mile territory he supervised.
In 1968, Governor Raymond Schafer asked Gulf Oil to, “Lend Me a Good Man” to work on Urban Programs, Gulf sent Ken. The decision to send Ken was lauded by a number of Pennsylvania Legislators, and Governor Raymond Shafer said, “Mr. Hawthorne beings to government an understanding of business and how we can get business more involved in the problem of our cities. He was selected by Gulf as on of their outstanding young executives.”
Ken would go on to be named an advisor on Gulf’s worldwide marketing coordination in 1970, New York City district manager in 1971, and corporate Equal Employee Opportunity director in 1975. In 1977 Ken was appointed Vice President of human resources for Gulf Trading & Transportation Company. In this role he was responsible for salary administration, recruiting, administering payroll, incentive programs and terminations. Ken reported directly to the President of Gulf Oil. After more than 50 years of service to Gulf Kenneth Hawthorne was a sleeping giant in the oil and gas industry. After retiring from Chevron in 1983, Ken consulted and did for pleasure what he once did for a living, work on classic automobiles. In 19XX Ken and his wife, relocated from Houston, Texas to West Palm Beach, Florida where he lived until his death.
Ken’s civic involvement included life membership to the NAACP and Urban League, Board of Managers of the Harlem YMCA, Board of Directors of Boy Scouts of America and PACE. Ken had received numerous awards and special recognitions among them being Businessman of the Year from Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated and recognitions a number of recognitions from the National Urban League and NAACP.
Saddened by his ascension to his Heavenly home are his wife Eugenia; daughter Cecilia, retired US Airways Customer Services Manager; sons K. Bruce, a financial advisor in West Palm Beach and Bart a real estate investor and former Chevron employee; granddaughters, Cheyenne and Gelila; grandsons, K. Chase, Kenneth and Andre; daughter-in-law, Elanie; great-grandson, Chase; and a host of family, business colleagues, and friends.
Family will have a private memorial on Sunday, October 22, 2017.