Brady Keys Jr., former Steeler All-Pro and entrepreneur, dies at age 80

BRADY KEYS

Brady Keys Jr., Austin native and former student at Anderson High School, passed away from complications from a stroke in New York, at the age of 80.
Keys and his mother relocated to Los Angeles, Calif. when he was 14. He graduated from Polytechnic High School in L.A. distinguishing himself as an outstanding athlete. Following high school, Brady attended a junior college in L.A. and Colorado State University on athletic scholarships.
Keys was an NFL all pro defensive back with the Pittsburgh Steelers from 1961 to 1969. He was recognized as an outstanding defensive halfback and received All-Pro honors in 1967 as one of the best players in the NFL.
In 1969, he became the first Black franchisee of Burger King and in 1970 he became the first Black franchisee of KFC. He operated as many as 75 restaurants in cities across the country, including Harlem, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Detroit, Orlando, and many cities in Southwest Georgia to name a few. He also owned several other businesses including two radio stations in Albany, Ga. and Airport gift shops in Orlando Fla.
BRADY KEYS

In his biography, Football to Finance, Keys said 10 bankers turned him down for loans in the 60s, because they feared loaning money to a Black man. So Keys approached Steelers’ owner, Art Rooney Sr. who had been very supportive of his efforts both on and off the field. Rooney loaned Keys the seed money to start ‘All Pro Fried Chicken’ on nothing but his word that he would repay the loan. “Rooney was sent from God,” Keys said later. Rooney never accepted repayment of the loan.
Brady received numerous honors for his business acumen and his contribution to the community. In 1973, Black Enterprise Magazine recognized his firm as the largest employer of Blacks. In 2004, he was selected as the businessman of the Year in the state of Florida. The Keys Group Company was ranked by Black Enterprise magazine as one of the nation’s top 100 owned Black businesses over several years. In 2005, he was featured in Time magazine for his work with schools.
Brady Keys Jr. is survived by many family members in Austin, Orlando, Albany, and the city of Los Angeles, Calif. Two memorial services will honor Mr. Keys. The first is Saturday, Nov. 4 in Orlando, Fla. at Rejoice in the Lord Ministries (Apopka, Fla.). The second funeral service and burial will take place at Inglewood Park Cemetery Chapel, Inglewood, Calif. at 2 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 9.
 
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