Submitted by: Barbara A. Seals Nevergold, PhD, Co-founder of the Uncrowned Queens Institute
Few people know that there is a Buffalo connection with the late, great heavyweight boxing champion, Joe Louis. He was a diminutive but dynamic local businessman and community builder. Marshall Davis Miles was born in Demopolis, Alabama in 1905. He was one of six children of Hattie Marshall Miles and Walter Miles. Marshall came to Buffalo as a child in 1919 and attended Hutchinson Central High School. He and his brothers, Percy and Mitchell, were among the city’s pioneering African American businessmen in the 1920s and 30s, beginning with the Miles shoe repair shop. Later they established the Miles Brothers Dairy, the first African American milk business in Western New York. He also worked at the Pierce Arrow Factory and the Buffalo Chamber of Commerce.
Marshall Miles also had the distinction of having worked as the manager of heavyweight boxing champion Joe Louis in 1946. Marshall was no stranger to the boxing profession, despite never stepping into the ring. He had managed Jamestown Jimmy Clark, a National AAU champion, who also had a pro career. He also managed professional heavyweight Leroy Evans. Miles met Louis as a young fighter in Detroit through Louis’ manager John Roxborough and became a close friend of the champ. When Roxborough went to prison in 1946, Miles took over the guidance of Louis’ career, beginning with the rematch in Yankee stadium against Billy Conn, the boxer who almost beat him in 1941.
In addition to managing boxers, Miles branched out into real estate and investments. At the time he became Louis’ manager he owned an apartment building in Los Angeles and oil wells in Illinois. Mr. Miles was co-owner of the Safety Savings and Loan Association in Los Angeles, California. As Louis’ manager he moved in glamorous circles, sitting ring side at major title fights, and attending celebrity affairs.
Locally, Miles was a regular at Ann Montgomery’s Little Harlem Hotel. His friends and acquaintances included other boxers like Sugar Ray Robinson as well as others like Willie Mays and Shirley Chisholm. He was also very active in the local African American Community helping anybody in any way he could. He contributed to the YMCA; the Police Athletic League (PAL); and the Golden Gloves. He was a lifetime member of the NAACP, the Paramount Lodge, No. 73, the Bison Consistory No. 29 and the Hadji Temple, No. 61. He was also a lifelong member of Lincoln Memorial United Methodist Church.
Miles was previously married to the late Della Newson and the late Dorothy Roberts. At the time of his death he was married to Charlene Fuqua-Miles and they had one son, Jourdan. Marshall Miles was 92 years of age at the time of his death on December 4, 1997. He is buried in Forest Lawn Cemetery.
Photo: Marshall is in the middle. Joe Louis on right. The identity of the gentleman on the left is unknown.
The Friends of the Buffalo Story is involved in a yearlong project whose mission is to uncover and reveal the heritage-based stories of people who live along the Ferry Street Corridor. As part of this effort “The Friends” is working very closely with community-groups, who have been doing this work for many years. None has done this more effectively and diligently than the uncrowned queens institute for research & education on women, inc.
We are proud to be collaborating with them to bring you this ongoing feature during the month of February, which focuses on some of the “uncrowned community builders” who have done so much to strengthen the African-American community of Buffalo’s East Side as well as the region.
For more on African American Community Builders visit our website at: www.uncrownedcommunitybuilders.com
Additional “uncrowned community builders” are as follows: