BY Stephen Nartey, 3:34pm May 15, 2023,

How Russell Goings beat dyslexia and became a business mogul with a seat on the NY Stock Exchange

Russell L. Goings Jr/Photo credit: Knight Foundation

At an early age, many wrote Russell L. Goings Jr. off when it came to making any form of success in life. His teacher thought he was a slow learner who could not even read and had slim chances of competing with his colleagues academically. His parents were advised to put him in a reform school, however, Russell suffered from dyslexia, a condition which was later diagnosed by a counselor.

His situation was compounded by the bumpy childhood experience he had during the Great Depression. Born in Stamford, Connecticut, his parents, Russell Sr. and Rose Goings relocated from South Carolina in search of better opportunities. The family had to rely on welfare and coal scraps to survive, which inadvertently took a toll on Russell’s mental health.

However, when his condition was diagnosed, Russell began to read comic books with tests instead of learning the traditional way. This helped him to find his rhythm academically, and unearthed his boisterous love for sports. He later played on his school’s football team, which won two state championships, according to encyclopedia.

Russell’s ingenuity enabled him to excel in sports and business, and later in art. He enlisted in the U.S. Air Force when he graduated from high school in 1951, and attended Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio, after he was discharged in 1955. In 1959, he earned another scholarship to study marketing in graduate school and pursued his professional career in football while at the university until an injury ended that dream.

He later ventured into Wall Street to trade in stocks and got a job as a broker with J.W. Kaufmann & Co in New York. Russell’s style of trading opened Wall Street to a new market of investors, which earned him the moniker, “rainmaker”. He made several visits to hotels and pubs in search of high-end stars. By the end of 1960, he had made his mark securing big contracts.

He was made a financial advisor to the National Basketball Association Players Association. In 1971, he purchased his branch of Shearson Hammill in Harlem, which he headed in 1968. Russell made his branch a top earner for Shearson Hammill, changed its name to First Harlem Securities, and spent $250,000 to buy a seat on the New York Stock Exchange.

First Harlem Securities became the second African-American-owned brokerage to be listed on the New York Stock Exchange, marking a high point in his business career. However, he landed in conflict with the board of the firm when he decided to restructure the company and left in 1976.

He decided to go into art trading, and served as the first black chairman of the Studio Museum in Harlem. Russell accumulated one of the largest collections of artist Romare Bearden’s artwork and documentation, and late in life reinvented himself as a writer.

Last Edited by:Editor Updated: June 11, 2023


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