Arnold M. Jolivet, a longtime advocate for minority- and women-owned businesses who was a familiar presence at City Hall, died of complications from heart disease Sunday morning at Sinai Hospital. The Village of Cross Keys resident was 71.
"Mr. Jolivet was a consistent, devoted and vocal champion for minority businesses," Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said in a statement. "His unapologetic approach to overcoming obstacles will always be his legacy. He understood, as I do, that progress cannot be achieved without economic parity for minority-owned businesses."
"He always fought to ensure that African-Americans and women received their fair share of the economic pie," City Council member Carl Stokes said in a statement. "It was not uncommon to see him challenge the City's Board of Estimates on what he perceived as disparate treatment of minorities and women even if he had to stand alone. ... He was masterfully witty and exercised temperance and fortitude. He was strategic and often humorous in his presentations."
Born in Baldwin, La., Mr. Jolivet grew up in Houston and was a graduate of Kashmere Gardens High School, where he met his future wife, JoAnn Collins. They were married for 45 years.
He came to Baltimore on a football scholarship to what is now Morgan State University, where he earned an economics degree and was co-captain of the 1965 football team, playing for coach Earl Banks. He and fellow team members defeated Florida A&M in the Orange Blossom Classic at the Orange Bowl in 1965. Mr. Jolivet was later inducted into the Morgan Athletic Hall of Fame. He played alongside his younger brother, Russell W. Jolivet, the team quarterback, who lives in Randallstown.
"The beauty of Mr. Jolivet was that he was unaffected by whether people liked him or not," said state Del. Jill P. Carter, who is an attorney. "He relentlessly pushed for parity for black businesses and for what he said was 'Getting our share.' "
She said Mr. Jolivet's quest for economic parity inspired her.
"He represented the final chapter of the civil rights movement," she said.
In 1993, Mr. Jolivet appeared at the White House when President Bill Clinton announced a program to help small businesses.
"These businesses have been literally trampled by the credit crunch," Mr. Jolivet said in a Baltimore Sun article at the time. "The No. 1 barrier to small-business expansion was the unavailability of funds. The president understands that, understands the psyche of small business — if you have money, you expand, you hire more people."
Attorney Robert F. Dashiell, who hired Mr. Jolivet for the Maryland Minority Contractors directorship, said Mr. Jolivet believed in his role as a minority business advocate.
"We selected him because a guy like Jolivet could provide a level of expertise to our newly formed organization," he said. "Jolly was always positive. And he was able to identify issues that other people didn't see. For example, he challenged government cooperative purchasing practices. He also challenged extending contracts after the contracts had expired.
"He told the truth as he saw it — and a lot of people don't like the truth."
Mr. Jolivet later became the director of the National Association of Minority Contractors. From 2001 until his death, he was head of the American Minority Contractors and Business Association.
He was recently awarded the Minority Advocate Lifetime Achievement Award at a ceremony at Martin's West.
"For decades, he was a tireless champion of the principles of transparency in contracting and the importance of opportunities for minority and women-owned businesses," city Comptroller Joan M. Pratt said in a statement.
He enjoyed reading and playing with his two grandchildren.
Funeral services will be held at 11 a.m. Aug. 6 at Union Baptist Church, 1219 Druid Hill Ave., where he was a member and had recently stepped down as chair of the deacon board.
In addition to his wife, son and brother, survivors include four other brothers, Gerard Jolivet, James Jolivet, Warren Paul Jolivet and Ralph Jolivet, all of Houston; three sisters, Hilda Manning, Geraldine Denison and Sylvia Waller, all of Houston; and two grandchildren.