Official History of
The Thursday Luncheon Group
Prepared by the Founders
Early in 1973, William B. Davis was named USIA Deputy Assistant Director for Exhibits and Roburt Andre Dumas was appointed Chief of Foreign Service Personnel. They were the first Black officers to hold these two crucial, senior management positions in USIA. The two close friends of long standing discussed their appointments and all of the ramifications involved, including ways of helping other Black Foreign Service Officers. In the course of their discussions, they agreed that much more could be accomplished if issues were raised by an outside force; then, each in his official capacity would respond in a positive way.
It was a logical progression to conclude that the very same strategy would work across the board, if there was a group in USIA that could raise the appropriate issues. But why limit this to USIA? Why not create a structure to serve as an appropriate pressure group for all the foreign affairs agencies, and provide at the same time a mechanism to guide young Black officers as they pursued their careers? Davis and Dumas also noted that they were in the unique position of having a number of personal friends in the other foreign affairs agencies. Generally, at that time, there was little contact among Blacks within the overall Foreign Service.
The two contacted friends in AID, State, and USIA about meeting to discuss the concept. It was also decided that the Foreign Service Club would provide the best setting. The most convenient date for booking the club and fitting invitees' schedules fell on a Thursday.
About sixteen people showed up at the luncheon, held on the second floor of the Foreign Service Club in an open area at the top of the stairs, the most visible spot in the entire place. White Foreign Service Officers who came into the club and saw this large group of Black officers together were shocked and reacted visibly. The Black officers were amused by this reaction, because no one found it unusual for a group of white employees getting together for lunch. Three White officers could not contain their curiosity and inquired about the occasion that brought the group of Blacks together for lunch. One White USIA officer approached Davis and Dumas and asked jokingly, if "a conspiracy was taking place." An appropriate response was given, also "jokingly!"
Davis and Dumas explained the purpose and concept, they inquired if the group would be interested in meeting for lunch on a regular basis. Among those present at the first meeting were: Jim Parker, Bob Bostick, Howard Robinson, and John Witty. They agreed to hold regular meetings to determine methods through which the group could help Blacks in their Foreign Service careers. Davis proposed that a small ad hoc group meet to discuss ideas relating to strategy and submit suggestions to the entire body at the next luncheon. John Twitty's offer of his apartment as a meeting site was accepted. It was also decided to contact as many other Black Foreign Service Officers as possible. Foreign Service giants, O. Rudolph Aggrey, Elsie Austin, W. Beverly Carter, and Barbara Watson immediately responded with enthusiasm.
The strategy meeting was held at John Twitity's apartment and it was agreed that the group would meet the first Thursday in each month. Davis was to establish a membership roster, and notify members of meetings. He was also to search for another luncheon location, because of the reaction generated at the Foreign Service Club.
The group still had no name. The general consensus was to keep everything low key. Since plans were to meet on the first Thursday of each month, Davis suggested that it simply be referred to as the THURSDAY LUNCHEON GROUP. In his notices, Davis said little more than "TLG", mentioning time and location for the meeting, but no date. This cryptic note disturbed many secretaries who tried their utmost to determine the meaning of "TLG." Black officers enjoyed preserving their little "in" secret.
After a number of informal meetings, it became obvious that it would be necessary to elect a slate of officers. Davis and Dumas agreed between themselves, that they would never run for any office in the TLG as long as they were in the Foreign Service. They did not want anyone to think that they had founded the organization simply to promote themselves. They kept their word and neither Davis nor Dumas held, or was a candidate for any elected TLG office while serving in the Foreign Service.
This example was followed by the TLG during the transition period to the Carter Administration. A TLG committee met with the team headed by Ambassador Donald McHenry and made recommendations for senior Black assignments. No committee member's name was submitted in an effort to maintain credibility and integrity. Ambassador Ed Perkins was an active member of that committee.
The TLG met regularly at Chez Brown Restaurant on 13th Street, N.W. As attendance grew, arrangements were made through Barbara Watson to move the meeting site to the International Club at 18th and K Streets, N.W., where she was a member.
The Thursday Luncheon Group discussed issues affecting the careers of Black officers. Guest speakers were invited from time to time to address the body. Since one of the major purposes for creating the TLG was to help younger officers, plans were devised to directly assist newly recruited Black Foreign Service Officers. Efforts were made to promote effective networking among Blacks in the Department of State, USIA, and AID. Unfortunately, some Blacks in responsible positions were less than helpful. It was decided to attempt to work with each, and then to work around those who were more of a hindrance than help. A TLG dream was that somehow, someday, all of the Black officers would be enlisted.
The TLG made mistakes, but nevertheless continued to grow, and finally became recognized and respected by the highest levels of management in the Foreign Service. The Secretary of State and the Director of USIA are among the officials who have met with TLG leadership to discuss the needs and status of Blacks in the Foreign Service.
Membership was expanded to include representatives from: Treasury Department, Peace Corps, Departments of Agriculture and Commerce. It was also decided to open the membership to non-Black individuals who were interested in promoting TLG goals and objectives. TLG also decided to become aligned with specific issues affecting minorities in general.
Accomplishments of the TLG have been many. One of the earliest was convincing the Department of State to elevate the head of the EEO office to the Deputy Assistant Secretary level. Another was to be included among the groups requested to testify at the Congressional Hearings on Reform in the Foreign Service. Indeed, the idea that was conceived by Davis and Dumas was definitely one whose time had come. When the two were reassigned abroad, they left content and confident that TLG was not only alive and well, but would continue to grow and make positive contributions toward the goal of full and complete utilization of the talents of Black officers within the Foreign Service.
WE CERTIFY THIS TO BE THE TRUE AND ACCURATE ACCOUNT OF THE FOUNDING OF THE THURSDAY LUNCHEON GROUP.
Home | About TLG | Join Us | Contact Us | Related Links
© Copyright 2007-2014, TLG. All rights reserved. Problems with this site?