Reginald E. Gilliam, Jr., a trailblazing African-American lobbyist and most recently Sodexo Senior Vice President, Government Affairs, passed away at the age of 67 on March 28, 2012 after succumbing to lymphoma. Mr. Gilliam had a truly remarkable and distinguished career.
Gilliam, a Harlem native, was nominated by President Jimmy Carter to serve as Vice Chairman and Commissioner of the U.S. Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC). He was confirmed by the U.S. Senate in 1980 and sworn into office in an emotional ceremony by his father, an original member of the A. Philip Randolph’s Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters and longtime employee of the railroad industry regulated by the ICC. As Commissioner and Vice Chairman, Mr. Gilliam aggressively promoted the inclusion of minorities throughout the transportation industry.
For the past ten years, Mr. Gilliam served as Senior Vice President, Government Affairs for Sodexo, Inc. in Gaithersburg, Md. Mr. Gilliam established Sodexo’s Government Affairs department in 2002. Sodexo is a leading food, facilities and energy management company with more than 125,000 employees in North America.
In October 1967, Mr. Gilliam was one of the founders of the Harvard Black Law Student Association and served as its first Chairman. A native of New York City’s Harlem, he earned his undergraduate degree at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, a historically black college. After graduating from Harvard Law School he served as professor and administrator at the State University of New York and Williams College in Massachusetts. In 1975, he accepted an appointment as Legislative Counsel to freshman Democratic Senator, John Glenn of Ohio. As one of the first African-Americans to achieve senior staff status in the U.S. Senate, Mr. Gilliam distinguished himself by developing significant legislative initiatives in education, economic development and urban arson, all of which were enacted into law.
Following his term as commissioner and another brief stint in academics (at George Washington University where he completed his second and third books), Mr. Gilliam served for three years in the sub-cabinet of New York Governor Mario Cuomo as his chief official in charge of surface transportation. He then returned to Washington to become Chief of Staff to Rep. Louis Stokes, the Dean of Ohio’s Congressional delegation and senior member of the Congressional Black Caucus.
In 1992, he became Senior Managing Director at Hill and Knowlton Worldwide Public Affairs in Washington, D.C. He represented a broad range of clients including the Republic of Botswana, the City of Cleveland and many private sector corporations on matters of legislative and regulatory policy.
While in law school, he worked on the legal defense for Harlem Congressman Adam Clayton Powell, served as Voting Rights Act poll watcher in the South, served on neighborhood safety patrols in Harlem and wrote as his final thesis a legal defense of the Newark riots. Throughout his career he has served as an advocate and activist for young African-Americans seeking opportunity in the public and private sectors. He has developed internships in the public and private sectors and is especially known for his willingness to mentor and advise young people.
Mr. Gilliam also served on the Board of Trustees for several colleges and universities including Williams College, Lincoln University and the University of the District of Columbia. In 1998 he received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Harvard Black Law Association. The Washington Government Relations Group (the oldest organization for African-American government relations professionals) in 2011 presented him with the President’s Award for Leadership & Excellence.
In his personal time, Mr. Gilliam was also an avid hiker and woodsman. He is recorded as being one of a small band of people to have climbed each of the 46 high peaks of the Adirondack Mountains in New York.
Mr. Gilliam is survived by his loving wife of 42 years, Arleen.