My dad, S. Henry Bundles, Jr., died a few days ago on March 26.
Since then I’ve had a few tears, of course, but at the moment I am feeling more grateful than sad because he lived 92 very beautiful and productive years.
He was president of the Center for Leadership Development in Indianapolis from 1977 to 2000, a community leader, an institution builder and a fantastic father.
My brothers, Lance and Mark, and I are so fortunate to have had his love and guidance for so many decades. “He was a good father and a good man, who loved his children unconditionally,” Lance reminded me as we began to process our loss.
I called him every Sunday morning at precisely 11:30 a.m. I knew he was waiting by the phone and I knew he would say, “Hello to the world’s greatest daughter!”
I truly will miss that cheerful greeting.
Daddy was born on February 15, 1927 in Indianapolis, the seventh of Mary Ellis Davis and S. Henry Bundles, Sr.’s nine children. He graduated from Crispus Attucks High School in 1943 when he was 16 years old. A 1948 graduate of Indiana University, he is believed to be the first black student to earn a degree from IU’s School of Journalism. It was a sign of the times that despite this degree and his experience as a photographer and reporter during his stint in the Navy during World War II no Indianapolis daily newspapers would hire him in an editorial position because he was black. Undeterred, he became a circulation manager and learned the business side of journalism while mentoring and managing the young Attucks students who delivered papers.
He and my late mother, A’Lelia Mae Perry Bundles, married in June 1950. A few years later, he became sales and advertising manager for the Madam C. J. Walker Manufacturing Company, the firm founded by her great-grandmother. He was so successful at sales and business development that he was hired away as president and CEO of Summit Laboratories, an international hair care company, that he led to regular rankings on the Black Enterprise 100.
After my mother died in 1976, Daddy helped launch CLD, an organization designed to prepare youth of color to become professional, business and community leaders. When he retired in 2000, he and his team had mentored more than 5,000 Central Indiana students including more than 80% who went on to college. When he was honored at CLD’s fortieth anniversary celebration in 2017, the organization had grown to serve more than 2,000 students each year. It is a testament to the institution he helped build that CLD recently awarded more than $5 million in scholarships at its annual Minority Achievers Awards and Scholarship Gala.
Three generations of CLD alumni hold leadership positions throughout the world in medicine, law, education, finance, media, ministry and other professions. They all remember the mantra Daddy quoted at the beginning of every session: “In Time. On Time. Every Time. Except when ahead of time, and that’s better time.”
It no longer surprises me when I’m making a speech and someone in the audience comes up to let me know that they’re a graduate of CLD. In fact, last week at Voorhees College in Denmark, South Carolina, Gwynth R. Nelson, the school’s Vice President for Institutional Advancement and Development, introduced herself as a proud CLD alumna.
Daddy was a long-time community leader who broke barriers on many boards and organizations as a director of the Indianapolis Convention and Visitors Association, a founding director of Midwest National Bank and chairman of the Indianapolis Business Development Foundation. But I think what he enjoyed most was being an Indianapolis 500 Festival director because a perk of the position was getting to drive one of the 33 limited edition convertible pace cars.
He was a life member of Kappa Alpha Psi, having joined the Alpha Chapter while a student at IU. After he and his wife, Helen Baker Bundles, moved to Sarasota, Florida in the early 2000s, he became active with the local chapter and was recognized as one of the fraternity’s oldest living members.
He remained devoted to his alma mater, joining other graduates as a co-founder of the Neal-Marshal Alumni Club that was created in 1980 to increase African American alumni participation.
This afternoon all I could do was smile as I looked through photographs from Daddy’s 65th birthday party in 1992. He was surrounded by family, friends and business colleagues. My friend John Gentry, a professional photographer, captured the evening perfectly. And my friend, Tony Artis, provided the music.
Of course we ordered a fancy cake and served lots of champagne. But the highlight of the evening was surprising Daddy with a huge platter of red jello with his childhood nickname – “Junebug” — written in whipped cream.
Long ago he’d told me that his family was so poor during the Depression that they couldn’t afford a birthday cake. Instead his mother made a bowl of red jello for her “Junebug” during one of the toughest years.
It was a testament to how far my dad had come and to how much he had helped others realize their dreams. He lived his life as a servant leader. I hope his legacy will be one of inspiring others to do the same.
If you are so inclined, we’d welcome contributions in memory of S. Henry Bundles, Jr. to the Center for Leadership Development (www.cldinc.org/donate/)at 2425 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Street, Indianapolis, IN 46208 and to the Neal-Marshall Cultural Center, Indiana University Foundation, PO Box 6460, Indianapolis, IN 46206-6460).