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CHICAGO-When Dempsey J. Travis takes a mental tour of the executive suites of the market’s real estate brokerage operations, he can see only one African-American. “We’re not part of the good ol’ boys network,” says Travis, himself African-American.

A licensed broker since 1949, Travis also is president of a real estate company, but it’s the self-made millionaire’s own Travis Realty Co. at 840 E. 87th St. in the Chatham neighborhood, a 30,000-sf building he developed.

“I would that it’d be different,” Travis says. He concedes there may be one or two more who may have entered the executive suites while he wasn’t looking, but the numbers suggest otherwise. “There’s a dearth of minority brokers, period.”

Travis, whose seven published books includes “Racism: American Style A Corporate Gift,” and “I Refuse to Learn to Fail,” laments that not much has changed since W.E.B. DuBois wrote about racial lines in 1900. “Personally, I don’t have any complaints. But I’m concerned about my brothers,” says Travis, who has blazed trails few have followed.

Besides being the first African-American member of the FNMA board of directors, Travis also was the first black member of the Mortgage Brokers Association of America. Joining the latter group, he recalls, was an ordeal as it took six months for him to pass a background check. “It took President Johnson to get it started,” Travis recalls.

President of the NAACP Chicago from 1959 to 1960, Travis also participated in Lyndon B. Johnson’s 1966 civil rights meetings.

Since then, he often finds himself the only minority member of similar boards, or perhaps, one of two.

Like Travis, Elzie L. Higginbottom, a broker since 1965, has risen to the top of a real estate company only after building it himself. He runs East Lake Management & Development, which is currently working on redevelopments of Chicago Housing Authority projects.

“We’re not looking for jobs, though,” Travis points out.

Travis is not entirely pessimistic about the future. “I think things are changing. But if you’re looking at the speedometer, are we going 2 miles per hour, or 50 miles per hour? I don’t know.”

Travis agrees the Hispanic population also is under-represented in real estate’s top ranks in the Chicago market.

Travis’ projects also have included a 30,000-sf bank building at 7901 S. Stony Island, a 430-unit multifamily rental complex at 3550 S. Cottage Grove and 640-unit apartment complex at 6600 S. King Dr.

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