By Karen Stokes
Carl Alexander Gee, community activist and former CEO of Opportunities Industrialization Center of Greater Milwaukee (OIC) died on September 13, after a long battle with leukemia. He was 77.
Born March 11, 1941, he married and divorced twice, and had four daughters and a son: Debra Schafer, Cynthia Gee-Silvia, Carla Wendelberger, Linda Gee-Synor and Carl Gregory Gee.
A Milwaukee native, Gee attended Pius XI High School and was an all-star athlete in basketball, football and track with records that are still in the books to this day. Gee graduated from University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee with a degree in Education.
“He was always proud of my mother’s education, my mother has a PhD,” said Carl. “He was proud that I’m an attorney and [that] all my sisters have college degrees.”
Gee, worked at OIC for 35 years and resigned in 2004, where he first worked as a drafting instructor, then deputy director and finally was promoted to CEO.
He served as a passionate advocate where he was fully committed to job placement in the Black community. The OIC mantra was “Helping people help themselves.” The agency helped people develop skills to get jobs in the community.
He was well-connected with politicians and community leaders and he worked to ensure that OIC, a Black ran non-profit, was receiving money to help the inner city.
“There are many people who I and my son [have] encountered who tell us about how their careers were launched by Carl A. Gee,” ex-wife, Michelle Gee said.
Gee also worked with sociologists for research studies to identify discriminatory practices concerning employment in Milwaukee. One finding was the disparity between white men and Black men, specifically between men with college degrees, and how the white man was consistently getting the job over the Black man. The study showed also showed that Black men with convictions found it impossible to find employment. This information led OIC to begin working with probation centers.
OIC became the largest employer for people of color in Wisconsin. The agency not only helped Black people get jobs, but the organization also hired Black people. At one time, OIC had over 400 employees.
Driven to make the community better, Gee was active with many organizations. Gee was on the boards of Milwaukee World Festivals, Inc., Inner City Redevelopment Corporation (ICRC), North Milwaukee State Bank and the Board of Regents at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee(UWM).
Gee was involved in various protests. Michelle recalls one protest march they did together when they were still married—’Work not Welfare’ protest for jobs downtown in front of the Pfister Hotel.
When asked to describe Gee’s personality in a few words, Michelle said, “He was a strong man who had deep convictions and was passionate about helping the community and empowering Black people. He was a very strong committed father to my son.”
His son Carl said, “He’s a straight shooter, blunt, fiercely loyal, honest and a man of integrity who loved sports. He’s an athlete and could talk to you about basketball, football and baseball. He was very close to his family and his community.”
Visitation will be Tuesday, September 25 at Krause Funeral Home 9000 W. Capitol Dr. from 1 p.m. to 3:45 p.m. A Memorial Service follows at 4 p.m.