The city of Overland Park, Kansas lost an icon this summer when 98-year-old Inez Kaiser passed away after losing her battle with kidney disease. Kaiser, who was born Inez Louise Yeargan on April 22, 1918, is on record with the Public Relations Society of America as the first African-American woman to own a public relations company with a national clientele.
The former home economics teacher left teaching in her early 40’s to pursue a career as a fashion writer and public relations executive. Some of her larger clients included Sears, Roebuck & Co. and Seven-Up Co. In the 1970’s, Kaiser also worked with the federal government as an advisor on minority-owned businesses.
Kaiser, who had been interviewed by the Kansas City Star in 2014, said that things didn’t always go smoothly for her as she grew her public relations business. In the early 1960’s, she came against opposition when trying to find office space in downtown Kansas City, Missouri. She was told over and over that there wasn’t any available office space. Instead of looking elsewhere, Kaiser went to the rental agents and gave them an ultimatum. She threatened the head of the realty agency that she would contact the three major news networks and advise them of what was happening. Soon after, she had her office space.
This isn’t the first time Kaiser stood up to opposition. While attending Kansas State Teachers College in the 1930’s, Kaiser had a teacher who didn’t want any black students in her classroom. “I told her I wasn’t going anywhere…and I stayed right there and got my degree,” she said.
Kaiser is survived by a son, three grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. In his eulogy to his mother, her son, Rick, spoke of his mother’s belief in doing something, not just saying it. “So I am asking if all of you will do something. The next time you go to your place of worship, ask someone to go with you that doesn’t look like you,” he encouraged.