1913 – 2005
One of Kansas City’s best-known Black businessmen, G. Lawrence Blankinship Sr. was born in Lake Charles, Louisiana, in 1913 and moved to Kansas City as a teenager. A graduate of Lincoln High School, he learned the pharmacy profession, managed the Crown Drug store at 18th and Vine, and in 1947 started his own business. The company became Blankinship Distributors Inc., a wholesale beauty products supplier ranked by Black Enterprise magazine as one of the nation’s top 100 Black businesses in the 1980s.
Blankinship Distributors supplied hundreds of sales outlets, mainly drugstores, with hair care and cosmetic products developed for a burgeoning, often overlooked African American market. Blankinship’s national reputation as a successful entrepreneur complemented his renown as a tireless community leader and advocate for Black economic development. With Bruce Watkins, whom he succeeded, he was among the first African Americans on the Kansas City Council. Blankinship also served on numerous influential boards, including the Douglass State Bank and the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce, and was founding chairman of the Black Economic Union. Described as a soft-spoken leader, his even-handed style helped to bridge the racial divide during the city’s troubled 1960s. He died in 2005 at the age of 92.