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'He inspired and encouraged young people' | Former presidential advisor, UNT regent dies at 90

"He was devoted to his family and friends and was always willing to help those who were willing to work hard," Texas State Senator Royce West said.
Credit: University of North Texas (UNT)

The Texas Senate adjourned early Friday in remembrance of native Texan Joe Kirven, who passed away earlier this week.

Kirven, 90, spent his life making an impact in North Texas through his work in business, education and politics.

Texas state Sen. Royce West spoke Friday morning on the Senate floor, talking about Kirven's life and requesting to adjourn until Monday morning in his honor.

"His life and legacy will be remembered by those who directly and indirectly benefitted from his efforts as a coalition builder and trailblazing entrepreneur who crossed political lines for the betterment of Texas," West said.

After West finished speaking, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick added that Kirven was "a great American and a great Texas story."

RELATED: 'He was a remarkable mentor': Long-time Texas Woman's University regent dies Thursday

Kirven attended Dallas public schools and earned a bachelor of science degree from Wiley College in Marshall. 

After graduating, Kirven worked in the cleaning and maintenance business with a friend. He then bought the company and turned it into a business that made millions of dollars a year while also starting a second business in commercial real estate investment.

"Clearly, Kirven was a driven, ambitious man," West said.

From 1969 to 1974, Kirven served as a trustee on the Hockaday School Board for the Hockaday School in Dallas, becoming the first Black person to serve on the board.

He was also a member of the Dallas Independent School District Board in 1970 and 1971, when Dallas schools began integrating.

"Joe Kirven brought unprecedented access to the minority communities with his historic responsibilities never given to an African-American in Texas," West said.

Credit: The Texas Senate
Texas State Senator Royce West speaks to the Senate floor about Joe Kirven Friday morning.

President Richard Nixon named Kirven to the Office of Minority Business Enterprise in 1970. 

Kirven was also invited to participate in a presidential conference for small businesses by President Jimmy Carter.

West said Kirven was able to be a "voice of Black constituencies in the entire state of Texas" through his work with these presidents.

"He was devoted to his family and friends and was always willing to help those who were willing to work hard," West said.

Credit: courtesy of University of North Texas (UNT)
Joe Kirven (bottom right) appears in a 1989 edition of The North Texan as he is among the four new members of the Board of Regents at the University of North Texas.

Kirven served on the Board of Regents at the University of North Texas from 1989 to 2000. 

During this time, Kirven helped establish the Blue Ribbon Committee at UNT in 1995 in order to help the Black Student Alliance in their requests for change on campus.

He also helped with the establishment of the Multicultural Center as well as the Office of Equity and Diversity.

"He inspired and encouraged young people to be the best that they could be," West said.

Kirven was recognized as an outstanding businessman by Ebony Magazine in 1972, one of the five Most Outstanding Young Texans by the Texas Junior Chamber of Commerce in 1968.

Kirven also served as president of the Black Chamber of Commerce along with several other organizations while providing more than $200,000 to Black businesses in Dallas through his nonprofit.