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The profession’s past, present, and future converged recently in a single 90-minute virtual event, and the results were nothing short of inspiring.

The nearly year-long Black CPA Centennial came to a close on Nov. 12 with a celebration of the profession’s first Black CPAs who cleared the path for those to come, today’s leaders who are pushing for a more diverse and inclusive profession, and a new generation of Black CPAs who are building the blueprint for the profession of the future.

The event celebrates the 100th anniversary of John W. Cromwell Jr. becoming the nation’s first Black CPA.

“Being a CPA has allowed me to experience so many amazing things in my career, and I would not have accomplished what I have if not for the trailblazing Black CPAs who came before me,” said Dorri McWhorter, president and CEO of the YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago, who served as master of ceremonies for the event.

New Jersey Society of CPAs CEO Ralph Thomas — the first and only Black CEO of a state CPA society — shared interviews he has conducted this year with five of the profession’s first Black CPAs, who spoke of the world in which they grew up, their struggles and inspirations as they studied to enter the profession, and their career paths as trailblazing Black CPAs. Those interviewed were:

  • Johnnie Clark, CPA, MBA, Ph.D.
  • Ruth Coles Harris, CPA, Ph.D.
  • David Kelly, CPA
  • Lester McKeever Jr., CPA
  • Bert Mitchell, CPA

“We each have a responsibility to address the widening gap” between the number of Black and non-Black CPAs,” McKeever said.

“I’m hoping there will someday be so many more minority CPAs that we won’t be making a distinction between them and other CPAs,” Clark added. “We’ll just be talking about CPAs.”

Also honored during the event were the “40 Under 40 Black CPAs,” a group of new-generation Black leaders who are making their own mark in the profession today. The list includes six Marylanders:

  • Jessica Lewis of Riveron Consulting LLC
  • Jessica McClain of Brand USA
  • Renee Rawlins of KPMG LLP
  • Aaron Slaughter of Withum Smith+Brown PC
  • Nicholas Tatum of Under Armour
  • Jeff Wilson II of The W2 Group LLC

Former Maryland Association of CPAs and American Institute of CPAs Chair Kimberly Ellison-Taylor, who chairs the AICPA’s National Commission on Diversity and Inclusion, issued a call to arms for the 40 honored CPAs: Set an example for the next generation of leaders and clear an even wider path so more Black CPAs can follow in their footsteps.

“You are indeed our next generation of leaders,” she said. “I expect that among you, there are those who will multiple and elevate the messages you heard here today. We must go out and help influence the next generation of leaders, to let them know that our profession has so many possibilities. If not you, then who? If not now, then when? Your assignment is to go out and ensure that we are inspiring the next generation. You can and you will, because we did.”

The Black CPA Centennial is led by a consortium of organizing partners, including the AICPA, the Diverse Organization of Firms, the Illinois CPA Society, the National Association of Black Accountants, and the National Society of Black CPAs.

Learn more about the celebration and make a donation to the Black CPA Centennial Fund by visiting

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