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In his 2002 memoir “My Losing Season,” the late Pat Conroy self-effacingly mused, “I was born to be a point guard, just not a very good one.” Carl Ware, retired Coca-Cola Co. executive and founder of the Coca-Cola Foundation, was once a point guard, too, on his high school basketball team. And, like Conroy, Ware learned to excel at the point guard’s primary role, setting up others for their successes.

Ware’s recently published memoir, “Portrait of an American Businessman,” chronicles lifelong commitment to education and service, and his inspirational rise from young sharecropper in the cotton fields of Jim Crow-era Coweta County, Ga., to the highest ranking African American on Coca-Cola’s leadership team and the “daring diplomat” of the company’s anti-apartheid policies and practices in South Africa.

Ware was the first American businessman to meet with a newly freed Nelson Mandela in 1990, and he counts Archbishop Desmond Tutu (who provides the memoir’s foreword) among his friends and mentors — a catalog of connections that also includes Warren Buffett and the late Coca-Cola president and philanthropist Robert W. Woodruff.

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Jonathan Haupt, Special to the Post and Courier and executive director of the Pat Conroy Literary Center and coeditor with Nicole Seitz of “Our Prince of Scribes: Writers Remember Pat Conroy” (1/17/2020)

I just finished Mr. Carl Ware’s book. Simply outstanding! I read about 8-10 books per year but this is one that I could not put down. Mr. Ware is where it all started for me. Growing up in Chattanooga, Coca-Cola was a way of life and to this day, that’s all I know. But one day, on my grandfather’s table was an Ebony Magazine that showed me another Coca-Cola. He showed me the company. It was that day that I first read about Carl Ware and from then on I was doing everything I could (with no internet) to find out more about this black man who was an executive at such a wonderful company.

I’ve read almost everything there is on him that’s available so needless to say this book was a special read for me. I’m truly thankful for his story, his example, and that of those who’ve paved the way for people like me to be here.

I commend you for the legacy you’ve led with the Coca-Cola Foundation and it was great to hear the role he played in its very beginning. As the executive corridors of corporate America continue to seem scarce of minority representation, stories
like this are critically important to the next generation of leaders.

Jamael Hester, Director
Franchise Leadership – Commercial Strategy & Segmentation

The Coca-Cola Company

Portrait of an American Businessman is Carl Ware’s account of his life’s journey to the position of highest-ranking African American executive at the Coca-Cola Company, his role in that company’s disinvestment from apartheid South Africa, and his international corporate leadership in the following years.

The book is also a much broader discussion of background political events in the United States, Georgia, and abroad. Nearly a quarter of the book is dedicated to Ware’s early years, including stories about his grandparents, parents, siblings, and his own childhood growing up in Georgia under oppressive Jim Crow laws. Through very specific anecdotes, Ware tells a transgenerational story that emphasizes hard work and perseverance, a strong family that builds upon each generation’s successes, an unwavering belief in God, and a life of humility and gratitude. By his own admission, however, the most difficult part of his journey was the writing of this book, which began in 2003, sixteen years prior to its publication.

Ware tells of his early days—when he and siblings worked beside their sharecropping parents—through his time as a community activist, politician, businessman, board member, and, ultimately, philanthropist. Portrait of an American Businessman is a detailed account of Ware’s life and the events and circumstances that shaped his thinking, commitments, education, and life path.

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Susan Clay, Map and Government Documents Original Cataloger at the University of Georgia (1/1/2020) Georgia Library Quarterly, 57(1)