Milton D. Stewart, a keystone figure in the world of small business advocacy, mentor and supporter of the SBIR program, passed away November 5, 2004 at age 82 after a bout with pneumonia.
Known to many in Washington DC as "Mr. Small Business," Stewart devoted much of his life to championing the causes for small businesses throughout the United States. His work was accomplished at many levels including private sector companies, wall street world of finance, academia, government agencies, as well as Capital Hill to the White House.
President Jimmy Carter appointed Stewart to become the country's first chief advocate for small business in 1978. As SBA's first Chief Counsel for Advocacy, Milton Stewart dedicated himself to making a difference to improve the prospects for small business success. He worked closely with Roland Tibbetts (NSF) to make the SBIR program a reality, and he was known as a mentor extraordinaire.
|Former SBA Chief Counsels, from left; Jere Glover, Tom Kerester, Frank Swain, and Milt Stewart|
Jere W. Glover, who once worked as Stewart's deputy at SBA, went on to become SBA chief counsel for advocacy. When asked about Stewart's role as a mentor, Glover stated "Milt [Stewart] was a wonderful mentor and leader who taught us all what to do and how to do it. He helped to develop a whole generation of small business advocates and worked very carefully to train us on the issues. As for SBIR, Milt explained the significance and importance of why the SBIR program made sense and he went about making sure we were totally indoctrinated as we worked through the years." [Glover now serves as Executive Director of the Small Business Technology Coalition (SBTC) and works for the law firm of Brand and Frulla in Washington DC.]
Ann Eskesen, of the Innovation Development Institute in Swampscott, MA is an SBIR expert, and advocate who was there at the beginning of the SBIR program. When asked about Stewart's significance to the SBIR program she responded with one word, "IMPORTANT!" She went on to say, "Milt was 'important' in the largest respect of the word. He was a visionary who created a credible SBIR community as well as a political structure to allow small businesses to discuss their views and improve the SBIR program."
Milton Stewart was not void of controversy. His strong beliefs and tough attitude spawned many "spirited" debates, but his commitment to small businesses and SBIR were never in question. Several people who were interviewed agreed that Stewart didn't like "whiners." He would tell them that if they wanted something changed they had better role up their sleeves and put in the work and effort to change it. Stewart practiced what he preached.
Milton Stewart's hard work and dedication were well known and appreciated in the U.S. House of Representatives, Senate and White House. His talents and skills were in demand by both sides of the aisle, and he worked for both democratic and republican presidents. During his tenure as the first Chief Counsel for Advocacy, Stewart set the standard for promoting the interests of small business among the Federal agencies, and for collecting information about the nation's entrepreneurs. His honors by the House and Senate included:
- June 25, 1991 - Milton D. Stewart Is A Friend Of Small Business (by Representative Andy Ireland)
- March 5, 2002 - To honor Milton D. Stewart for his years of service in the Office of Advocacy of the Small Business Administration. (by Senators Kerry, Bond, Lieberman, Baucus, Cleland, Bennett, Landrieu, Snowe, Edwards, Crapo, Cantwell, Allen, Ensign, Wellstone, Harkin, and Levin)
- November 19, 2004 - Honoring The Life Of Milton D. Stewart (by Senator John Kerry)
Before Small Business
Milton Stewart's life was not totally centered around small business. In his early professional years he worked tirelessly for civil rights. He was an important part of President Truman's Committee on Civil Rights, and working with Robert Kenneth Carr, executive secretary of the committee, co-authored several important papers. There are examples of Stewart's committee work on the Truman Library web site.
Milton Stewart is survived by his wife of 24 years, Joan Graves Stewart of Phoenix, AZ; two daughters from the first marriage, Ricky Perkins of Lancaster, CA, and Abigail Stewart of Ann Arbor, MI; a son from his first marriage, David Stewart of Garrett Park, MD; eight grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
Timothy Stewart-Winter, a proud grandson of Stewart recently stated in his blog, "I think Grandpa was the most patriotic American I've ever known. He didn't romanticize this country's past or ignore its flaws, but I think he did understand what is really remarkable about it. He thought everyone had a duty to serve, to better society, and in this task, he did much more than his share."