For the past 25 years, native St. Louisan James H. Buford, has served as president and chief executive officer of the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis, Inc., a human service non-profit organization governed by an interracial board of directors and administered by an interracial staff. During his tenure, the agencyâ€™s budget has grown from $2.5 million to $18 million. The Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis, Inc. is a 501(c) 3 organization that has been providing social services to the metropolitan St. Louis community since 1918. The Urban League is one of the largest affiliates of more than 103 affiliates of the National Urban League, headquartered in New York City. Our mission is â€œto assist African Americans and others throughout the region in securing economic self-reliance, social equality and civil rights. The Urban League implements its mission through advocacy, coalition building, program services, and by promoting communication and understanding among different races and cultures.â€ Each year, the Urban League serves more than 50,000 residents with economic empowerment, education quality and equality, meeting basic needs, civic engagement and social justice programs. As an advocate for social and economic parity, Mr. Buford speaks on behalf of Urban League constituents.
Mr. Buford and the League are also widely known in the St. Louis area to stand up and be a voice for issues affecting African Americans in the community. In 1999, he was arrested for leading a protest on Highway 70 that lead to African Americans being awarded jobs and contracting opportunities in the construction trades. Mr. Buford also led a rally protesting the United Statesâ€™ Haitian repatriation policy in front of St. Maryâ€™s Hospital in East St. Louis. Currently, he writes a monthly advocacy column for the St. Louis American, the communityâ€™s leading black newspaper, raising issues of importance to the African American community. His column has often been reported on and responded to by the mainstream media and influential government leaders. Today, Buford is called upon by local and national media for his thoughts and ideas on issues that affect African Americans.
In 2004, the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis, Inc. attained a 5-point rating from the National Urban League in its Affiliate Assessment Review. Five is the highest attainable rating to be given in this review and the St. Louis Urban League is the only affiliate to receive this rating. During his visit to St. Louis, National Urban League CEO Marc Morial called the St. Louis Urban League â€œone of the strongest, largest models. This is where affiliates want to go. This affiliate serves St. Louis City, St. Louis County and St. Clair County, Illinois. This is what we want from our affiliates, to serve regions and the economies of scale.â€ In an effort to showcase the Leagueâ€™s programming, the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis became the first affiliate to host a National Urban League Board of Trustees meeting.
The visibility of the League has been greatly increased under the administration of James Buford. He serves on many boards that enable the League to be included in the early stages of decision-making policies affecting African Americans and others. Mr. Bufordâ€™s service on these boards is an excellent vehicle by which he can spread the message of diversity and racial equality to corporations. In order for the Urban League to maintain its financial stability and its mission, Mr. Buford had to aggressively seek a wider corporate audience. The same Urban League that helped opened doors for potential black employees are now creating opportunities for black executives. In 2008, the Urban League formed a partnership with the Regional Business Council, a business collaborative consisting of 100 CEOs of mid-cap companies in the St. Louis area. Together, they have launched the Young Leaders Network sponsoring dozens of young minority professionals from area companies to join the Urban League Young Professionals of Metropolitan St. Louis. This event serves as a part of the RBCâ€™s Business Diversity Initiative, which works to increase workforce diversity throughout the region.
In 2008, Mr. Buford was appointed to serve on the Missouri Commission for Human Rights. The basic powers and duties of the MCHR are to prevent (through education and outreach) and eliminate (through enforcement) discrimination. The MCHR is authorized to investigate complaints in employment, public accommodations and housing and only if the reason for the alleged discrimination is on account of that person's protected status of race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, sex, disability, age (40 - 69) (in employment only) and familial status-families with children under the age of 18 (in housing only).
As an individual who is committed to community improvement, Mr. Buford dedicates his time to serve on more than 20 boards and commissions, including the Executive Board of the St. Louis Council of the Boy Scouts of America and the Executive Committee of the Board of Downtown St. Louis Partnership; he is past chairman and member of the Grand Center Arts District Board. In addition, Buford serves on the respective boards of St. Louis Public Schools, Fair St. Louis, Forest Park Hospital, St. Louis Science Center, Chancellorâ€™s Council of the University of Missouri-St. Louis, St. Louis Symphony, St. Louis Municipal Opera and U.S. Bank. He also serves as chairman of the St. Louis Community College Building Corporation, St. Louis ConnectCare Health System Board, and chair-emeritus of the Harris Stowe State College Board.
Mr. Bufordâ€™s efforts to improve education and equality have not been limited to the St. Louis area. In 1985, former President Ronald Reagan appointed him to the National Advisory Council for Vocational Education, and in 1989, former President Bush appointed him to the Presidential Personnel-Advisory Committee and to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Citizens Advisory Committee for Equal Opportunity in 1990.
On the state level, former Missouri Governor Mel Carnahan appointed Mr. Buford as secretary of the St. Louis County Board of Elections in 1993, and as a commissioner of the St. Louis Regional Convention and Sports Complex Authority in 1995; former Gov. Holden reappointed Mr. Buford to the Authority in 2001.
Mr. Buford holds a B.A. in Human Services Administration from Elizabethtown College, Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania. He has received numerous awards and honors including five Doctorate of Humane Letters degrees from Harris-Stowe State College, University of Missouri-St. Louis, Webster University, Eden Theological Seminary and Fontbonne University. Mr. Buford is married and lives in St. Louis with his wife, Susan. He has two sons, James Jr. and Jason.