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First Black Partner in Big 8 Firm Remembered

Elmer J. Whiting Jr., the first Black partner of a Big Eight accounting firm, is the latest subject of a profile by the Black CPA Centennial. Whiting became a partner in the former Ernst & Ernst when it merged in his practice in 1971.


Whiting, whose accomplishment came 50 years after the first Black CPA was licensed, was the first Black CPA in Ohio and the Twenty-fifth Black CPA in the United States.

Graduating from Howard University in the 1940s, he received an MBA from Case Western University and a law degree from Cleveland-Marshall College of Law. Like other black candidates, he found it extremely difficult to get work experience because white-owned firms believed their clients would not work with a black staff

He received his license in 1950 by successfully petitioning to have bookkeeping work counted as valid experience. After his Cleveland, Ohio, was running, he provided experience for the next five black CPAs in Ohio, including his brother.

Whiting, who died in 1985, also served on a city finance committee under Cleveland mayor Carl Stokes, the first black mayor of a major American city.

Whiting is also credit with help the black community become more acquainted with the accounting profession. Samuel Johnson, CPA, EY Americas vice chair–accounts, noted, “While those in underserved communities may have been familiar with doctors, lawyers, and teachers, they may not have known about the opportunities in the accounting profession if prominent leaders like Whiting had not made a name for themselves on a national stage”

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