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William I. Gaiter

He was born in Anniston, AL. He was accomplished in the area of Community. He later died on 4-20-1997.
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William (Bill) L. Gaiter is the son of the late Eula and Julius Curry, and the late Julius Gaiter. He was born in Anniston, Alabama. The history of Bill Gaiter is the history of the Buffalo Afro American community. It is as if he was born to be a part of the leadership that directed this community through some of its most trying times.

Consider that he became president of B.U.I.L.D. (Build Unity, Independence, Liberty and Dignity) on the day that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in 1966. Those were some very dark and pressured days. Anyone in a leadership position in the African American community at that time had to walk a very fine line between the anger and the frustration the community felt and the reality that violence would not solve the American problem of racism. During that tragic day and the following weeks, cities all across the United States went up in flames.

During the time he was President of B.U.I.L.D., changes were sweeping through the Black community and B.U.I.L.D. was the catalyst of that change. Under Gaiter's leadership B.U.I.L.D. confronted, demonstrated, picketed, and fought for a better community on all fronts. City Hall, the School Board, and the Police Headquarters all targets of change for the organization. Bill said "We are not going to get anything from City Hall or Albany or Washington unless we fight." Out of that struggle came a variety of accomplishments that still is part of the Buffalo's East Side community. B.U.I.L.D. Academy and the Juneteenth Festival represent a continuing legacy of Gaiter and B.U.I.L.D.'s efforts of the late sixties.

It is hard to imagine Buffalo within the yearly Juneteenth Festival. The festival has evolved into one of the premier summer events for all of Buffalo. If it wasn't for Bill and other dedicated African American community leaders, this event would have never happened.

Hundreds of minority construction workers owe a debt of gratitude to the struggle of B.U.I.L.D. and other construction organizations that Gaiter helped to create or worked with to make sure that minority construction workers go their fair share of the work.

He struggled from the initial efforts to get minority workers hired at the University of Buffalo in 1968 to getting those jobs and obtaining construction contracts for minorities at the recent construction of Roswell Cancer Institute in 1996. Bill was in the middle of the struggle.

When famine spread over Ethiopia and the local television showed starving Ethiopian babies, he organized a fundraising effort to bring some relief to the victims of one of the world's worst disasters.

Other organizations that he built or was affiliated with include the Buffalo Affirmative Action Program (BAAP) which was responsible for recruiting, training and unionizing minorities into the construction industry in Buffalo and vicinity. Bill developed a Behavior Counseling Program for high school students who were at risk of dropping out of school. Through WNY Council for African Relief (WYNCAR), he was the driving force that led to the adoption of the Malika Village in Senegal, West Africa and to the raising of over $75,000 to aid Malika and other African countries as well as the development of a student Exchange Program that helped over 500 American students visit and study the Senegalese culture. He served as President of The Institute for People Enterprises (IPE) which he organized in 1978. In 1984 he organized and chaired the Western New York Council for African Relations. He was also the Affirmative Action/EEO Officer for the Roswell Cancer Institute Re-modernization Project.

Bill was the recipient of numerous awards including the Buffalo Challenger Buffalo Citizen Award; Phyllis Wheatley Club, Certificate of Appreciation; Black Educators Association, Community Service Award; Buffalo Urban League, Evans-Young Humanitarian Award and many others. Mr. Gaiter served in many capacities to serve the community. Some of these positions include: Erie County Crisis Center, Board of Directors; City of Buffalo Manpower Planning Advisory Council; Cora P. Maloney, College Advisory Board; St. Augustine's; Board of Directors; Sheehan Memorial Hospital, Board of Directors; Founding Board Member, Architectural and Environmental Planning Traineeship Program at SUNY-Buffalo; and others.

Besides being a community activist, Bill Gaiter was also a political strategist and organized. He was the Field Operations Coordinator in 1977 when Deputy Speaker Arthur O. Eve ran for Mayor of Buffalo. He coordinated a massive Voter Registration Campaign which registered a record 10,000 new voters. The Democratic primary turnout for that historic election was a startling 81%. That was the highest turnout in the history of the Northeast. He also put forth the same effort for Wilbur Trammel and George K. Arthur when they ran for Mayor.

Ever giving of himself, Gaiter passed on his wisdom and experience to the next generation through his work as an Instructor at the Cora P. Maloney College at the State University of New York in Buffalo. He taught a course on Social and Political Organizing.

Finally, in later life, a man's value can be judged by how is old adversaries view him, whether they still are ready to still contest him or if they have found what the man has fought for proved to be right. In Bill Gaiter's case, his adversaries learned that what he stood for was correct and what he struggled for was righteous. This was obvious by the many awards he received over the years, such as the Buffalo News "Man of the Year" Award.