At the memorial service Wednesday for Raymond V. Haysbert Sr., Kweisi Mfume recalled the frank advice handed to him by the respected statesman of the African-American business and political community.
"He said come to the house and led me into the sunroom," the former congressman said of a 1978 meeting. "He told me, 'Young man, if you want to get elected, lose all that jewelry, cut your hair and never wear a pink suit.' "
Mr. Mfume was one of those Mr. Haysbert counseled, coached and occasionally supported financially during his lengthy career that mixed business with politics.
"He also told me, 'Never forget, if you win the rat race, you are still a rat,' " said Mr. Mfume, who began his remarks with a vivid description of Mr. Haysbert calming those being arrested after riots broke out following the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in April 1968.
A long line of mourners waited more than 45 minutes at the Empowerment Temple in Northwest Baltimore to pay their respects to the family of Mr. Haysbert, who died May 24 at age 90.
"I think of all those he helped," said Baltimore City Council member Agnes Welch. "His life was a commitment to working for the people of Baltimore."
Family, friends and a who's who of Baltimore's black political leadership were present at the funeral. Mourners reflected on the legacy and impact of Mr. Haysbert, who had been chief executive officer of the Parks Sausage Co., one of the largest black-owned businesses in the country.
Roz Johnson, the granddaughter of the company's founder, Henry Parks, said he and Mr. Haysbert made a powerful team. "Those two were a duo," she said. "They had a vision to battle for civil rights. Ray had a dedication and a commitment to weather every storm."
Many visitors focused on Mr. Haysbert's accomplishments in life. "There's nothing sad about today when you live to be 90 and have a legacy as he did," said Baltimore State's Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy. "It's not a day for sorrow."
Mr. Haysbert moved to Baltimore in the 1950s, recruited by Mr. Parks, and helped turn the sausage company into a success. His business was a pioneering minority-owned company that went on the stock exchange and earned record financial profits. Later, he founded a family catering business, Forum Caterers.
"His work ethic was unmatched," said Gov. Martin O'Malley. "He was also a great mentor to the next generation." The governor recalled some classic Haysbert advice: "Success is always tied to someone else."
Mayor Stephanie C. Rawlings-Blake described Mr. Haysbert's accomplishments as "a living example of the grand possibilities in our lives."