In Memoriam: Eddie Rudolph Dillard (1947-2023)

Eddie-Dillard, In Memoriam: Eddie Rudolph Dillard (1947-2023), Local News & Views
Eddie Dillard

by Jason Dillard

On Dec. 21, 2023, peacefully, the angels carried Eddie Rudolph Dillard away as he was awakened to eternal life in his home in Sacramento, California, after a fearless battle with several medical complications. Eddie was 76 years old.

Born Sept. 27, 1947, in St. Louis, Missouri, to the late Ben Smith and Annie Lee Holmes-Dillard, Eddie’s journey was one of courage, determination and unwavering commitment to equity and inclusion. After honorably serving in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War, he channeled his leadership into academics, earning an A.A. from Oakland’s Merritt College before becoming one of only four Black students to graduate from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1977 with a B.A. in Economics. 

Along with his parents, he was preceded in death by his sisters and brothers: Bertha, Ada, Floyd, Elijah “Slim,” William “Chi,” Doug, Roger and Nathaniel. His memory will forever be held in the hearts of those he leaves behind. He is survived by his sister Lillie Yancey; a daughter Frances Bost in Germany along with his three sons, Kevien, Jason (Damia) and Jesse (Stephanie) Dillard. Eddie is also survived by eight grandchildren and many nieces and nephews.

Eddie’s passion for giving small minority-owned businesses an opportunity to do it big was kindled in 1980 when he served as the Northern California delegate to the first ever White House Conference on Small Business Development under then President Jimmy Carter in Washington, D.C. His pivotal role in the City of Oakland’s Office of Economic Development laid the groundwork for minority businesses to flourish. As the meticulous steward of HUD’s $25 million loan program for 15 years, he helped shape Oakland’s economic landscape into one of opportunity and growth.

We celebrate the life of Eddie Rudolph Dillard, a true titan of industry and advocate, whose efforts have forever changed the landscape for small Black-owned businesses in America.

He cemented his legacy and love for all things Oakland, California, in 1997 when he established the Oakland Black Board of Trade and Commerce, where as president and CEO, Eddie transformed the prospects of local Black contractors, aiding them in securing over $100 million in contracts. His efforts, however, were not confined to the boardroom; Eddie’s voice resonated in the corridors of power, influencing policy and local elections to reflect the needs and aspirations of the communities he championed. Eddie wrote over 100 articles on politics, small business development, as well as all things diversity, equity and inclusion.

At the California Department of Transportation and on the BART Small Business Advisory Committee, Eddie was a force for change, significantly increasing minority contract participation and pioneering inclusive labor agreements. His consultancy work with nonprofits and major construction firms further extended his impact, leaving a legacy of inclusive business practices that resonates to this day.

Eddie’s passing calls for not just local or state recognition, but a national acknowledgment of his contributions. It is fitting for proclamations and commendations to honor a life so well lived, one that has laid the foundation for future generations to continue the fight for economic equity and representation in the construction industry. 

In 2020 he moved to Sacramento, California, and gave his grandchildren everything he had. If you knew Eddie, you knew about his grandchildren. His love for his family was boundless, and there is no doubt he will continue to watch them as the years pass. 

We celebrate the life of Eddie Rudolph Dillard, a true titan of industry and advocate, whose efforts have forever changed the landscape for small Black-owned businesses in America. His memory inspires us to continue the work with the same tenacity and integrity he exemplified throughout his remarkable life.

Jason Dillard is the son of Eddie Dillard. He can be reached at