Edward Chow of KCK, a veteran who overcame racism to build tech business, dies at 83

Many people saw Edward Chow as serious or even stern. But those who really knew him will remember the Army veteran and business owner as a strong pillar of support for all when they needed him.

“He was a very detailed person,” says Joseph Chow, 87, the eldest of his eight siblings.“He was very serious and very by-the-book. He and I had two different personalities and sometimes we collided because of that. I was more of a joking person. But that is how he became very successful. He was focused as a laser beam.”

Chow, a 1956 graduate of Sumner High School, died Sept. 7, at the age of 83 due to lung cancer.

Chow’s life was one filled with challenges. To realize their dreams amid a time of prejudice and ignorance, the brothers had to pull together in order to overcome.

“I think the main thing we all had to deal with growing up was the discrimination. We grew up in the Black community, but we didn’t look Black,” his older brother said.

The children grew up during the 1930s to a Black mother and a Chinese father in Greenville, Mississippi. The family later moved to Kansas City, Kansas, where they were taught that in order to succeed they would have to work twice as hard.

“I was the first one to be able to go to college and get a degree, but Ed was able to take (his younger brother) Charles and started a business and doing pretty well with it in California,” says his eldest brother.

Edward Chow (center) in a family portrait.
Edward Chow (center) in a family portrait.

In 1962, Chow was drafted into the United States Army and served as a paratrooper. It was there that Chow began to take an interest in computing, serving as a machine accounting supervisor. He was awarded the Army Commendation Medal for his meticulous service in his field.

“After he came back to Kansas City, we both started working for the government,” says his youngest brother, Charles Chow, 82. “Back then if you wanted to get a good job it would have to be working for the government if you were Black. They sent us to school to get training in the computer field.”

In the 1960s, the two brothers chose to move to California. Charles remembers the difficulties Black men faced trying to get a business off the ground.

“It was very few Black men in the field at the time. That’s one of the reasons we left Kansas City and moved to California. A Black man just couldn’t move into the private industry. The best job a Black man could get was working for the government,” he says.

After a few years at a West Coast data company, the siblings took it over, making Data Graphics Computer Service company into one of the largest data computing firms in the Los Angeles area at the time and one of the few that was Black-owned.

Tackling this new industry in a new location presented its fair share of issues. Charles Chow says their last name caused confusion in meetings with potential clients who didn’t know they were Black.

“Every place we went and gave the name of Chow, we would get there, and they would be expecting some Chinese guys. We would go out to business meetings, and they would just keep us waiting because they just figured out we were Black men,” he says.

“He would bowl perfect games and had these rings he would win at all these tournaments,” older brother Joseph Chow says of Edward Chow.
“He would bowl perfect games and had these rings he would win at all these tournaments,” older brother Joseph Chow says of Edward Chow.

The brothers both retired in 2002, and the family would run the company until selling it in 2015. Having an opportunity to relax finally after a lifetime of hard work, Edward threw himself into the beloved hobby of bowling. He picked up the pastime from his youth working in a bowling alley, where he could bowl for free after hours.

“He was an incredible bowler. He would go to tournaments and won awards. He could have definitely went professional,” says his older brother. “He would bowl perfect games and had these rings he would win at all these tournaments.”

The brothers will miss the man who was a strong, dependable cornerstone of the family.

“I will miss his friendship more than anything,” his younger brother says. “We would talk about our childhood growing up in Kansas. He was a brother, but he was really also one of my best friends.”

Chow is survived by his wife, Charlene Chow; two children, Terri Lynn Chow-Baker and Ed Chow Jr; surviving brothers Joe Chow, Charles Chow, Johnny Grady, Harley Grady and Harold Grady; as well as grandchildren, great-grandchildren, nieces and nephews.

Other remembrances

Clarence Robinson, Army veteran and father, died Sept. 9 at age 77.
Clarence Robinson, Army veteran and father, died Sept. 9 at age 77.

Clarence Robinson

Clarence Robinson, Army veteran and father, died Sept. 9. He was 77.

He was born July 31, 1945, in Parsons, Kansas, to parents Isaac and Virginia Robinson. He graduated from Sumner High School in 1964 and then enlisted in the Army, serving until he was honorably discharged in 1967. The Army gave him the opportunity to visit exciting destinations like France and Germany.

In 1968, Robinson started a career at General Motors as an assembly line worker. He relocated to Warren, Ohio, for four years before returning to Kansas City. Robinson would soon meet Maggie Leveringston, and they married in1970. The pair became stepparents to each other’s children and later had their only child together, Shon Robinson.

In 1975 Robinson earned an associate’s degree from the Kansas City, Kansas Community College. Robinson retired in 2007 after 39 years of working.

Robinson is survived by his wife of 52 years, Maggie Robinson; children Shon Robinson, Herbert Robinson, Robert Johnson and KennethLeveringston; brothers George and Alphonso Robinson; sisters Zella Davis and Sheryl Carvin; and a host of other relatives and friends.

Janice Kinney, mother and government worker, died Sept. 19, at age 66.
Janice Kinney, mother and government worker, died Sept. 19, at age 66.

Janice Kinney

Janice Kinney, mother and government worker, died Sept. 19. She was 66.

Kinney was born Aug. 15, 1956, in Marshall, Missouri, to Russell and Bea Huston. She graduated from Marshall High School in 1974 and then attended Northwest Missouri State University in Maryville, where she majored in business administration with an emphasis on accounting.

At college she met Matthew Lowe, and together they had daughter Elizabeth Huston. In 1978, she began her work for the government as a clerk typist. For the next 35 years, she worked for several agencies in various capacities, such as the Small Business Administration, Housing and Urban Development, National Weather Service, NOAA and Department of Defense.

In 1994 she met Robert Kinney. They married and she had her second child, Seth Kinney. She moved to Washington, D.C., and worked where should would work for the Department of Education’s Federal Student Aid. She transferred to Topeka as a systems accountant in 2010 and retired three years later.

She will be remembered by friends and family for her love of classic movies, crafting, shopping and enjoying time with family.

She is survived by her husband, Robert Stephen Kinney; children Elizabeth Renee Huston and Seth Emanuel Kinney; sisters Clarissa Huston, Cheryl Huston, Cheryl Verden; brothers Rodney and Robert Gorham; and a host of grandchildren, nieces, nephews, other family members and friends.