Quinton Whitfield Durham (Chuck) was born in Parrot, Georgia. He was the eighth of 11 children born to Ruth Sherman and Everett (Mister) Durham, Sr.. Quinton moved to Cleveland, Ohio in 1957 at the age of 14, joining family members who had migrated North from the rural South. He joined the family construction business, honing his craft as a carpenter, an interest that began as a child helping his brothers repair and build farm structures. As a teen, Quinton was introduced to the Nation of Islam under The Honorable Elijah Muhammed, later following Iman W. D. Mohammed. He became an ardent follower.
He married former spouse Phyllis Ferguson September 17, 1966, and as their family grew he opened a children's clothing store on Superior Avenue with his brother Charlie, in 1968. They employed family members, further demonstrating an entrepreneurial spirit. In 1972, he acquired the family construction business, located on Miles Road, where he continued to work with his brothers.
In 1979, Quinton, as sole proprietor, opened and operated Durham Brothers Construction, Inc., located at 4447 Lee Road. He later added Lee Road Lumber to the site. During the 1980's, Durham Brothers Construction, Inc. became one of the largest independently owned and operated minority businesses in the City of Cleveland. He built, restored and/or renovated over 500 houses and built four churches in the City and one in the Akron-Canton area. He never hesitated to use his personal resources to help underwrite church constructions in order to complete a project.
By the early 2000's, he not only had taught his children about the construction business (they all "went to work"), he had also recognized a deep void among marginalized people in the trade unions. Creating qualified skilled trades people and diversifying the unions, especially those working on publicly funded construction jobs, became a passion. He opened the non-profit Durham Construction Trade Institute in 2006 at his Lee Road Building. He required no tuition; he tackled barriers that would prevent full student engagement. He offered both a skilled track in seven trades and a business track for future contractors. When asked to bring his program to Garden Valley in 2011, he joined life partner Jan Ridgeway, who had reopened the Garden Valley Neighborhood House in 2010, and added the food pantry and social programs already offered at the center as additional resources to help his students. In lieu of tuition, students acquired classroom skills through on the job training - building ramps for disabled residents, working with the housing court to correct violations in the homes of low-income seniors to prevent fines and sometimes a jail sentence, volunteering in the Center's food pantry, and making improvements and repairs in the Center's aging facility, all under strict supervision. And he instilled a strong commitment to community giveback and basic work ethics. He soon joined forces with Norm Edwards and the Black Contractors, Inc., using his program as a feeder site for entrance into the trade unions. He and his student advocates joined others in the construction trades to diversify public job sites - marching and picketing when needed. His goal was to develop skilled trades people who could compete for jobs once more union doors were opened to them.
Quinton demonstrated an unyielding commitment to teaching, hands-on training, and developing competitive skills, simultaneously instilling self-determination principles and a focus on community giveback. He was an excellent estimator and mentor. Quinton was a role model and surrogate father to many youth and young men and women throughout the city - guiding, directing, advising, and introducing them to the construction trades at an early age as a pathway to a productive future. He was father, dad, pops, and gramps. During his illness, Anthony Muhammed, Tony Johnson and Ralph Spencer provided immeasurable support to him and his family.
He was preceded in death by parents Ruth and Everett Durham, Sr.; siblings Barbara, Everett, Jr. (Big Red), Otis, Carey (Caro), Charlie, Cleveland (Cleve) and Roy (Joe). He is survived by sisters Helen Bryant, Ruth Little, and Mary Wylene Daniels; children Vanda Sessoms, Audrey Durham, Sonya Durham, Quinton Durham, Jr., Tonya Durham, Tricia Durham, Leah Jackson (Robert), Natasha Johnson, Ryan Johnson and Joshua Johnson; grandchildren Sydney Durham, Cortney Simpson, Chloe Rushing, Alex Sessoms, Kalia Lewis, Tomaz Durham, Kamryn Lewis, Elijah Durham, David Durham Quarles, Parker Jackson, Evan Jackson, and Master Orion; great grandchildren Kaedyn Durham and Isaiah Drayton; and, a loving and supportive host of family and friends.
The family requests no flowers. Your presence, love, and support are greatly appreciated.
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