Mary Washington Wylie, the country's first black female CPA, passed away early this month in a Chicago nursing home, at the age of 99.
Born in Vicksburg, Miss., on April 21, 1906, Washington Wylie moved to Chicago as a child. According to the National Association of Black Accountants, Washington Wylie became the first black female CPA in 1943, and the 13th black CPA in the country, two years after graduating with a business degree from Northwestern University.
As a student, she took on her first clients, often other black businesses, while working out of the basement of her home. In 1969, with Hiram Pittman and Lester McKeever, she founded Washington, Pittman and McKeever. Pittman said that Washington Wylie's early practice was an "Underground Railroad" for aspiring black CPAs who needed experience in order to earn their certification. She retired from the practice, still one of the nation's largest black CPA firms, in 1985 at age 79.
She died on July 2.
Her first marriage to Seymour Washington ended in divorce, and she later married Donald Melvin Wylie. She is survived by two sons and three daughters.
Earlier this month, speaking to African-American newspaper the Chicago Defender, Dorothy Brown, clerk of the Cook County Circuit Court in Chicago, discussed Washington Wylie's accomplishments.
"She was a role model to me as a CPA," Brown said. "She was also a very classy woman, who epitomized what a professional black businesswoman should be. She was really a trailblazer for us."
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