VICKSBURG FACTS: Vicksburg native a CEO of Darden Restaurants

Published 8:00 am Friday, February 17, 2023

Did you know that Vicksburg is the birthplace of the CEO of Darden Restaurants?

Clarence Otis was born in Vicksburg in 1956. Otis and his family moved to the Watts section of Los Angeles in 1962. Later on, he attended Williams College in Massachusetts and was the recipient of the Stephen H. Tyng scholarship, which is only awarded to four students a year, according to the Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans website. 

While he was at Williams College, Otis majored in economics and political science. He was also a member of Phi Beta Kappa, the Black Student Union, the College Council and the Gargoyle Society. In 1980, Otis went to Stanford University where he earned his law degree and then practiced law in New York City. Otis worked as an attorney on Wall Street for four years and then he joined Kidder, Peabody & Co., a securities firm.

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In 1991, Otis was working for what became JP Morgan Chase & Co. and soon was running the public finance department. A recruiter for Darden Restaurants came by JP Morgan Chase & Co. and later on called Otis to offer him the position of vice president and treasurer, according to the Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans, Inc website. 

Darden Restaurants is a Fortune 500 company that is headquartered in Orlando, Fla. This company owns well-known national restaurant chains such as Olive Garden, LongHorn Steakhouse, Capital Grille and several others. Otis worked for Darden Restaurants for 20 years and from 2004 to 2014 he served as the chief executive officer (CEO). While at Darden Restaurants, he also was the company’s Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer and president of one of its restaurant chains, according to the Union Square Hospitality Group website.  

During his time as the CEO of Darden Restaurants, Otis tried to avoid mass layoffs and extreme price cutting of Darden’s competitors according to the Black Past website. Under his leadership, the corporation notice a rise in profits and the stock price doubled. He also obtained new restaurant chains and his company was listed on Fortune 500’s Best Places to Work list and was the first full-service restaurant company ever to get on the list.

In 2007, Otis received the Horatio Alger Award and in 2012 he became the recipient of the Silver Plate by the International Foodservice Manufacturers Association. 

Otis now resides in Florida with his wife, Jacqueline Bradley, to whom he has been married to since 1983. The couple raised three children and are also one of the largest private collectors of African art in the United States.