A Biography of Preston Love, Jr.

This is a biography of Preston Love, Jr. by Adam Fletcher Sasse for NorthOmahaHistory.com

In the history of North Omaha, there have been a lot of people involved in athletics, government, politics, corporate America, and social entrepreneurship. However, not many people have parlayed those vastly different backgrounds into a singular campaign to transform the community. This is a biography of one man who has done that, Preston Love, Jr.

Growing Up in North O

Technical High School, 3230 Burt Street, North Omaha, Nebraska
This is where Preston Love, Jr. went for high Technical High School at 3230 Burt Street.

Born in 1942, Preston Love, Jr. grew up in the Logan Fontenelle Projects in the 1940s and 1950s. He played in the places many African American youth in the Near North Side did, including the parks, courts and fields that dotted the neighborhood. Playing sports with friends like Gale Sayers and Johnny “The Jet” Rogers, he told the Omaha World-Herald in 2019, “If your good friend was all-state and your cousin was all-state and the guy down the street was all-state, you’re gonna want to be all-state… The whole thing fed on itself. Everybody wanted to be great.”

Preston’s mother Betty (1923-2007) raised him and his siblings, Portia Love-King, Norman Love and Richie Love with Preston Sr. in the Near North Side neighborhood. The musician Laura Love is Preston’s younger half-sister. His iconic father, Preston Love, Sr. (1921-2004) was a busy musician, traveling the country with swing bands and becoming an Omaha jazz icon. He later became a reporter and advertising salesman for the Omaha Star newspaper and wrote for the Omaha World-Herald. Love, Sr. was a massive figure in Omaha’s cultural scene and throughout the Black community.

A 1960 graduate of Tech High, Preston Love Jr. has been recognized repeatedly for his exceptional athleticism in high school and college. In 2016, he was inducted to the Nebraska Black Sports Hall of Fame. When he was inducted into the Nebraska High School Sports Hall of Fame in 2023, the announcement said “All-state in football and basketball and a state champion in the high hurdles, Love was considered the best football player in the state his senior year.” According to Omaha Public Schools, “Love was named to All-City and All-Tournament teams during his career and won the 120 high hurdles in his senior season at state track.” In recognition for those contributions and more, in 2022 he was inducted into the Omaha Public Schools Athletic Hall of Fame.

College Experiences

“We didn’t know the historical impact we were making at the time, but we knew what we were doing as 8 black teammates at a non-HBCU university in Nebraska was incredibly distinctive.”

𝐓𝐡𝐞 𝐌𝐚𝐠𝐧𝐢𝐟𝐢𝐜𝐞𝐧𝐭 𝐄𝐢𝐠𝐡𝐭 by Preston Love Jr.

After he graduated from Tech, Preston attended Northwestern University in Illinois for two years on a football and track scholarship. His freshman year there, he placed third in the Big 10 indoor hurdles.

Returning to Nebraska during his sophomore year, he went to Norfolk Junior College in 1963, where he earned an Associates degree. In 2022, Preston was inducted into the Northeast Community College Alumni Hall of Fame in recognition of his time at Norfolk Junior College.

Transferring to UNL in 1963, Preston lettered in football and track before graduating with a Bachelor of Science in economics.

The year he graduated, Love was drafted in the 19th round to the Detroit Lions. He played one season with the 1965 Lincoln Comets of the Pro Football League of America.

Love Jr. later earned a Master’s Degree in Professional Studies from Bellevue University in Nebraska.

A Remarkable Career

Preston Love, Jr. and Adam Fletcher Sasse in December 2021
This is Preston Love, Jr. and the author, Adam Fletcher Sasse, in December 2021.

With a career that began as a junior executive for the IBM corporation in 1966, Preston was a corporate pioneer who was became one of the first African Americans to work in marketing at the company. After working with them for 15 years, Preston opened the first retail computer store in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1980. After connecting into the national community of Civil Rights activists, during this era Preston became the planning commissioner for the City of Atlanta under Mayor Andrew Young, one of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s lieutenants.

Preston worked for Harold Washington, also part of the historic Civil Rights movement, during Chicago’s mayoral election in 1983. Soon after Washington became the first Black mayor of Chicago, Preston was selected to be Jesse Jackson‘s presidential campaign manager for the 1984 Democratic primaries. Determined to serve the movement however possible, he was very busy with Jesse’s campaign. That summer, Preston was Jackson’s only paid staff member, and traveled the future candidate to visit former President Jimmy Carter at his home in Georgia. Reflecting on the experience visiting the President and First Lady Rosalyn Carter, Preston said, “He was insightful, and had a historic perspective of the presidency. about the pitfalls and the realities of doing such.”

In 1990, Preston formed an organization to recommend the addition of the contributions of Black Nebraskans to the Nebraska Blue Book. A few years later, Preston ran for a seat on the Metropolitan Utilities District board, but withdrew. However, he left Omaha again to work a series of jobs in other cities.

Preston came back to Omaha in 2006, immediately establishing the Voter Participation Project and launching The Hungry Club at Big Mama’s and other North Omaha-focused efforts to build Black voting power in Nebraska. Building on his experience organizing voter registration campaigns, civil rights activism and in political circles across the nation, he became dedicated to making a difference in Omaha. He started organizing throughout North Omaha and citywide, and became very active. In 2008, the Douglas County Democratic Party gave him the Chairman’s Award for Leadership to recognize his contributions to civic engagement. Preston’s leadership in driving Nebraska’s split electoral vote during the Presidential election that year was admired by the party. The effect of the morale-building win was felt by the President Barak Obama, too, when he became the nation’s first Black president.

Preston authored his first book in 2015. Called Economic Cataracts Volume 1, it’s a collection of his editorials and writings to that point. Exploring North Omaha deeply, he addresses unemployment, poverty, drugs, crime and more, prescribing and uplifting efforts to make a difference that could be applied anywhere in the United States.

The playwright of a one-man performance about preacher, politician and civil rights leader Adam Clayton Powell (1908-1972), Preston acted the chautauqua-esque performance for more than a decade starting in 2007.

Changing the name of his nonprofit, in 2016 Preston rebranded the Participation Project as Black Votes Matter. For the election cycles over the next several years, his signage to get out the vote was everywhere throughout North Omaha. In 2017, the Nebraska Secretary of State gave him a Commendation for Excellence, and the next year he was given the President’s Award by the Nebraska/Iowa Chapter of the NAACP.

In 2018, Preston launched his first annual Black History Tours to Civil Rights landmarks in the South. That same year, he published his second book reflecting on his political organizing as an adult, called The Jackson Papers: Post 1965 Voting Rights Act, Pre-Obama Era: The Jesse Jackson Run for President. In that book, he focused on his work for the Jackson presidential campaign.

The next year he published Your Bridge to History with his sister Portia and illustrations by Regina Jeanpierre. The West Point Society of Nebraska and Western Iowa gave him their Distinguished Citizen Award in 2019, and in 2020 the National Association of Social Workers in Nebraska named him their Public Citizen of the Year.

His third book is called A Clear Vision: From Cataracts to Pandemic Vaccines and was published in 2020. It is his second collection of editorial articles. That same year, Preston was endorsed by the Nebraska Democratic Party for to run for the US Senate. Love announced his intention to run a write-in senatorial campaign and received the support of the Nebraska Democratic Party, making him the first black person to receive the support of a major party for United States Senate in Nebraska. According to the Nebraska Secretary of State, he received more write-in votes during this campaign than any previous attempt. Chris Janicek had originally won the Democratic Senatorial nomination for the seat. However, during the campaign he lost the Nebraska Democratic Party support and Preston ran in his place. He later became the second associate chairman of the Nebraska Democratic Party.

Creating an annual tour for more than forty high school students, Preston has led the BVM Tour for several years. It includes Tulsa, Memphis, Jackson, MS, Birmingham, Tuskegee, Montgomery, Selma and Atlanta. The tour is an all-expenses paid experience focused on educating young people from North Omaha on the Civil Rights legacy in the South.

In 2021, Preston launched an effort to promote the history of African Americans in Omaha focused on facilitating tours in North Omaha. He continues leading tours as well as advocating for the recognition of Black history in Nebraska in various ways, including in the legislature, the media, and elsewhere. Published that same year, Wisdom’s Foresight: From Cataracts to Pandemic Vaccines is Preston’s fourth book. After being named to the Frank LaMere Hall of Fame of the Nebraska Democratic Party in 2021, the next year they announced the new Annual Preston Love, Jr. Volunteer Award to acknowledge party members who donate inordinate amounts of time to activities.

Preston launched the North Omaha Legacy Tours in 2022, and in September of that year the hundredth tour happened. He was also given the Community Advocacy Award by North Omaha Area Health (NOAH) in 2022.

Preston’s Work Today

This the North Omaha Legacy Tour facilitated by Preston Love Jr for NorthOmahaTours.com
This the North Omaha Legacy Tour facilitated by Preston Love Jr for NorthOmahaTours.com

As the founder and CEO of a 501c3 nonprofit organization in Omaha called the Institute for Urban Development—4Urban.org, Preston has created what he called his “bully pulpit.” 4Urban.org’s mission is to develop urban communities through engagement, economic growth initiatives, leadership growth, and Get Out The Vote initiatives. It’s through the nonprofit and his numerous initiatives that he provides guidance and leadership for the larger community, including the notable Black Votes Matter initiative. Other activities include the 2023 Black Political Summit in North Omaha.

Preston is also an adjunct professor at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, where he teaches a course called “African-American Experience in Politics.” He is a regular editorial columnist for the Omaha World-Herald, and a contributor to the Fine Lines Journal, a quarterly national publication devoted to networking with creative writers from around the world. In addition to his professional activities, he has volunteered as the first vice-president of the NAACP of Nebraska/Iowa and as a board member for a local nonprofit organization.

Preston’s Books

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Elsewhere Online


This the flyer for the Black Political Summit II Strategic Plan by the Summit Task Force in March 2023.
This the flyer for the Black Political Summit II Strategic Plan by the Summit Task Force in March 2023.
This is an Omaha World-Herald column by Preston Love, Jr.
This is an Omaha World-Herald column by Preston Love, Jr.
This is the cover of "The Magnificent 8" by Preston Love, Jr. for Huskers.com
This is the cover of “The Magnificent 8” by Preston Love, Jr. for Huskers.com

1 Comment

  1. Just wanted to mention how much I enjoy your site. I was born in the old Emanuel Hospital and lived at 38th and Boyd. North High grad clas of ’65. Moved to California 40 years ago but the memories still linger

    Liked by 1 person

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