A Tale of Independent Thinkers

Cover Story Lessons From Dad

You'd have to call Charles Dalton a pioneer.

One of the Tuskegee Airmen in World War II, one of the early generation of African-Americans who not only got a college degree but earned a master's degree as well, a Cleveland activist who marched with Martin Luther King Jr. in the 1960s and attended Louis Farrakhan's Million Man March three decades later, Mr. Dalton was his own man.

"He's a very, very smart guy and in general a very compassionate guy," says his son, Stephen Dalton. "But he's also down to earth and has a lot of common sense."

"One of the things he drilled into my head very gently: You have to be an independent thinker, make your own decisions," says the younger Dalton.

The son followed the advice and blazed his own career path. After graduating from Cornell University with a bachelor's degree in psychology, he went to work at a Philadelphia bank.

Four years later, Stephen Dalton moved to CoreStates Investment Advisers (now First Union Bank). Some 19 years later, he is managing director of growth equity for First Capital Group, the bank's institutional investment arm.

"I try to be an independent thinker and not necessarily follow the herd," he says.

At the moment, for example, the younger Dalton continues to invest in high-technology companies at a time when many fund managers are bailing out. "We're pretty comfortable with it. We think profit growth will continue," he says.

Although he now prizes his relationship with his father, there was a time in early manhood when the two didn't get along so well. "We always talked but there was a level of depth that we both avoided."

The father waited patiently. In his mid-20s, the son called to patch things up.

"I was the one that kind of broke it off in the first place," the younger Dalton recalls. But "the things you encounter in adulthood tend to be pretty standard.... It became apparent that my dad was right about a lot of things."

"Last year, I called him up and took him to a baseball game on his 75th birthday."

One big change: The Cleveland Indians were a terrible team back when the elder Dalton took his son to the ballpark as a boy. Now, they've become winners: the team, the father, the son

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