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DALLAS — Twenty-five years ago, Kneeland Youngblood took his first trip aboard a private jet and realized he was in the wrong business.

The young emergency-room physician had been appointed to a high-powered tax- reform committee by former Texas Gov. Ann Richards. Fellow committee member Don Williams, who was CEO of Trammell Crow, invited him to hitch a ride down to Austin aboard his Falcon 10 along with Dan Cook, then head of Goldman Sachs in Dallas.

Youngblood was awe-struck. “I was like, ‘Oh my God!’ ” he recalls. “I had no idea that world existed. I thought, ‘I want to do what these guys do.’ ”

Kneeland Youngblood

Age: 60

Title: Founding partner and chairman, Pharos Capital Group

Home: Raised in Galena Park, Texas, resides in Dallas.

Education: Jesuit College Preparatory School, 1974; A.B. from Princeton, 1978; M.D., University of Texas Southwestern Medical School, 1982.

Personal: Married to Sharon for 30 years. They have five daughters and a son.

Source: Dallas Morning News

Now he does.

With $800 million under his control, the 60-year-old founding partner of Pharos Capital Group is one of the most influential black private-equity managers.

You’ve probably never heard of Youngblood — mostly because he’s avoided the spotlight even as he played key roles as a Democratic fundraiser and private-equity rainmaker.

But having turned the big Six-Oh, Youngblood figures it’s time to make an example of himself.

“I’m trying to understand my larger role,” he says in his 13th floor (his lucky number) office. “I have consciously avoided visibility. But I also feel an obligation and a responsibility, particularly for younger people, to show that people like me exist. We’re making it happen. And just because we’re not out front and center doesn’t mean we’re not changing the world.”

By “people like me,” Kneeland Conner Youngblood means “hardworking, a strategic risk-taker and committed to making the world a better place,” and, yes, successful. He does not define himself as black, although that is an integral element of his soul.

“It’s limiting to look at Kneeland through a black-white prism,” says best bud and former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk. “Kneeland was one of the first people I knew of any color who was fascinated by the dynamics and the politics of the Middle East. As much as I love and admire him as a friend, a great father and businessman, I love his intellectual curiosity, and it extends to everything.”

The reception area of Pharos features a large photograph of Jackie Robinson stealing home with the New York Yankees’ Yogi Berra at the plate — giving the Brooklyn Dodgers the first win in the 1955 World Series.

“It’s a metaphor for our business about risk and reward,” he says. “Sometimes you have to take bold actions to achieve great returns. To steal home is an extraordinary act of courage. It’s also what I have to keep in mind personally as well.”

In 2000, Youngblood raised Pharos’ first institutional fund of $155 million. That was followed by a $400 million fund in 2005 and a $525 million fund in 2014, invested primarily in health care and business services.

Youngblood is majority owner, chairman, strategist and networking conduit. Co-founder Bob Crants is chief investment officer. They focus on companies they think will grow at a compounded rate of 20 percent a year and where their expertise and networks can add value beyond dollars.

Investors pay Pharos a management fee of 1.5 to 2 percent every year for 10 years and get rewarded as soon as a company is sold for a profit. Pharos takes 20 percent of any profit from a sale and eats any loss.

Happily, Youngblood says, there have been more winners than losers.

“Kneeland has a remarkable, inquisitive mind,” says Williams, one of Youngblood’s first investors. “He has an extraordinary range of capabilities. Some people can develop a strategy but can’t implement it. He’s able to do both.”

Youngblood made local headlines in early 2014 when he became the first black full-fledged member of the lily-white Dallas Country Club. Youngblood’s application took 13 years to make it through the approval process.

“One reason I joined the Dallas Country Club was because my father waited tables there,” Youngblood says. “I know it would have made him proud.”

What didn’t make news that summer was a $200 million profit that Youngblood and TPG Capital chairman David Bonderman split for themselves and their investors.

That’s why they call it private equity.

In 2008, Youngblood, Bonderman and two smaller investors bought the investment firm American Beacon Advisors from American Airlines — making Pharos, with $45 billion in its portfolio, the largest minority-owned asset-management firm in the country. The partners held on to it for dear life during the financial bust, built it to $65 billion in assets and nearly doubled their money in June when they sold it.

The “private-equity game” has made Youngblood rich. But he won’t say how rich.

Bonderman, 72, the co-founder of TPG, helped launch Youngblood’s wheeler-dealer career in 1998 but takes little credit for his friend’s financial ascension.

“Kneeland is a self-made guy. I’ve counseled him from time to time, but he’s done this himself,” Bonderman says. “He’s a very smart guy. He’s a strategic thinker. But he’s a sweetheart. He gets things done because people respect and like him. If he says he’s going to do something, he does it.”

In Youngblood’s eyes, breaking the color barrier or adding to his sizable fortune doesn’t come close to winning the prestigious 2015 Father of the Year Award, from a local nonprofit that raises funds for charities benefiting children and families.

He and Sharon, his wife of 30 years and a retired immunologist, have five daughters and a son who’ve graduated from or are still attending Stanford, Harvard, Princeton or Yale universities.

Kneeland and his six siblings grew up in the segregated confines of Galena Park, a small town outside Houston. All seven earned college degrees. Two, including Kneeland, became physicians. Two are lawyers.

His father was an optometrist and his mother was a medical technologist, and yet the family of nine was dirt poor. “People in the ghetto — poor people — don’t get glasses,” Youngblood says.

The family moved to Dallas in 1972, and Kneeland finished his last two years of high school at Jesuit College Preparatory School. He chose Princeton — counselors told him he was Jesuit’s first-ever to do so — because it was focused on undergraduate studies and would give him a strong base to get into either law or medical school.

“All I knew was doctor, lawyer, preacher, teacher,” Youngblood says. “Teacher wasn’t ever going to pay enough. And I wasn’t going to be a minister. So that left lawyer, doctor.”

Medicine won out because Youngblood didn’t know any black attorneys, and he’d be following in the footsteps of his father and maternal grandfather, Beadie Conner, who’d finished medical school in 1930.

Ironically, Conner had been turned away at the gates of Princeton decades before Kneeland graduated because he was black. He vowed he’d be back — which he was for Kneeland’s graduation. Youngblood helped transform a parking lot into a plaza at those gates in honor of his grandfather.

Youngblood picked emergency medicine over neuro or thoracic surgery because ERs were “fun, fast-paced, interesting and immediate gratification,” he says. “Generally you only worked 15 days in a month and usually not more than three days in a row. And if I ever wanted to leave medicine, I could just walk out the door.”

In January 1998, that’s just what he did.

He founded Pharos with two former executives of Goldman Sachs and quit being a doctor even in title.

“M.D. is not on my business card or my website,” Youngblood says. “I wanted to suppress my ego and remind myself that I was nothing special as a businessman. Physicians often try to take that M.D. halo into the business world. It doesn’t work.”

While still an ER doctor, Youngblood was named by his political connections to the board of the Teacher Retirement System of Texas. He chaired the huge pension fund’s real-estate committee in restructuring its troubled $1.4 billion portfolio. At one point, the fund controlled much of downtown after foreclosing on several properties.

“All of a sudden, people started returning my phone calls and people started calling me who would never have called me before,” Youngblood says. “I began to understand power.”