GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) — A Greensboro native nationally known for working with entertainers, sports stars and even various politicians over the years has died.
Nicknamed “The Black Godfather of Entertainment,” Clarence Avant was best known for his role as a music executive.
Guilford County Commission Chairman Skip Alston met Avant several times and even visited his home in Los Angeles in recent years.
“He was an extraordinary leader and a caring friend and always put others before himself, that was Clarence, that was the Clarence that I knew,” said Alston.
The pair met when Avant was given the Trailblazer Award at The International Civil Rights Museum in Greensboro in 2014.
“He even wanted to give his papers, his annal, to the civil rights museum,” Alston said.
Avant was a generational talent in music production, promoting artists like Michael Jackson during his “Bad” tour. He was the chairman of Motown Records. He also worked to make sure black athletes like Hank Aaron received endorsement deals from companies like Coca-Cola.
“Clarence was part of a generation that served as a bridge from a time when there was very little opportunity for black people to a time when doors began to open. He demanded the world make room, and he paved the way for the rest of us,” Former President Barack Obama said.
“He also used his success to open doors of opportunity to new generations of entrepreneurs and promoters. He was skillful, savvy, warm, and wise. It was impossible to spend time with Clarence Avant and not come away feeling more positive and wanting to follow his example,” former President Bill Clinton said.
Avant, one of eight children, attended Dudley High School in Greensboro, and Alston says he was truly proud of where he came from.
“Quincy Jones always joked with him you didn’t come from Greensboro, you came from Climax, he said ‘no I came from Greensboro!’ Climax was a little small town but he wanted to be known for coming from Greensboro, which he was very proud of.”
He also joined the NAACP Defense Fund and is a member of the NAACP Hall Of Fame, in addition to the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.
Alston says the two spoke twice a month until Avant’s wife was murdered in 2021, when Avant retreated from the spotlight.
Alston says Avant even donated to his campaign for county commissioner… and he’ll never forget him.