This article was first published by The Charlotte Ledger.
Bringing people together in fellowship was second nature for Lucille Ford Black. For Black, serving as a community connector was simply at the core of her being. Her welcoming smile, generous heart and spirit uplifted friends, family and all whose path she crossed.
Many in Charlotte knew Black and her husband, Nathaniel Black Sr., as the ever-present and warm hosts of the uptown Charlotte club that they owned and operated for decades, the Kings & Queens Restaurant and Lounge. The popular club was the place to see and be seen from the mid-1970s to 2006, when professional athletes were regulars, especially on the fashionable Thursday evening Ladies Nights.
“Kings & Queens was one of many clubs my parents had in Charlotte over the years [including the fondly remembered Lucille’s Grill], but definitely the most well-known,” said Black’s son Nathaniel Black Jr. “My dad always liked having my mom out front. She was the one who everyone recognized and gravitated towards, she had so much charisma and genuine affection for people. She was always reaching out to folks when they needed help, whether it was simply encouragement when they were on hard times, or if they needed financial help, she was always giving of herself.”
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Lucille Ford Black died on Jan. 29 at the age of 88. Her love for her community led her to use her beloved club to host political fundraisers and events in support of local politicians and causes that mattered to her. Many of those she supported became personal friends and included former N.C. Gov. Jim Hunt, former Mecklenburg County Commissioner Board Chair Parks Helms, former Charlotte mayors Eddie Knox and Harvey Gantt, Mayor Vi Lyles, Mecklenburg County Commissioner Ella Scarborough, U.S. Congresswoman Alma Adams and Black’s cousin, former U.S. Congressman Mel Watt. At her funeral, good friend and Mecklenburg Commissioners Chair George Dunlap made a special proclamation declaring Feb. 8, 2022, Lucille Black Day.
“She touched so many, especially through her service and ministries at her church, Charlotte’s New Emmanuel Congregational United Church of Christ,” said daughter-in-law, LaTricia Black. “She was a lifelong member, growing up in the same church that her parents made central to their life. Ms. Black was on many of the church boards, including as an usher and the missionary board, which she served on until the time of her death — everyone knew and loved her.”
Black’s love of fashion and joy in always looking her best, especially at her club, led her to a second career of sorts selling clothes, first from her club, and ultimately from a shop she opened, Kings & Queens Boutique.
“She enjoyed helping others look their best,” said Nathaniel Black Jr. “The boutique was an extension of the club. She wanted others to feel the same pride she had in dressing up and sold both ladies’ and men’s clothing. She made several buying trips to New York annually, going to fashion shows and spotting the latest trends. Even after the boutique closed, she sold clothes from the house up until the time she passed.”
Lucille Ford Black grew up in Charlotte’s once thriving African American community of Brooklyn. The area in Charlotte’s Second Ward was mostly razed in the 1960s under the auspices of urban renewal, and nearly 1,500 buildings were demolished. But the lessons Black learned there, along with the connections she made and passions she developed, stayed with her for her entire life.
A passion that burned most furiously for Black was basketball. She absolutely loved watching NBA games, especially if her favorite player, Charlotte-native and Golden State Warrior superstar Stephen Curry, was playing.
“She was Steph Curry’s number one fan,” said LaTricia Black. “I discovered she played basketball for Second Ward High School and developed a true love and appreciation for the game at a young age. She loved watching Curry and the Warriors, loved the Charlotte Hornets, and helped instill her appreciation of the game in her great grandson ZaVale, 7, whose own basketball games she would attend at every opportunity. She was also a huge …Panthers fan, and especially loved Cam Newton.”
Black was preceded in death by parents, Isaac and Ella Ford; brothers Isaac Jr., James, Hubert and Calvin; husband Nathaniel Black Sr.; daughter Ella Laynett; son Milton; brother-in-law Hiawatha; and grandson Marlon. She is survived by son Nathaniel Jr. (LaTricia); grandchildren Donald Jr. (Lisa), Nathaniel III and Marcus; and great-grandchildren DaShawn, Trinity, Donquarius and ZaVale.
There were no strangers in Lucille Ford Black’s life; only friends she hadn’t yet met. “She felt she’d led a blessed life,” said Nathaniel Black Jr., “She looked for ways for others to share in those blessings.”
Michael J. Solender is a Charlotte-based features writer. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or his website, michaeljwrites.com.