The 81-year-old philanthropist, who was the widow of music industry mogul Clarence Avant, played a significant role in supporting the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts and amassed a collection of Japanese lacquer items.The passing of Jacqueline Avant Young, the beloved wife of famed music executive and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Clarence Avant, has the entertainment business in shock. The couple’s Beverly Hills home was the target of a home invasion during which she was shot and killed. Age-wise, she was 81. Due to contradictory accounts, it is now unclear whether 90-year-old Clarence was hurt in any manner, but TMZ claimed that they were informed that he was not.
The Black Godfather, a 2019 Netflix documentary on the life of Nicole Avant’s father, was produced by the couple’s two children, one of whom is Nicole Avant, a former U.S. ambassador to the Bahamas. Nicole talked about the influence her mother had on the lives of her famous father, their entire family, and the project she was working on.
They have been married for 52 years, and she told NBC News at the time, “Well, they’ve been married for 52 years, and my mom is really the one that brought to my father and our family the love and passion and importance of the arts, culture, and entertainment.” “My mother gave me, for example, my love of reading, my love of cinema, and my love of storytelling while my father was in it and making all the deals,” says the author.
My dad was kind of kept in balance by her bringing that energy and her passion for the arts, she continued. She is his life’s safety net.
Jacqueline was a humanitarian as well as a travelling EBONY Fashion Fair model. In The Black Godfather, we got the opportunity to hear about his attempts to win her over, including taking her to meet notable celebrities like Harry Belafonte and gaining entry to prestigious establishments like the Birdland jazz club. He also made light of his attempt to impress her by bringing up money.
He always picked me up in a car. And I asked myself, “Who is this guy?” she wrote in the document. Then, I believe he was genuinely attempting to win me over one day. He also indicated how much he had paid the Internal Revenue Service for some reason. I believe he was attempting to convey to me his income level.
He replied, “I told you, life begins with a number and it ends with a number. “Numbers rule life.”
He used to tell his friend Quincy Jones he would never get married or move to Los Angeles, but he did both for and with her in the end. They created a remarkable life together and had a fascinating love story. Below are pictures of the couple taken over the years.
The home of Jacqueline Avant Young and her husband, Clarence, a pioneering music businessman dubbed the “Godfather of Black Music,” was broken into early on December 1; the 81-year-old philanthropist and former model was shot and killed. Police in Beverly Hills are currently looking into a potential motivation for the incident.
Jacqueline Alberta Gray, better known as “Jacquie,” was born in Jamaica Queens, New York, on March 6, 1940. She started working as a phlebotomist and hospital tech in New York City in the 1960s. She also modelled for the Ebony Fashion Fair, an annual fashion show and charity event founded by Eunice Johnson of Chicago’s Johnson Publishing Company that visited 30 cities and highlighted the Black neighbourhoods there. The majority of the models in the presentation were African Americans dressed in exquisite European fashions by Yves St. Laurent, Pierre Cardin, Givenchy, and Jean Paul Gaultier.
Around this time, she first met Clarence, the man who would become her husband, and was courted by him. At the time, Clarence was developing a reputation in the music industry as a manager, producer, executive, and businessman.
In the 2019 Netflix documentary The Black Godfather, which details Clarence Avant’s life and career and was directed by Reginald Hudlin, music and cultural historian Nelson George said, “The Ebony Fashion Fair models were like the first models that Black people really saw on the runway, so for a Black guy in 1960-something, a Fashion Fair model was like a big deal.”
Hudlin stated in a statement after learning of her passing: “Jacquie was the picture of grace, elegance, kindness, and good taste. I owe Clarence and Jacquie so much for being my mentors and being so generous, just like so many other individuals in Hollywood. This horrible incident has left our whole business in shock, disbelief, and heartbreak. Beverly Hills police had only detained 29-year-old Los Angeles resident Aariel Maynor as a suspect as of Thursday afternoon, December 2.
The pair wed in 1967, and after relocating to Los Angeles, had a daughter and a son: Nicole Avant, a former US ambassador to the Bahamas who is now Ted Sarandos’ partner at Netflix, and Alexander Du Bois Avant.
The Avants relocated to Beverly Hills in 1968 and lived there for 55 years, a significant period of time for a Black family in a city where housing discrimination and redlining had produced extremely segregated communities.
In The Black Godfather, Clarence describes how the family had intended to relocate to Baldwin Hills, a historically Black upper-middle-class community where “Ray Charles and Nancy Wilson lived. Since he could not currently afford the properties in Beverly Hills, he said that everyone resided in Baldwin Hills. But the Avants were able to settle in owing to a loan from his then-boss and mentor Joe Glaser.
Jacqueline Avant Young was an advocate for the arts and charitable organisations throughout her life. In 1975, she served as president of the Neighbors of Watts, a group that supported the South Central Community Child Care Center. In 1974, she was the chairwoman of NOW membership. Later, she would spend two terms as board president of the Museum of African American Art of Los Angeles and on the board of directors of the UCLA International Student Center.
More recently, she served on the board of The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts and volunteered as a docent in the Pavilion for Japanese Art at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. She and her husband were involved in supporting the project from the beginning when it was just a nonprofit and the cultural centre had not yet been constructed inside the former Beverly Hills Post Office.
They have a strong commitment to the arts and culture, and they saw the possibility of turning this former post office into a bustling performing arts complex long before it really happened. And they persisted in pursuing it for more than 20 years, ensuring, together with the other members of our board, that it actually materialised, says Rachel Fine, executive director and CEO of the Annenberg Center, in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter.
According to Fine, The Avants were “absolute staples on a weekly basis” at the theatre and “extremely generous” donors. Jacquie requested that all of her friends and visitors donate to the Wallis on her 80th birthday in March 2020.
Fine says, “On my morning stroll, I was just thinking about what qualities make a perfect board member of a nonprofit cultural organisation. “She had a deep sense of advocacy because she took her pride so seriously. She had such a strong commitment to our vision and mission, as well as how we carried it out onstage. She was a member of the Education Committee and a fierce advocate for our arts education initiatives.
Jacqueline was also a well-known art collector and very involved in the Los Angeles Japanese culture. She has one of the most extensive collections of Japanese lacquered boxes and other artefacts in the country. In 2013, the Crow Collection of Asian Art in Dallas, Texas, displayed her collection, and she was twice featured in the Asian Arts Magazine.
The Crow Collection’s senior director, Amy Hofland, tells THR that she views this as simply a loss of light in the earth. She was what the museum community refers to as a “dream collector,” which indicates that for her, the collection was just the beginning. It was about her love of Japanese lacquer and her relationships with friends, strangers, and young pupils. She was quite dedicated to the way the collection was taught when it was here, so I believe we bonded over this. Jacquie was that kind of person—a simple, lovely soul who travelled with the collection throughout the world and gladly shared it with others.
Beginning her lacquer collection in the early 1990s, Jacqueline Avant Young gathered an astounding assortment of objects including inkstone boxes, incense holders, pipe cases, and more. She was an expert on the subject, giving lectures about her collection at Spelman College, Scripps College, and Broadway Federal Bank. She was also devoted about educating the public about Asian art, a cause that, according to acquaintances, her husband ardently supported.
“I believe that being the wife of a well-known musician, this was her expression of who she was. This was Jacqueline’s tale, Hofland continues, noting that lacquer is a beautiful Japanese art form. It takes meticulous amounts of time and accuracy. Lacquer’s values of beauty and perfection fit Jacqueline’s wonderful personality perfectly. She was simply beautiful in the way she treated other people. And in my opinion, that is what makes a person exquisite.
Her husband Clarence, their two children Nicole and Alexander, her sister Jean Morse, as well as numerous nieces, nephews, and friends will all miss Jacqueline Avant Young.
One of Clarence and Jacquie’s closest friends, the seasoned music producer Quincy Jones, made the following statement: “The weight of my heart tonight is unlike any other that I have ever encountered in my life. The news of the untimely death of my lovely “sister-in-law,” Jacquie Avant, is beyond heartbreaking. She was the Rock of Gibraltar for Clarence, their kids, and her friends because she had the purest of spirits in every way. Because Jacquie was in our life, we have all become better people. I shall always miss your sweet smile, your “side-eye” looks, and the beauty that filled every pore of your heart, dear Jacquie. I wish you well.
In lieu of flowers, the Avant family asks that memorial contributions be made to the Jacqueline Avant Young Memorial Fund for the new MLK Children’s Center in Watts, California, through the MLK Health and Wellness Development Corporation (a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organisation). P.O. Box 811473, Los Angeles, CA 90081 is the address for donations.