Clarence Lightner was Raleigh, North Carolina’s first, and to date, only, Black mayor in its history. The late Lightner attended North Carolina Central University, taking a somewhat unusual path to politics.
Lightner was born August 21, 1921, in Raleigh. After leaving NCCU, Lightner earned a degree in Mortuary Science and began working in his father’s funeral home in Raleigh. In the late ’60’s, after gaining several connections within the local business sector, Lightner made his first foray into politics.
In 1967, Lightner was elected to the Raleigh City Council, serving until 1973. That year, his historic mayoral win made headlines as the Black vote in the majority-white city was just at 16 percent. Given that Raleigh city politics had been tense as the heights of the civil rights movement began to wane, Lightner’s win was unprecedented.
The Omega Psi Phi man served just one term as mayor, leaving the office in 1975. Lightner served as an appointed state senator for a little over a year, then turned his focus on business development in his hometown.
The “City of Oaks” has honored Lightner for his political and business achievements with several markers and honors around town.
Lightner passed in 2002.
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