Jacqueline Avant was more than just the ‘Black Godfather’s’ wife

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When news spread about the death of Jacqueline Avant on Wednesday, there was an outpouring of grief. Avant, 81, was the longtime wife of music and entertainment mogul Clarence Avant.

She died of a gunshot wound during an attempted robbery at the Beverly Hills home she and Clarence shared. She was rushed to a nearby hospital where she was pronounced dead. Beverly Hills Police Chief Mark Stainbrook stated that Avant’s death was a “difficult day for our city.”

The outpouring of love for the Avant family after the murder of matriarch Jacqueline Avant (above) is continuing on social media this week. (Photo: JC Olivera/Getty Images)

“The Avant family’s contributions to the world of entertainment, and the communities across Los Angeles are unmatched,” he said. “There are no words to express our profound sorrow for this immense loss for Jacqueline’s husband, Clarence, their children and the entire Avant family.”

Born in Queens, New York in 1940, Jacqueline first met Clarence during a time when she was a model for Ebony Fashion Fair, according to the Los Angeles Times. After a courtship that included limo drives to Manhattan music haunts like the Apollo Theater and Birdland, the two were married in 1967.

When they moved to California, Clarence started Sussex Records and became an influencer in music and entertainment for nearly the next six decades. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2021.

Producer Clarence Avant and wife Jackie arrive at The Recording Academy’s Special Merit Awards ceremony held at the Wilshire Ebell Theater on February 9, 2008 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images)

While her husband’s presence looms large, there’s more to Jacqueline than just being the wife of the man known in the industry as the “Black Godfather.” While Clarence is responsible for the success of many of our most important Black artists, from Bill Withers to Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, Jacqueline was on numerous charity boards in her lifetime. She served on the charity board of the National Organization for Women’s entertainment division, the UCLA International Student Center, and was president of the Watts neighborhood in Los Angeles.

She was also an advocate for the Democratic party. President Jimmy Carter would often send African heads of state to her and Clarence’s house during visits to Los Angeles. She helped organize fundraisers and community groups for lawmakers such as Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, and Rep. Maxine Waters.

Jacqueline and Clarence’s daughter, Nicole Avant, is accomplished in her own right. From 2009 to 2011, Nicole served as the 13th, and youngest, United States Ambassador to The Commonwealth of The Bahamas. Nicole is also a film producer, best known project is her documentary on her famous father, Netflix’s The Black Godfather. Nicole is married to Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos.

Nicole told NBC News last year that her mother helped put her on the path she’s on now.

“While my father was in it, making all the deals, my mother was the one who gave me, for example, my love of literature, my love of filmmaking, my love of storytelling,” Nicole said.

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