Obituary: John Montgomery Belk

by MR Magazine Staff

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – John Montgomery Belk, a former mayor of the City of Charlotte and the chairman emeritus of Belk, Inc., the largest privately owned department store chain in the country, died last Friday, August 17, at the age of 87. The funeral was held Monday, August 20.

The Belk department store chain consists of more than 310 stores in the Southeastern United States. It was founded in Monroe, North Carolina by Belk’s father, William Henry Belk, in 1888. John Belk served as CEO of the company since shortly after his father’s death in 1952. He retired in 2004.

Belk was mayor of Charlotte from May 1969 to December 1977. He also served as the chairman of the Belk Foundation and chairman of the National Retail Foundation. According to an obituary released by Belk Inc., he was involved in leadership roles with the World Presidents Organization, the American Management Association and The Conference Board. He was a director of a many public corporations, including PMC, Inc., Wachovia Corporation, Quantum Chemical Corporation, Texas Industries, Lowe’s and Coca-Cola Bottling Co. Consolidated, Inc.

Belk was also very active with a number of higher education institutions, including the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

Quoted in the Charlotte Observer after the funeral, Dr. Thomas Haggai, chairman of IGA supermarkets and a family friend, said: “’What’s in it for me?’ are words he never understood,” and recalled Belk’s habit of coining unique phrases, like “Some people drink from the fountain of knowledge. Others just gargle.”

The funeral was well attended, according to the Observer. More than 1,200 people mourned at the Myers Park Presbyterian Church in Charlotte.

The family requests that memorials be made to the John M. Belk Educational Endowment, 2801 W Tyvola, Road, Charlotte, or other charities.