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The Excelsior Club, a long-time center of black social and political activity, was started in 1944 by Jimmie McKee in a seven-room house on Beatties Ford Rd. Three renovations and 50 years later, the Excelsior Club still continues to operate on Beatties Ford Rd.
"James Robert McKee (Jimmie) used to serve parties at the white country clubs where he watched the young and old people gather for fun and entertainment in beautiful surroundings. It gave him pleasure to serve the members and observe the festivities. He would leave work with a longing for such a place for his people." - From a booklet commemorating the 40th anniversary of the Excelsior Club, November 16, 1984
Pictured in this 1944 photo are: Reuben McKissick, Samuel Moore, Harry Mills, Harry Plater, Arthur Bass, and Roy Perry, the Excelsior Club's first Board of Directors.
On Sunday nights in the 1950s, bands broadcast live from the Excelsior Club on WGIV, Charlotte's first black radio station.
WGIV was started by a white World War II veteran who thought there would be an audience for black music. Jimmie McKee urged the station to hire his friend Eugene Potts as their first Black announcer. "Genial Gene" , shown here in a parade on Beatties Ford Road, went on to become a WGIV celebrity.
The Excelsior is the site of annual receptions where politicians meet the black community. In 1946, a Democrat running for sheriff made a stop at the Excelsior to campaign. Clyde Hunter, a white man, won that year and since that time, local politicians regularly came to an annual Candidates' Night at the club. "This is where they get to meet the precinct chairmen and workers," said McKee. "They also get a chance to talk with some of Charlotte's solid and respectable citizens."
Membership at the Excelsior included doctors, educators, politicians, lawyers, and businessmen. Five blocks from Johnson C. Smith University, the Excelsior Club was a hub of Smith supporters. Jimmie McKee founded the Club of 100, an organization that supported and raised money for the college.
On December 16, 1988, students from the Anita Stroud Foundation had a Christmas party at the Excelsior.
The African American Album: The Black Experience in Charlotte and Mecklenburg County. Vol. 2. Charlotte, NC: Public Library of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County, 1998. Computer optical disc, 4 3/4 in.