Clarence Avant, The ‘Godfather of Black Entertainment,’ Dies At 92

Clarence Avant, The ‘Godfather of Black Entertainment,’ Dies At 92

WBLS Staff
08/14/2023 12:00 AM EDT

"The joy of his legacy eases the sorrow of our loss.”

Clarence Avant, who was dubbed the “The Black Godfather” music and entertainment, has died aged 92, his family has confirmed.

Avant died at his Los Angeles home, his son Alex Avant, daughter Nicole Avant and son-in-law Ted Sarandos shared in a statement Monday.

"It is with a heavy heart that the Avant/Sarandos family announce the passing of Clarence Alexander Avant," the family said. "Through his revolutionary business leadership, Clarence became affectionately known as 'The Black Godfather' in the worlds of music, entertainment, politics, and sports.'

His family added, “Clarence leaves behind a loving family and a sea of friends and associates that have changed the world and will continue to change the world for generations to come. The joy of his legacy eases the sorrow of our loss.”

A North Carolina native, Avant became a pillar in entertainment after moving to Los Angeles in the late 1960s. There, he formed Sussex Records, which signed Bill Withers and several successful acts.

The music executive also forged Avant Garde Broadcasting, making it the first Black-owned FM radio station in Los Angeles.

He married Jacqueline ‘Jackie’ Alberta Gray in 1967 and they had two children, the eldest of whom, Nicole Avant, is a former U.S. Ambassador to the Bahamas and is the wife of Netflix boss Sarandos.

Throughout his decorated career, he won a string of awards. He received a Hollywood Walk of Fame star in 2016 and then a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame gong in 2021, during which Barack Obama and Kamala Harris spoke in a video tribute.

That same year (2021) Avant was struck by tragedy as his wife Jacqueline Gray, was fatally shot in December during an attempted burglary of the couple's home.

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A 2019 Netflix feature, The Black Godfather, depicted his humble beginnings to major music executive. It was nominated for a Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Original Music and Lyrics, which were penned by Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo.