The Untold Truth Of Clarence Avant

In the early morning hours of December 1, 2021, Jacqueline Avant — the wife of legendary music executive Clarence Avant — was shot and killed during a home invasion robbery at the couple's home in Beverly Hills. Clarence Avant was not injured in the melee. The couple had been married for more than half a century. 

Inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in October 2021, Clarence Avant's career touches many aspects of popular culture, including the music business, but also sports, movies, and even politics, as chronicled in "The Black Godfather," a 2019 documentary about his life, according to IMDb.

Despite Avant's far-ranging influence, however, and although his contributions are just as substantial, Clarence Avant remains less of a household name than some other luminaries of 20th century show business, such as Ahmet Ertegun, founder of Atlantic Records, or Barry Gordy, who started Motown Records. Without Clarence Avant, though, the history of the 20th century entertainment industry would be very different, indeed.

He attended a one-room schoolhouse

Born in 1931 in a segregated South, Clarence Avant attended school in a one-room schoolhouse in Climax, North Carolina. One-room schoolhouses were in operation all the way up until 1967, according to The Hartford Courant, and Clarence Avant went to school in one all throughout junior high, before attending a traditional high school in Greensboro, North Carolina, per The History Makers

Known as "The Black Godfather," however, Avant would go on to build a reputation in the entertainment industry, teaching and mentoring young Black artists and business executives, helping many negotiate and earn better salaries. Although skilled in interpersonal relationships, Clarence Avant seems to have parlayed his humble beginnings and unusual educational experiences as a touchstone for this part of his career.

"He's a Black man who has converted Black artistic excellence into leverage for economic success and political clout. Now he's a role model to a whole new generation who aspire to his level of achievement — not just in business, but in philanthropy as well," Reggie Hudlin, director of the 2019 documentary about the life of Avant, told NBC News.

He purportedly tried to poison his stepfather

Before finding his way to New Jersey where his first forays into the entertainment business would occur, Clarence Avant had an impoverished and traumatic upbringing, marked most notably by Avant's desperate attempt to escape his situation by reportedly poisoning his abusive stepfather. The oldest of eight children, Avant took it upon himself to defend his family, allegedly putting rat poison in the troubled man's food. Because of this unsuccessful attempt on the life of his stepfather, Avant fled, living with relatives in New Jersey.

Without this tragedy, though, Clarence Avant may never have found his way into show business, according to Jim Carroll's Blog, the website of a leading communications strategist based in the U.K. After arriving in New Jersey, Avant found work managing Teddy Powell's Lounge, where he would meet Joseph G. Glaser, Louis Armstrong's manager at the time, who is also known to have links to Al Capone. Through Glaser, Avant found work managing Little Willie John (pictured above) and Jimmy Smith — Avant's first job in the entertainment industry.

If you or someone you know may be the victim of child abuse, please contact the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-Child (1-800-422-4453) or contact their live chat services.

He advised both presidents and baseball legends

Clarence Avant's influence stretches beyond the record business, into the worlds of baseball and even politics. In 1974, baseball great Hank Aaron (pictured above) was close to breaking Babe Ruth's record of 714 career home runs. Because of this, Aaron was inundated with racist letters and even death threats, according to The Undefeated. On the eve of Aaron's 715th home run, Avant called the athlete, encouraging him to ignore the noise and play his best. Without that phone call, Babe Ruth's record may still stand today.

Fast-forward to the 1990s, and President Bill Clinton was facing impeachment and considering resigning. According to NBC News, Avant told the president, "Don't even think about it." And that wasn't the only time Avant influenced presidential politics. Per Town & Country Magazine, he played a part in getting Barack Obama his prime spot at the 2008 Democratic Convention. Both Obama and Vice President Kamala Harris honored Avant through a video presentation at the 2021 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony.

He believes in numerology

Looking back, it might seem Clarence Avant has lived a charmed life, and deservedly so, but according to Avant his good fortune has all been in the numbers. That's because Clarence Avant believes numerical values play a crucial part in the particular outcome of an individual's life. This is otherwise known as numerology, a practice dating back thousands of years and practiced by many cultures, including the Greeks, the Romans, and the Chinese, according to Astrology.

When asked to view Clarence Avant's life through the lens of numbers, "The Black Godfather" director Reginald Hudlin told The Guardian, "We tried to do the math of what he's done and the opportunities he's generated — we couldn't figure it out. It's too complicated, the number would be too high." Nevertheless, Avant remains steadfast in his belief system, adding, "Life is about one thing: numbers. Nothing else." With a career as successful as Clarence Avant's has been, he just might be right.

His daughter is also exceptional

On top of all his career accomplishments, Clarence Avant's daughter, Nicole Avant — one of two children Avant would have with his wife, Jacqueline — is also very successful, serving as the United States ambassador to the Bahamas during the Obama administration. Nicole Avant is also married to Ted Sarandos, a high-ranking Netflix executive, and esteemed music producer Quincy Jones is her godfather, whose career Avant supported early on.

In 2019, she backed Pete Buttigieg for president, per CNBC, that same year telling InStyle Magazine that in the Avant household, politics were a family affair. "My parents have always had friends on both sides of the aisle," she said. "We had an everybody-welcome policy, which was very important for [my brother] Alex and me to understand growing up. We don't judge on religion, race, gender, Republicans, Democrats, independents. We judge by character."

And she said helping people is simply part of her DNA. "Like my father, I get excited bearing witness to people's dreams coming true," she added.