The Crusader Newspaper Group

Bronzeville Historian and Pioneer Harold Lucas dies

Harold Lucas loved the Bud Billiken Parade. In a YouTube video, he said he dreamed of riding a horse in the iconic event.

On Saturday, August 13, Lucas will be watching the beloved spectacle from above instead of the sidelines.

Lucas, who stood up to Chicago’s political establishment as a fierce advocate for preserving Bronzeville as Chicago’s Black Metropolis, died August 9. He passed four days before the nation’s largest Black parade makes its 92nd trip down Chicago’s Martin Luther King Drive. He was 79.

His daughter, Sherri Lucas-Hall, from the Atlanta area confirmed his death to the Crusader.

Sources said Lucas had been in hospice at Northwestern Memorial Hospital since the spring. Friends and former colleagues often visited him there until his health worsened.

“When he stopped replying to my text messages, I knew he was sick because he would always reply when I texted him,” said Sherry Williams, founder and president of the Bronzeville Historical Society, who was one of Lucas’ close friends.

Overcome with emotion at times, Lucas-Hall said her father “was my Rock, but I also know that he was a confidant, mentor, guide, and friend to so many others who will also miss him.”

Lucas-Hall was overcome with emotion during an interview with the Crusader as she elaborated, “We are all his legacy, but I am especially proud that he was just my daddy, and I will miss him more than I can reveal.”

Lucas-Hall said she will miss her dad’s hugs, but she remembers her conversations about Bronzeville with him.

“That’s all he talked about. He loved Bronzeville. He valued the people in the community,” she told the Crusader. He never wanted to leave there.”

Lucas-Hall now lives in the Atlanta area and works as an educator and owns a tutorial business.

Gloria Smith, executive director of the Black Star Project in Bronzeville, said her brother Philip Jackson, who died in 2018, shared a deep bond with Lucas. The feeling was mutual, in a YouTube video Lucas praised Jackson, the founder of the Black Star Project.

“Philip and he were more than just close. They were brothers in the struggle,” Smith said.

Lucas was born in Bronzeville on November 1, 1942. He graduated from Hyde Park High School at a time when Blacks were moving into the East Woodlawn neighborhood. His daughter also graduated from the school.

In 1996, Lucas founded the Black Metropolis Convention & Visitor Center in Bronzeville. The center was filled with African art, relics and historical artifacts that made the place a destination for tourists. It was located in the historic Supreme Life Insurance building at 35th and King Drive. In 2016, Lucas was forced out of the space after a dispute with the building’s landlord, businessman Elzie Higginbottom.

In recent years, he donated many of his artifacts and documents to Chicago State University and the Newberry Library on Chicago’s North Side.

Throughout his life, Lucas fought to preserve the history and Black culture of Bronzeville as gentrification, and development booms threatened its identity. His strong loyalty to the neighborhood often led to clashes with City Hall and political officials.

He campaigned for the preservation of the now restored Rosenwald Apartments at 46th and Michigan where entertainers Quincy Jones, Marla Gibbs and Nat King Cole once lived.

He was friends with William “Bill” Ball of Abundance Bakery, who died last June.

Williams said she met Lucas in 2000 when they were trying to save Gerri Oliver’s Palm Tavern in Bronzeville from demolition.

“Harold was vocal about preserving our history and our landmarks in Bronzeville,” Williams said.

Affectionately known as “Buzzie” by some and “The Curmudgeon” by others, Lucas, in addition to Lucas-Hall, had a son, Eli, and several sisters; Harriet, Helen, Gerri, and Lydia, through his late mother Katherine.

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