Monroe’s first black city council member dies at 94

Phil “P.E.” Bazemore
Phil “P.E.” Bazemore City of Monroe

Phil “P.E.” Bazemore, a veteran Monroe politician who was the first African-American elected to city council, died Monday. He was 94.

Bazemore won election to the board in 1981, and served through 2009. In 2005, he was appointed mayor to fill an unexpired term, then returned to his position on the council.

Throughout his career, Bazemore advocated for education and agriculture issues, among other causes. And he was one of the plaintiffs in a racial discrimination lawsuit against the state N.C. Agriculture Extension Service that took nearly 19 years to resolve.

Monroe Mayor Bobby Kilgore, a longtime colleague, called Bazemore a gentle, good man who played a key role in a number of projects, including downtown revitalization, expansion of the airport and infrastructure improvements.

“He helped Monroe grow up,” Kilgore said. “And he had a way about him that he could tell you no, and you’d smile. ...That’s what I call tact.”

Bazemore was active in the Democratic Party and with several nonprofits, including one that helped farm families stay in business. In 2008, the city renamed a section of Burke Street as P.E. Bazemore Drive in honor of his service.

Bazemore worked for the extension service for about 30 years starting in 1951.

He said he enjoyed his time with the agency but was concerned it was not treating black agents fairly in salary, hiring and promotions. In a case that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, the state ultimately reached an $800,000 settlement with the plaintiffs in 1990 while not admitting to any discrimination.

Soon after the settlement was announced Bazemore described his philosophy in an interview with the Observer: “Right the wrongs in a peaceful way. ...I might fight you on the issue, but I’ll never fight you.”

Harris Funeral Home & Cremation Service of Monroe is handling the funeral. Arrangements are incomplete.

Bell: 704-358-5696;

Twitter: @abell