Tribute to first black elected official

The Concord community is mourning the loss of the city's first African-American elected official.

Robert Lee Mathis, 77, was born in Cabarrus County April 21, 1934, to Junior Lewis Mathis and Minnie Virginia Mathis.

Educated in the Cabarrus County Schools system, he joined the Navy before being elected to the Concord Board of Aldermen (later renamed the Concord City Council). He also served as board chair for the nonprofit Logan Daycare Center and was an active member of First Christian Church in Concord. He died Nov. 12.

Local officials, friends and family said Mathis was a trailblazer who paved the way for others to follow in important areas of responsibility.

Mathis served 16 years as a member of the Concord Board of Aldermen/City Council. His service included two years as mayor pro-tem before he retired from City Council in 1997. He also served in other leadership capacities throughout the community during and after his tenure on the City Council.

A memorial service Nov. 18 at Barber-Scotia College in Concord follwed his burial at Salisbury National Cemetery.

Mayor Scott Padgett said Mathis was one of the finest people he's ever known.

"He quietly lived his faith and served his fellow man," said Padgett. "His word was his bond; he lived to serve other people. I learned about public service by observing him as an alderman and mayor pro-tem. He always left things better than he found them."

Mayor Pro-Tem Alfred Brown Jr. said Mathis was a selfless servant to the community and a man of great integrity.

"He was a man that made a difference," said Brown.

Council member Dave Phillips said Mathis led by example and never asked anyone to do anything he wouldn't do himself.

"He was a leader, coach and mentor," said Phillips. "Robert's contributions have made Concord a better place for all of us and for future generations as well."

Council member Jim Ramseur said the highly respected citizen was a pioneer, a veteran and a caring council member.

"I am honored to have served with him from 1995 to 1997," said Ramseur. "Our city will miss him greatly."

Council member Ella Mae Small described Mathis as a kind, gentle and extraordinary man who dedicated his life to improving the lives of others.

"I remember how diligently he worked with the Logan Community Child Development Center for many years," said Small, whose husband, the late Allen Small, succeeded Mathis in his seat on the City Council. Ella Mae Small succeeded Allen Small after his death and later was re-elected to the seat.

"He was chairman of our board of directors when we began to consider building another center. Robert was instrumental in helping us acquire a building site.... He did a superb job in leading that effort.

"Both of the centers are five-star facilities and are continuing to grow and improve in educating young children," Small said. "He will be missed by the residents of Concord and Cabarrus County."

Mathis is survived by his wife, Margaret Miller Mathis; three sons, Calvin J. Mathis of Harrisburg, Rodney L. Mathis and his wife, Cynthia, of Missouri City, Texas, and Jeffery L. Mathis of Concord; and one daughter, Kim M. West and her husband, Shannon, of Simpsonville, S.C.; 19 grandchildren; 13 great-grandchildren; and many other relatives and friends.

Instead of flowers, The family asks that donations be made to First Christian Church's Feed the Homeless Program, P.O. Box 1125, Concord, NC 28025.