December 09, 2021

By Cora Jackson-Fossett

Contributing Writer


The multitudes of tributes reflect the tremendous impact of Jacqueline “Jacquie” Avant, both in greater Los Angeles and internationally.  

Following news of her tragic death during a home invasion on December 1, salutes and commendations filled the airwaves attesting to her grace, elegance, and joy in assisting those less fortunate.  

In fact, Jacquie Avant contacted “Sweet” Alice Harris, on Nov. 26 and committed to ask friends to contribute to Harris’ fundraiser to purchase bicycles for South L.A. children.  

Known for her philanthropy, support of the arts and community engagement, Mrs. Avant was the wife of Clarence Avant, a music legend often referred to as “The Godfather of Black Music.” 



They are the parents of two children – Alexander and Nicole. 

With the Avants having extensive involvement in the entertainment and political arenas, associates in both fields along with others who had long relationships with the family flooded social media with condolences and reflections.  


“Jackie was one of the kindest, most caring and considerate people we’ve ever known. 

When she walked into a room, her style, elegance and class was always on display.  Her dedication to Clarence, Alex and Nicole was a demonstration of pure strength. 

Our hearts are broken, but our friendship, love and the laughter we shared for over 40 years will live on forever,” said Danny and Aline Bakewell, Sr. of The Bakewell Company and lifelong friends of the Avant family. 

Danny Bakewell, Jr., Sentinel executive editor and executive vice president of The Bakewell Company, echoed that sentiment, saying, “The only way I can describe Mrs. Avant was BEAUTIFUL.  She was beautiful, inside and out. 

I have known her, Mr. Avant, Nicole and Alex almost my entire life. 


Seeing her smiling face always brought a joy to my heart and losing her hurt me more than words can explain.  As Nikki once said to me, ‘We are family,’ and this will forever remain true.   

“My prayers go out to Mr. Avant, to Nicole and to Alex and to all of their family and everyone who was blessed enough to have known the ‘Fabulous Jacqueline Avant.’  She will forever be loved and will forever be missed, but will never be forgotten,” declared Bakewell Jr. 

Offering comparable words, former President Bill Clinton issued a statement, calling Mrs. Avant “a wonderful woman, a great partner to Clarence and mother to Alex and Nicole, an active citizen and a dear friend to Hillary and me for 30 years. She inspired admiration, respect and affection in everyone who knew her. We are heartbroken. 

She will be deeply missed.''

Entertainment mogul and philanthropist Oprah Winfrey asserted, “I can only imagine how the Avant family feels.

Jacqueline Avant was the classiest, kindest, and most calming presence.

The fact that this has happened, her being shot and killed in her own home, after giving, sharing and caring for 81 years, has shaken the laws of the universe.

The world is upside down. And deeply in need of some love today.” 

While Clarence Avant was heralded for his achievements in the music industry, Jacquie Avant garnered equal accolades for her deeds in the areas of social services and equity.



As president of the Neighbors of Watts, she implemented a series of childcare initiatives to assist working parents.  Also, she was a member of the board of directors of UCLA's International Student Center and the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts. 

In addition, Mrs. Avant served two terms as president of the board of directors of the Museum of African Art of Los Angeles as well as volunteered as a docent in the Pavilion for Japanese Art at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. 

Her love of Japanese art led to her developing an admirable collection of lacquer objects such as inkstone boxes, incense containers and pipe cases.

Over the years, she amassed extensive knowledge on the topic, which resulted in invitations to speak about her collection at college campuses and civic organizations.  

Mrs. Avant’s daughter, Nicole, explained how her mother’s interests affected her family in a 2019 interview with NBC News. “Well, they’ve been married for 52 years, and my mom is really the one who brought to my father and our family the love and passion and importance of the arts and culture and entertainment.


“While my father was in it, making all of the deals, my mother was the one who gave me, for example, my love of literature, my love of filmmaking, my love of storytelling.  Her bringing that energy and her passion for the arts kind of kept my dad balanced. She’s the umbrella in his life,” she said. 


Her talents and dedication to these types of endeavors were highlighted by celebrities, elected officials, civic leaders and others sharing expressions about her death. 



Actress Viola Davis, songwriter Diane Warren and U.S. Congresswoman Karen Bass were among those issuing statements. 

“Mrs. Avant was a force of compassion and empowerment locally and nationally for decades, as well as a model of service and giving back to those who needed it most,” said Bass.  

“My dear friend, Jacquie Avant, was murdered. This kind and compassionate woman was a friend to so many and we simply cannot accept what has happened to her.



My condolences to Clarence, Alex and Nicole. We mourn with you. Love, Maxine and Sidney,” said U.S. Congresswoman Maxine Waters. 

Legendary musician Quincy Jones reflected, “The heaviness of my heart today is unlike any other that I have ever experienced in my life. The news of the tragic loss of my beautiful ‘sister-in-law’ Jacquie Avant is devastating beyond words. She was the purest of souls in every sense, and was the Rock of Gibraltar for Clarence, their children, and her friends. We are all, every single one of us, better people because Jacquie was in our lives. Dearest Jacquie, I will forever miss your gentle smile, your ‘side-eye’ glances, and the beauty that inhabited every fiber of your heart. God bless you.” 

NBA Hall of Famer and businessman Earvin “Magic” Johnson stated, “Jacquie was the sweetest person you could ever meet. She had a beautiful soul, kind heart and always had a kind word for everybody. She was quiet, yet powerful and very smart. We are crying for Clarence, Nicole, & Alex’s loss. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the entire family.” 

With similar emotion, producer/director Tyler Perry wrote, “My heart breaks for Clarence and Nicole and all the Avant family. This world can be so cruel and cold!! I have no idea what kind of sub-human could shoot an 81-year-old woman and in her own home.  But you can rest assured that every available resource will be used to find whoever is responsible for this awful nightmare. This is tremendously sad.”  

Pauletta and Denzel Washington expressed, “We are extremely heartbroken and will truly miss Jacquie’s elegance, beauty and kindness. We send our love and prayers to Clarence, Nicole, Ted, and Alex.” 

Also, Dr. Keith L. Black, professor and chair of the Department of Neurosurgery at Cedars-Sinai Hospital, shared, “Jacquie was graceful and giving, a wonderful mother and wife. She enriched the lives of everyone she encountered.

When my wife, Carol, and I moved to Los Angeles, she and Clarence welcomed us with open arms and we will be forever grateful. Jacquie worked to make her beloved community of Los Angeles better in so many ways. Her warm and beautiful smile will be so sorely missed.”  

He added that Jacquie and Clarence Avant were “staunch supporters of advancing brain research,” which is an initiative headed by Dr. Black. 


Dr. Earnestine Thomas-Robertson, chair/president of the Los Angeles-Lusaka Sister City Committee Lusaka City Club, noted that Mrs. Avant’s death left her “speechless all day.”



Reflecting on their years of friendship, Thomas-Robertson said,  “Mrs. Jackie Avant was a bridesmaid in my wedding many years ago. She supported the international endeavors of the Los Angeles-Lusaka Sister City Committee.” 

During the administration of Mayor Tom Bradley, Thomas-Robertson and Avant worked on a major African project called, “Treasures of Ancient Nigeria,” which was the first exhibit of its kind in Los Angeles.

Describing Mrs. Avant as having “an international presence that embraced the African continent,” Thomas-Robertson added, “She was humble, generous and had a joyful and devoted love for Mr. Avant and the children, Nicole and Alex.”  

Like their parents, the Avant children have professions in similar fields. Alex is an entertainment executive and Nicole is a film producer who served as U.S. ambassador to the Bahamas during the administration of President Barack Obama.  Also, she is the wife of Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos and she was a co-producer of the Netflix film, “The Black Godfather,” which is a documentary about her father's life and career.

Reginald Hudlin, who directed “The Black Godfather,” issued a statement saying, “Jacquie was the epitome of grace, elegance, kindness, and good taste. Like so many people in Hollywood, I owe so much to the mentorship and generosity of Clarence and Jacquie.” 

Remembering the strong bonds that Jacquie Avant inspired, Debra L. Lee, co-founder and partner of The Monarchs Collective and former CEO of BET Networks, commented, “Jacqui Avant was my friend. 

I loved being around her.  She was smart, elegant, stylish, beautiful, caring, compassionate, funny and she loved unconditionally.  She loved her children, Nicole and Alex, her many friends, her community and her husband of 54 years, Clarence Avant.  

“She did so much and gave so much to this community.  She worked behind the scenes and in front when necessary to make this community better. She loved art and her collection of Asian lacquer boxes. She had a heart of gold and the patience of Job.  She laughed at Clarence’s jokes, filled in the blanks of his stories and let Clarence be Clarence. She always made me feel welcomed and a part of her family.  I am blessed in that way.” 

Businesswoman and community activist Dale Cochran recalled, “Jacquie was the epitome of grace, class, style. beauty, and marvelous taste for the almost 35 years that I’ve known her. Her senseless tragedy defies credulity, as she was the kindest and one of the most  generous people that I knew.  

“She has been and always will be a role model to me and generations of young women who aspire to do well and do good at the same time. She has left an indelible imprint on my soul,” added Cochran, who also serves on Cedars-Sinai board of directors. 

A native of Jamaica Queens, New York, the former Jacqueline Alberta Gray was born on March 6, 1940.  She previously worked as a hospital technician and phlebotomist before becoming a runway model for Ebony Fashion Fair, the premier traveling fashion show where African Americans modeled outfits by renowned European designers such as Pierre Cardin, Givenchy, Yves St. Laurent and Jean Paul Gaultier. 

While pursuing this profession, she met Clarence Avant, then a rising star as an executive in the music recording industry.  In “The Black Godfather,” she recounted the lengths that her future husband went to in his efforts to impress her, such as introducing her to stars like Harry Belafonte and taking her to famous clubs. 

“He’d always have a car pick me up and I thought, ‘Who is this guy?’ And then one day, I guess he was really trying to win me over and for some reason, he mentioned how much he paid the Internal Revenue Service,” Mrs. Avant remembered. “I guess he was trying to tell me how much [money] he must have made.” 

The couple eventually married and their union lasted 54 years. Together, they made significant impacts on various areas of life, both in Los Angeles and the world.   

Clarence Avant’s accomplishments in the music industry were recognized in October with his induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  The Avant family was on hand to applaud the momentous achievement. 

BHPD Chief Mark Stainbrook read the following statement on behalf of the Avant family: “The entire Avant family wishes to thank everyone for their outpouring of love, support and condolences for Jacqueline Avant.  


“Jacqueline was an amazing woman, wife, mother and philanthropist and a 55-year resident of Beverly Hills who has made an immeasurable positive contribution and impact on the arts community. She will be missed by her family, friends and all of the people she has helped throughout her amazing life.”

On December 2, Stainbrook announced that 29-year-old Aariel Maynor was arrested for the slaying of Mrs. Avant during a break-in of the family’s home in the Trousdale Estates neighborhood in Beverly Hills. When he was detained, Maynor had an AR-15 rifle, which police described as a “suspected weapon” from the crime. Stainbrook added that thus far, Maynor is the only “one suspect involved in the crime.” 

Upon hearing about the arrest, the Avant and Sarandos families released a statement expressing, “Our deepest gratitude to the city of Beverly Hills, the BHPD and all law enforcement for their diligence on this matter. Now, let justice be served.”

The family also requested that in lieu of flowers or gifts, donations can be made to the Jacqueline Avant Memorial Fund for the new MLK Children’s Center in Watts, as per Jacquie’s wishes. Contributions to the fundcan also be mailed to P.O. Box 811473, Los Angeles, CA 90081.  More information is available on the MLK Health and Wellness Development Corporation website at 

City News Service contributed to this report.

Category: News