Metropolitan Business League founder Neverett Alexander Eggleston Jr. dies at age 90

Jeremy M. Lazarus | 9/14/2023, 6 p.m.
Neverett Alexander Eggleston Jr., a well-known Jackson Ward entrepreneur and a founder of a Richmond trade association for Black businesses, …
Neverett A.Eggleston Jr.,center,who helped found the Metropolitan Business League in 1968, stands with Carla P. Childs and Gary L. Flowers on the site of the organization’s original home on 2nd Street near Jackson Street in Jackson Ward.

Neverett Alexander Eggleston Jr., a well-known Jackson Ward entrepreneur and a founder of a Richmond trade association for Black businesses, has died.

Mr. Eggleston, who developed a motel and office building, ran a gas station and auto repair shop and was involved with family owned restaurants, died at age 90 Friday, Sept. 8, 2023. His death came just a few months after the death of his wife, Jean A. Eggleston.

E. Martin “Marty” Jewell a former member of City Council and current president of the Richmond Crusade for Voters, said Mr. Eggleston worked behind the scenes on behalf of Black economic empowerment.

“He was part of a pioneering group of leaders that we still need today,” Mr. Jewell said.

An easygoing, congenial man, Mr. Eggleston was long involved with the influential Metropolitan Business League, which he started in 1968 with three other now-deceased Richmonders that included banker Garfield F. Childs Sr., brick mason and teacher Stafford A. Flowers, and plumber and hardware wholesaler M.A. Motley Sr.

In a 2017 interview, Mr. Eggleston told the Richmond Free Press that among the reasons MBL formed was because Black people weren’t allowed to join the Richmond Chamber of Commerce or the Virginia Chamber of Commerce.

Thus, when MBL was created, people were eager to be part of the organization, which was linked to the National Business League founded in 1900 by Booker T. Washington as the National Negro Business League.

Floyd E. Miller II, MBL’s president and CEO, described Mr. Eggleston as “an inspiration to me with what he was able to do to start this organization.”

Born in 1933 in Richmond during the Great Depression, Mr. Eggleston was the son of a waiter and country club chef who rose to own hotel in Richmond’s Historic Jackson Ward.

Renamed from Miller’s Hotel to Eggleston Hotel, the property served Black entertainers, sports stars, political figures and other travelers when they were barred from entertaining or frequenting white-owned establishments during the city’s era of segregation.

A 1951 graduate of Armstrong High School, Mr. Eggleston earned his bachelor’s degree in business administration from North Carolina A&T State University in 1955.

As if predicting his future, he wrote this passage that same year:

“I owe it to myself to be strong, that nothing can disturb my peace of mind. To talk health, happiness and prosperity to every person I meet. To make all my friends feel that there is something in them. To look at the sunny side to things and make all my dreams come true. To think only of the best and to work only for the best and expect only the best. To just be as happy about the success of others as I am about my own.”

In 1959, Mr. Eggleston received a certificate from the General Motors Training School and was among participants in the Dale Carnegie Training Program from 1981 to 1982.

Listed on a copy of Mr. Eggleston’s 1990 résumé under “entrepreneurship” are no less than 50 businesses, memberships, board positions and awards received during his life. The neatly typed, three-page document states his interests and pursuits as a licensed private pilot, photography, model building radio control planes and chess.

Mr. Eggleston, who managed the hotel for nine years, was a gifted conversationalist and could list famous people such Red Foxx, Count Basie, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington and Moms Mabley who stayed at Eggleston when they were in Richmond to perform at the Hippodrome Theater.

He once recalled that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stopped in for breakfast before heading off to Washington to lead the great 1963 anti-segregation protest rally for jobs and freedom.

Looking for new opportunities, Mr. Eggleston became the first Black person in the area to secure a franchise for a Golden Skillet restaurant. He also became involved in other business opportunities, including a gas station at the corners of 2nd and Jackson streets, which doubled as his political headquarters.

He ran for City Council in 1964 on a ticket with tennis player Ronald Charity, and later organized a political action group with Mr. Charity and future Gov. L. Douglas Wilder called Voters Voice.

Mr. Eggleston later supported the Richmond Crusade for Voters. Mr. Jewell noted the Crusade gained its first offices in the three-story building that Mr. Eggleston developed at 615 N. 2nd St. across from the gas station and next door to the Mocha Temple Shrine Club.

He always spoke proudly of the motel that he built next to the gas station. Both the motel, gas station and office building have been demolished.

Mr. Eggleston’s pride extended to his son, NeverettA. “Sugarfoot” Eggleston III, who helped establish several restaurant operations, including Croaker’s Spot, a popular seafood restaurant that originated in Jackson Ward.

Most recently, Mr. Eggleston helped manage his son’s latest venture, Sugar’s Crab Shack in the 2200 block of Chamberlayne Avenue. The walk-up eatery opened in 2016, according to a Richmond Free Press article at the time.

In the 1990s, Mr. Eggleston was elected to develop a new building for the Richmond City Health District, but then-City Manager Robert C. Bobb canceled the contract.

Mr. Eggleston was predeceased by his wife, Jean A. Eggleston, and sisters Aurelia Ford and Jane E. Douglas, the late wife of former Richmond Judge Willard Douglas Jr.

Along with his son, survivors include his daughters, Jayne J. Eggleston-Vann and Shakita Fox-Billingslea; six grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

Remains rest at Scott’s Funeral Home, 115 E. Brookland Park Blvd., where viewing will take place from 10 a.m. until 7 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2023. Funeral services will be held 1 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 20, at Wesley United Methodist Church, 1720 Mechanicsville Turnpike.