John Crosland, Jr., a leading Charlotte-based real estate developer and a dominant force in affordable housing and philanthropy, passed away on August 2, 2015, after a courageous battle with Parkinson’s disease.
John was a man well-respected and admired by friends, family and employees. Several of them shared their memories of John in an article written for the Charlotte Observer. He truly believed in the power of the home within the community and devoted the later years of his life to addressing the need for more affordable housing.
His passion for affordable housing began in the early 1960’s when he became convinced that safe, affordable housing opportunities were the cornerstones of viable neighborhoods and community development… “I’ve always believed that the most important thing that I could do to truly make a difference in the lives of others would be to fight to make sure that people have access to homes that they can afford. Affordable, quality housing stock is the foundation of a strong community and a healthy root system, so this is a fight that we cannot give up.” John was born on September 20, 1928, the son of Lillian Floyd Crosland and John Crosland, Sr., one of Charlotte’s leading homebuilders.
He attended Episcopal High School in Alexandria, Virginia, before matriculating to Davidson College, from which he graduated in 1951 with a business degree. He married Parker Shackelford in December of that year. Two children were born of this marriage, Mary (“Molly”) Parker Crosland and John, III. This marriage ended in divorce.
After service with the Army in Korea and Japan, John returned to Charlotte in 1954, and began working with his father at the John Crosland Company. He married Judith Elza McClamroch in 1978.
John suffered from dyslexia as a child, which made reading very difficult for him and he credited his Mother and teachers at Episcopal High School and Davidson College for believing in his potential and helping him overcome this challenging condition. He learned that while dyslexia could not be cured, remedial programs led by teachers knowledgeable in the field could place students with such challenges on nearly equal levels with other students and this knowledge prompted him to establish such programs at both of these schools.
John was named CEO of his company in 1971, and served in this position through 1999, when he became Chairman of its Board. His professional career spanned nearly six decades, and his professional accomplishments were many.
He led the John Crosland Company through a tremendous transition, creating large residential developments while maintaining integrity and quality throughout. These subdivisions included: Beverly Woods, Fairmeadows, Edgebrook, Huntingtowne Farms, Foxcroft East and College Downs, among others. Under his leadership The Crosland Company built over 20,000 multi-family units in the region and more than 13,500 single-family homes in the Southeast before he sold this division to Centex Homes in 1987.
John served as President of the Charlotte Home Builders Association from 1959 to 1960 and as President of the North Carolina Home Builders Association from 1965 to 1969. He was named North Carolina Builder of the Year in 1971 and Charlotte Builder of the Year in 1975.
He was a founding member and Chairman of the Charlotte Real Estate Building Industry Coalition (REBIC) from 1977 to 1985. He served as Chairman of the North Carolina Housing Finance Agency from 1977 to 1989, and during his term some $119 Million in loans and grants were made available to finance 5,000 single family homes and 2,250 multi-family units for North Carolina families with low and moderate incomes. He was one of the first inductees into the North Carolina Housing Hall of Fame.
As an actively involved member of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), John served in various roles from 1969 to 1992, including vice president, member of its National Housing Policy Task Force and co-chair of its Mortgage Roundtable.
He was appointed a Life Director in 1968, and inducted into the NAHB Housing Hall of Fame in 1989. On a national level, he was named Builder of the Year by Professional Builder Magazine in 1985. John believed in hiring the very best qualified individuals he could find and was an influential mentor to all of them – many of whom are today prominently engaged in various aspects of the North Carolina Real Estate Industry. John’s life was lived with a set of fundamental principles, including that all people, regardless of race or income, should have access to safe and quality housing.
He was often celebrated for his personal integrity, his stewardship, his sense of community and his passions for homebuilding and home ownership. He was a member of Christ Episcopal Church and in the past served on its Vestry and as a Junior Warden. He was a Founder of the Charlotte Chapter of Habitat for Humanity, having served as its chairman from 1982 to 1989 and received its Founders Award in 2002. The Charlotte Region Commercial Board of Realtors awarded him their Cornerstone Award in 1999 and he was the recipient of the prestigious Whitney M. Young, Jr. Award from the Charlotte Mecklenburg Urban League in 2002.
In 2003, he was awarded a Doctor of Humane Letters Honorary Degree from UNC Charlotte. John endowed the John Crosland, Sr. Real Estate Chair at UNC Charlotte’s Belk College of Business in honor of his Father, and was a driving force in initiating and funding the University’s Real Estate Department. John’s career and the company he grew were celebrated in 2005 with the publication of The Builder: The Croslands and How They Shaped a Region. He took great pride in Charlotte. He was intensely devoted to his community and a driving force in shaping the City.
This hometown pride served as one of the primary motivations for his implementing a unique succession plan in the year 2000 designed to assure that his company would continue operating indefinitely into the future as a for profit business with a significant portion of its annual profits being distributed to a charitable foundation for the benefit of the schools he attended and various community interests in and around Charlotte/ Mecklenburg which had contributed most to his happiness and to his career, thereby assuring that he left his hometown a better place.
For that plan, he was awarded the Johnson C. Smith Arch of Triumph award in 2010. Other laurels John was accorded included the HUD Commissioner’s Award for Involvement in Affordable Housing, and the highly coveted and nationally recognized Hearthstone Builder Humanitarian Award created to honor, on an annual basis, a home builder who has demonstrated a lifetime commitment to helping others and making his communities better places in which to work and live.
John was preceded in death by his parents and his daughter, Mary (“Molly”) Parker Crosland. He is survived by his loyal, loving and devoted wife of 37 years, Judy; his son, John Crosland III; his stepsons, William (Rocky) and Michael McClamroch, and their five children, Megan, Will, John, Matthew and Michael.
The family would like to extend heartfelt appreciation to John’s longtime friends and assistants, Maggie Gamble, Juanita Miller and Fredia Thomas, his longtime friend and physician, Dr. Stuart Garner, and his caregivers in his later years, Melinda Athey, Bob Williams, CeCe Udeh, Haley Taylor, Daimen Moore, Jorge Moran, Pablo Alva Herrera, Wade Mullis and Patrick Abee — who truly made a difference in the quality of his life.
Services will be held on Wednesday, August 5, 2015, at 1:30 p.m., at Christ Episcopal Church, 1412 Providence Road, Charlotte, North Carolina. A reception will be held in the Church’s All Saints Hall following the service.
Memorials may be made to Charlotte Habitat for Humanity, 3815 Latrobe Drive, Charlotte, N.C. 28211 or to The John Crosland (formerly Dore) Academy, 5146 Parkway Plaza Blvd., Charlotte, N.C. 28217. Harry & Bryant is serving the family.
Published in Charlotte Observer on Aug. 3, 2015