There could not have been a better setting than Abundant Life Christian Fellowship in Mountain View, CA for the memorial service for Dr. Henry Lucas Saturday, Aug. 8. From Rep. Diane Watson to his youngest grandchild, presenters gave voice to how abundantly Lucas had left his imprint.
I was most struck by a conversation with a grocery clerk, who recalled his first encounter with the late dentist/entrepreneur/philanthropist. While passing through the checkout line, Lucas had leaned over, offerred his card and whispered, “Come see me.” Not only did the clerk come to have his teeth done, but turned out to be the benefits chair for his union local, and sent Lucas hundreds of other patients.
It’s a great example of the reciprocity virus that we have been seeking to spread during National Black Business Month in August. When customers like the clerk and his friends patronize black professionals and entrepreneurs like Lucas, he was then a shining example to someone like an eight-year old Jeffrey Cox, who saw Lucas’ Jag XKE in the 1960s and asked what he did for a living. Learning that Lucas was a dentist, inspired Cox to become Dr. Jeffrey Cox, with Lucas mentoring him all the way.
Cox related returning the favor just last week for another youngster who complimented him on his “threads.” The dentist took the time to pull the youth aside for a career session on how to become a dentist, too.
There was a lot more impact to relate. Lucas’ service as a board member of Meharry Medical College, Charles Drew University of Medicine and Science and the Institute for the Advancement of Multicultural and Minority Medicine was recognized. Dr. Henry Foster, the former Surgeon General, told how Lucas interceded to have a $30 million loan to Meharry forgiven.
As a confidante of Republican Presidents Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, Lucas had that kind of juice. But it was Democrat Watson who came to tell of how Lucas attended her annual hearing on the health status of blacks in California every year of the 17 that she chaired the health committee of the California Senate.
As one 40-year friend explained it, Lucas was a student of power who concluded that it rested on a three legged stool of education, business and politics. In 1963, he joined with others to form PACT Inc. (Plan of Action for Challenging Times), which has assisted 40,000 youth with preparation for college. The list of other dentists he had mentored was long. One speaker noted that in the 1960s, there were a dozen black dentists in the Bay Area. This year, there were more than 100 in the local chapter of the National Dental Association.
Living abundantly meant creating abundance for others. That’s the spirit we want to encourage throughout August, as you seek out at least one black business per day for each of the 31 days. Every black business is a cornerstone for the extended and future success of untold numbers who see the role models and raise their sights.
Our latest State of Black Business report, Walls Come Tumbling Down, tells how each of us can help shape the policies that foster more black entrepreneurship.
Rep. Watson said Lucas’ passion of ending health disparities is a crusade that all of us can pick up during August. In addition to being National Black Business Month, it is considered the make-or-break month for the emerging Congressional bills to create affordable health care for all Americans. African-Americans have as much to gain from extending coverage, because of the gaps in access and increasing unemployment rates, as any other American. Increasing coverage will also make it likely that more African-American health professionals can grow their businesses in the same fashion that Lucas did, to be considered one of America’s 10 top dentists in 2004 after most folks would have been retired. Watson called on all African-Americans to be bold like Lucas in championing expanded health care this month.
One poignant moment during the memorial occurred when Lucas’ ski buddies, who had toured the globe with him for 27 consecutive years, came to the pulpit to share how travel difficulties always seemed to fade away once Lucas pulled the concierge or maitre’d aside. One of his maxims was “if you work hard, you can play hard.” Even during the revelry, they were focused on making life better for others. One of the results of their deliberations is the VRE Leadership Model, which Dr. Frank Greene shared briefly. It has been presented to groups ranging from elementary students to corporate CEOs. VRE stands for vision, relationships and execution.
All three were in evidence through the many people he had touched. As Dr. Greene noted, “He’s not dead, he continues to live through us.” When one lives abundantly, the blessings continue past the grave.