Lucas used talents to advance University, education

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Within the Cone University Center, there is the John Paul Lucas Room. It honors one of the University’s early advocates and supporters.

A native of Winston-Salem, Lucas was born July 25, 1908. He earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Duke University and a master’s degree from N.C. State University. He also earned a master’s in English from Princeton. His father was a former editor of the Charlotte Observer and executive for Duke Power Co.; when he died in 1940, Lucas assumed some of his father’s former duties as assistant head of the public relations department. Eventually, he was promoted to department head and then vice president for public relations.

Prior to Duke Energy, Lucas taught English at the Asheville School for Boys and Clemson University. As a former professor, he continued to have an interest in academia, and he was appointed to the advisory board for Charlotte Community College in 1957 and to its board of trustees the next year. He also served as a director of the Charlotte College Foundation (now the UNC Charlotte Foundation).

In helping guide the University and working with its founder Bonnie Cone, he was quoted, “Bonnie Cone had the gift of enlisting the deep interest and hard effort of businessmen in the community. Her conviction about the University was so contagious. Why, I’ve made countless trips to Raleigh on college business when I had neither the inclination nor the time – just because Bonnie wanted me to go.”

Lucas also served on the North Carolina Board of Higher Education and was a trustee of Johnson C. Smith University. He also was active in the community, spending six years as a member of the board of directors of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, president of the Charlotte Rotary Club, director of the Hospital Savings Association and a member of the YMCA board of directors.

In 1969, UNC Charlotte awarded him an honorary Doctor of Letters. During the ceremony, then-UNC Charlotte Chancellor Dean Colvard said, “John Paul Lucas, businessman, lay educator and civic leader has been a generous and faithful steward of his talent.” The UNC Charlotte trustees voted to name the Cone Center’s “Parquet Room” the John Paul Lucas Room in January 1975; a portrait of Lucas was dedicated on Dec. 1, 1989.

Atkins Library Special Collections contributed to this article.