February 10, 2021
Clarence Lightner (August 15, 1921 – July 8, 2002) was an American politician and mortician. As a member of the Democratic Party, Lightner served as mayor of Raleigh, North Carolina from 1973 to 1975. Lightner was Raleigh’s first and only black mayor and the city’s first mayor elected by popular vote. Backed by a coalition of blacks – who comprised less than 16% of all registered voters—and white suburban residents, Lightner won the November election, surprising observers and garnering national media attention.
During his tenure as mayor, Lightner helped to strengthen floodplain construction regulations, instituted a mass transit system, and was instrumental in advancing Raleigh’s affordable housing agenda. Mayor Lightner brought together area businesses and resident leaders living in neighborhoods close to Downtown Raleigh to establish an organization to address housing and community development needs.
The Downtown Housing Improvement Corporation (DHIC) was established in 1974 as a charitable, non-profit organization under the leadership of Mayor Clarence Lightner. For over 40 years, DHIC has served in a leadership role to foster housing opportunities in the Triangle region.