Living Treasure: Matthew Bacoate

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Matthew Bacoate Jr.  Photo: Urban News
By Marnie Walsh

Matthew Bacoate was born on February 10, 1930 in Asheville, to Osie and Matthew Bacoate, Sr. Matthew Sr. was from the Darlington, SC area and Osie from Rock Hill, SC; on moving to Asheville in 1927 they changed the spelling of the family name from Bacote to Bacoate.

Segregation, Jim Crow laws, and the Ku Klux Klan limited opportunities for blacks in the South, yet Matthew Sr. was enterprising, operating at various times a restaurant, a janitorial service, a cement block business, and an ice cream shop. His mother was a teacher, then a cosmetologist. Matthew, Jr., the oldest of three children, attended Allen Home Elementary School and the now historic Stephens Lee High School in Asheville.

In 1944 the Bacoate family joined in the “The Great Migration,” which
took them to Baltimore, where Matthew Jr. worked at a bowling alley,
and later to Kent, Ohio, near Akron, where Matthew Sr. was employed by
the Firestone Tire company and continued with a junk business on the
side. In Ohio, Matthew Jr. graduated from the integrated Roosevelt High
School where, he recalls, he received a good education.

When he
landed in Asheville, his strong work ethic, friendly personality, good
manners and skills landed him a full-time job at the Chamber of Commerce
working as a clerk, a writer, and general jack-of-all-trades. A
life-changing opportunity came when business leaders invited him to join
a new enterprise as General Manager of AFRAM, a pioneer African
American manufacturer. He set work schedules, organized production
goals, and designed new products, and AFRAM became the largest
black-owned business in the history of Asheville. Over time AFRAM
transitioned to ACE (Asheville Community Enterprise), then M.B.
Disposables, a manufacturer of disposable protective clothing, with
Matthew as owner and a staff, on average, of 47 employees.

In
1970, Matthew Bacoate and AFRAM were featured in a national ABC
documentary entitled Help!—Black Economic Development and Cooperation
Between Blacks and Whites in Asheville, North Carolina. Presidents Jimmy
Carter and Richard Nixon invited him to the White House to speak on job
creation and economic development, and he served on the advisory
committees for Senator Robert Morgan and Senator Terry Sanford.

Matthew
has served on the Boards of the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce, the
YMI, Pack Place, the Asheville Chapter of the American Red Cross,
Victoria Health Care Center, the Black Mountain Center Foundation, and
as cofounder of the Black Business and Professional League.

He
attended the University of Southern California 1953-55, WCU in 1970-71,
and NC State University 1971-1975. He has one son, Matthew Bacoate III.

Asheville
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