Local Black business pioneer Clara Mattox passes
Funeral services will be held Monday at Greater Galilee Baptist Church for Black business pioneer Clara Mattox. Mattox, 81, passed away Sunday.
She was recently named by the Community Journal to the Academy of Legends for lifelong achievement.
A well-known political and civic leader, Mattox was the co-founder of Wisconsin’s first Black owned nursing home, Convalescent Nursing Home. She later changed the name of the nursing home to Steven Bryant when she built a state of the art facility on the corner of 6th and Walnut Streets.
Mattox started the nursing home with friends Jesse Hudson and Lula Brown, brother Eugene Epps and her father, John Holt. She was the first Black Wisconsinite to receive a license as a nursing home administrator. Steven Bryant, named after her two grandchildren, housed over 180 patients who were provided exceptional care with a cultural emphasis.
Rev. Sideena Holt, Mattox’s sister-in-law, recalled that Steven Bryant filled a void in the African American community.
“Until Convalescent, and later Steven Bryant, Black elderly had to give up important cultural aspects when they moved into nursing homes. What Clara brought to the table was an important cultural ingredient, not just the food that they were used to, but those cultural nuances that are unique to our community.
“Clara was a phenomenal woman. She was a true trailblazer.”
Former State Senator Monroe Swan echoed Holt. Swan was a champion for Steven Bryant when state officials withheld funds under what Swan then called political circumstances meant to cripple or close the successful Black business.
“They slowed up payments to the point where she (Mattox) had problems paying her mortgage. The closing of Steven Bryant was a direct state induced move that forced the business in receivership; they in essence took her property away.”
The controversial state actions, which officials later admitted were unnecessary and egregious–and some community leaders called racially motivated–not only hurt the patients, but the dozens of workers the nursing home employed.
“Mrs. Mattox not only provided unique services to her clients, but to the community,” Swan said.
Hundreds of people found employment at the nursing home. Steven Bryant was also a catalyst for several businesses, including Bryant Restoration, an adult day care and rehabilitative center that was located on Green Bay Ave. Mattox ran that facility until her retirement a few years ago.
Mattox was also a Black business advocate, having served for many years as the president of Gamma Phi Kappa Women’s Business Club.
Mattox was born in Ellerlie, GA. Her family moved to Milwaukee when she was six. She attended 9th Street, Roosevelt and Lincoln high schools.
An early member of St. Matthew C.M.E. Church, she later joined Greater Galilee when she married her lifelong partner, Ben Mattox. The couple had three children, Verna Marie, Jeanette (Reese) and Loretta (Hawkins).
She is survived by three brothers, James (Rev. Ann), George (Rev. Sideena) and Reverend Robert (Sandra) Holt. She was preceded in death by a sister, Amanda (Woods), Mitchell and Henry Holt, and Epps.
She had four grandchildren, Billy, Bryant and Angela, and Steven, who preceded her in death.