Journal of the People’s Pastor

“Writing The History I’ve Lived, Living The History I Write!”


The Passing Of Giants Of The Human Spirits

Dick Gidron
10/10//1939 – 10/11/1907

“He was a giant, in size and charity”

He was a big man. His generosity was equal to his physical size. He was community minded in special ways. There are many testimonies of his munificence. Two, in particular, stands out. They are quoted in the The Positive Community Magazine, November Issue, page 34:

His pastor and close friend, Rev. Dr. Gregory Robeson Smith, of Mother A.M.E. Zion Church in Harlem, said, “For over 30 years Dick Gidron has been my close friend, confidant, elder brother, Masonic brother who inspired me and countless others to live, give and strive for the best in life. Dick Gidron was a friend to the community by supporting programs uplifting the community, remaining in his roots and showing us all entrepreneurship is a reality. The word “no” did not exist in his vocabulary, so many people always turned to Dick for help. His influence, professionalism and dedication stretched far beyond New York. He was a champion, a trailblazer, my friend, my brother, Dick Gidron I will miss you; your impact will never be forgotten.”

Another glowing tribute was paid by the Rev. Al Sharpton, who said, “My longtime friend, Dick Gidron, was a pioneer and I will miss him dearly. He supported us through every one of the civil rights struggles in the past 20 years and there was not a time I could not call on him for support and friendship. His breed was a rarity and his accomplishments profound. In 1972, he became the first African-American Cadillac dealer in the New York area and only the second in the nation. For him to endure through constant scrutiny, in spite of all the naysayers, proved that he was one of the great business leaders of our time. In fact, the only thing Dick Gidron was guilty of was being black and successful in America. He was one of a kind and his family and friends not only knew him as the ‘King of Cadillac’s’ but as a loving father and husband. He was also the black folks’ bank. When you did not have credit, you could still get a car from Dick Gidron – and I speak as one of his noncredit customers many years ago. Mr. Gidron had faith in his people and a love for helping people of all walks of life. He was a philanthropist and always one to do a good deed. The whole community looked up to Mr. Gidron, and not a day shall pass that I will not miss his friendship. On behalf of my family and me, and the National Action Network, you will forever be missed Mr. Gidron!”

It was in the late 70s when I first met Dick Gidron. I had heard about his philanthropic outreach through many people who had had dealings with him. On two occasions, I had been the direct beneficiary of his generosity. I had an old car that had broken down beyond repair. In the meanwhile, I needed transportation. I asked Dick Gidron for help. He gave me a grey Cadillac. It was not new, but it was clean and running smoothly. It served me well until I was able to purchase a new car. He never asked for a cent.

The second instance of his charity was during Jesse Jackson’s run for the presidency in 1988. It was time for Jesse to focus on New York for the democratic primary race. It meant an entourage of staff, media, party leaders and well-wishers. I had been traveling with and organizing for Jesse across the country. Now in New York, I wanted to make sure that we had sufficient vehicles for the entourage. I called Dick Gidron for help. He supplied six vehicles for the duration of the New York City campaign and a special car and driver for me.

(Here is a significant piece of historical validation. Adrian A. Council, publisher of The Positive Magazine, in her tribute to Dick Gidron writes in the November issue of The Positive Community, “Gidron was the ultimate go-to guy and team player. One day, during the 1988 presidential race, Jean Wells and I were meeting with Mr. Gidron to discuss his advertising on the radio stations. The meeting was interrupted with a phone call from the Rev. Herbert Daughtry. He called to say that the plane of presidential candidate Jesse Jackson would be landing in two hours. Mr. Gidron dispatched six cars with drivers to aid the Jackson campaign.”)

During his battle with General Motors (GM), I was eager to answer his call for help. With some of the most influential leaders in New York, we commenced meeting periodically to strategize to secure justice for Gidron. In the meetings were, Rev Dr. Calvin Butts, Rev. Dr. Gregory Smith, Rev. Al Sharpton, former mayor David Dinkins, Rev. Dr. Franklin Richardson, pastor, of Grace Baptist Church, Hazel Dukes, NAACP, and others. We held a press conference in front of GM’s office to demand that General Motors honor its agreement with Dick Gidron. At our last meeting, held at Abyssinia Baptist Church, we decided we would use our influence with the Black members of GM’s Board of Directors, hopefully to gain their support and or direction. If that failed, we were ready to call for a boycott of GMs products. A couple of weeks later, I learned he had had a stroke. The next news I received he had died.
His problem with GM revolved around property, which Gidron claims that GM had agreed to sell him. He put a lot of money into the building. There was a fire, which destroyed the building. GM reneged on the deal leaving Gidron holding the bag and losing his money. Because of the cash flow challenges, Gidron began to have tax problems, which eventually landed him in jail. I am certain, all this tension contributed to the deterioration of his health.
I was in Chad, Central Africa, when the viewing and funeral occurred at Abyssinia Baptist Church. I wished that I could have been there. Everything seemed to have happened so suddenly. It was hard for me to believe he was gone. It seems that we had just had a meeting; that we had just spoken on the phone. During the troubles with GM, he would call me often. He would say, “I need you, Dr. Daughtry; I need all of my friends. GM has done a terrible wrong to me. I need your organizing skills.”

I think every time I see a Cadillac or a GM car, I will think of Dick Gidron. Maybe God had a special chariot with a special driver to take him home. Or, maybe Jesus came for Gidron and took him to Heaven Himself.

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