Charles E. Lomax, the first African American to become a partner at the powerhouse law firm of Sidley & Austin and later general counsel for legendary promoter Don King where he helped negotiate some of the biggest contracts in boxing, televised-sports and entertainment history, died on Sunday at Hospice by the Sea in Boca Raton, Fla. Mr. Lomax had battled pancreatic cancer for over two years. He was 85.
Mr. Lomax was one of the first African American attorneys hired by the United States Internal Revenue Service in 1952. From that time through 1974, he served with distinction in the offices of the chief counsel and the Chicago regional counsel of the I.R.S.
He made history in 1975, becoming the first African American named partner at Sidley & Austin, the largest and most prestigious law firm in Chicago whose origins trace to 1866, paving the way for future Sidley & Austin lawyers like Barack and Michelle Obama. He loved both the practice of law and mentoring young lawyers. He will be remembered not only for his excellent work as an attorney, but also for his collegiality, good humor, grace and wit.
He began working in tax law and later expanded his practice to include entertainment law where he was instrumental in bringing a number of prominent clients into the firm, most notably heavyweight boxing world champion Muhammad Ali and later boxing promoter Don King.
In addition to his extensive knowledge of tax law, he became an indispensable partner to Mr. King, helping negotiate numerous blockbuster deals between Don King Productions and internationally known world champion boxers, network television outlets and the burgeoning cable television industry in the 1980s.
“Charlie Lomax was a great friend of mine and a giant of the legal profession,” Mr. King said. “He empowered me to fight the system from inside the system. He was a confidant who stood by me for 30 years. We made history together. I loved the man and will greatly miss him.”
In 1983, Mr. King and Mr. Lomax brokered the largest product endorsement deal of its time between singer Michael Jackson and Pepsi-Cola. Later that decade, Mr. Lomax put together the legal team at Don King Productions to handle the representation of heavyweight boxer Mike Tyson, who became the highest-paid boxer in the world during the 1990s.
Gradually, Mr. King’s demands for Mr. Lomax’s services led to him to join Don King Productions in 1992 as General Counsel and senior advisor.
“His intellectual bandwidth was so broad and the number of lives he touched with kindness so great that he was both a general manager within the organizations he served and a true citizen of the world,” said Sharon Elliott, Mr. Lomax’s daughter.
Charles Eli Lomax was born on March 24, 1924, in Wilkesboro, N.C. The seventh of eight children consisting of four brothers and four sisters, he lost both of his parents to tuberculosis. His father, James Richard Lomax, died when Charles was 6 years old, followed by his mother, Lina Carolina Gilreath-Lomax, before he was 8.
The surviving children were split between relatives. His older twin sister, Alease, and her husband, John Cundiff, raised Charles and his younger brother, Bill.
He was class Valedictorian in high school before enrolling at Johnson C. Smith College in Charlotte, N.C., until his studies were interrupted by service in the U.S. Army during World War II.
He was stationed in several European countries during his tour of duty as an infantryman and later as a French interpreter serving in France.
At the conclusion of the war, he left military service in 1946 to attend Howard University in Washington, D.C., on the G.I. Bill. He received his undergraduate degree in 1948 and was subsequently awarded a scholarship to attend Howard Law School, where he graduated fourth in his class in 1951.
In addition to his academic and professional accomplishments, Mr. Lomax was a strong community advocate, contributing his time to a number of non-profit organizations. One was the Abraham Lincoln Center of Chicago, where he served as President from 1968 to 1970. For over 20 years, he was a faithful steward to his church, Good Shepherd Congregational Church, where he was both a deacon and a member of its Board of Trustees.
A daughter, Sheila, preceded him in death.
He is survived by his wife of 30 years, Corrine, of Boca Raton, Fla.; a daughter, Sharon Elizabeth Elliott of Park Ridge, N.J., a brother, William Lomax, of Washington, D.C.; his step-children, David Blaemire of Santa Maria, Calif., Shelly Blaemire and Gina Collins, both of Lake Forest, Ill.; his grandchildren, Lesley R. Elliott of New York, N.Y., Joseph R. Elliott III, of Berkeley, Calif., and Jack Schneider and Kent Ciele Collins, both of Lake Forest, Ill. His former wife, Awilda M. Lomax, also survives him.
The family requests that those wishing to provide remembrance consider, in lieu of flowers, making a donation to their favorite charity or Hospice by the Sea, 1531 W. Palmetto Park Road, Boca Raton, Fla., 33486; The Lustgarten Foundation (researching the cure for pancreatic cancer), 1111 Stewart Ave., Bethpage, N.Y., 11714; or the American Cancer Society, 3350 NW Boca Raton Blvd., Suite A-34, Boca Raton, Fla., 33431.
Memorial Services will be held in Boca Raton on Friday and on Oct. 3 in Chicago.
Boca Raton, Florida 1:30pm
Babione Funeral Home
1100 N. Federal Highway
Boca Raton, FL
Repast to follow
Chicago, Illinois 1:30 pm
Ambassador East – Byfield Room
1301 North State Parkway
Chicago, IL 60610
Repast to follow in the Pump Room, at the Ambassador East