John Montgomery Belk was the son of William Henry Belk, the founder of the Belk department stores. After graduating from Davidson College in 1943 and serving the in the United States Army, John Belk began work in the family business, becoming the chief executive officer in the 1950s and remaining in that post until 2006. He guided Belk’s transition from a loose alliance of stores into a more unified operation and its expansion into one of the largest retail chains in the South. He also served four terms as mayor of Charlotte, from 1969 to 1977. He led the remodeling of the center city by persuading corporations to build headquarters there and by advocating for public works like the Civic Center. Like his father, he took the philanthropic responsibilities of great wealth seriously. Under his leadership, the Belk Foundation continued to support higher education and hospitals and many other causes. He was remembered as one who “never met a stranger” and whose business success did not diminish his commitment to public service.