Winston-Salem loses legend in sports, funeral service

The bench outside Gilmore Memoral Services has been transformed into a memorial honoring the legacy of Jerry Gilmore III.

Winston-Salem loses legend in sports, funeral service
September 22
14:14 2021

Last month Winston-Salem lost a legend, Jerry Gilmore III. The longtime owner and operator of Gilmore Memorial Service died on Aug. 27. 

Before he became known as the compassionate owner of one of the city’s most successful Black-owned businesses, Gilmore was known for his play on the football field. 

As a student-athlete at the original Atkins High School, Gilmore was an All-Conference center and linebacker. He is also a member of the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Sports Hall of Fame. After high school, Gilmore attended Winston-Salem State University (WSSU), but decided to leave and enroll at the John A. Gupton College of Funeral Service, where he learned the ins-and-outs to take over the family business, which was started by his father. 

While running the business, Gilmore still found time to be active in the community. He served nearly a decade on the city-county planning board and several other boards and organizations. Gilmore also served as board chair at his alma mater, John A. Gupton College, and chair of the state and national funeral directors’ associations. 

Those who knew Gilmore said he had a way to connect with people. Damian Shell, founder and director of Damien C. Shell Funeral Service Practitioner, said he learned a lot from Gilmore. 

Shell said he recalls several conversations he had with Gilmore while sitting on the porch of the business located at the corner of 17th and Liberty Streets. “He is someone I have high respect for because he was able to teach you so much,” he said.  Shell said Gilmore paved the way for Black-owned funeral homes here in Winston-Salem and across the state.

“I don’t know if people know the history of Gilmore’s, but it was the number one Black-owned funeral home, they were number one,” Shell said. “They had top-of-the-line equipment, top-of-the-line presentation. They were first class all around and were doing 200-300 calls a year back then. I admire him for his dedication and the fact that I could always learn something from him. Many days I would sit out there on the porch and talk to Mr. Gilmore because I knew I would learn something.

“At the end of the day, he is a role model to many funeral directors, to myself, and he is still an asset to this community because even though he may be gone, the name is still there and the business is still there.”

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Tevin Stinson

Tevin Stinson

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