John C. "Skeepie" Scarborough: Generations of Greatness
His family has had a hand in bringing grace and dignity to African American families for over 120 years. He's not done yet.
Posted By Ashley Strahm on Feb 17, 2020
John Clarence "Skeepie" Scarborough, III, is a Durham native. He is the fourth-generation member of the Scarborough family to lead the legendary Scarborough and Hargett Funeral Home. The company moved to Durham in 1900 and has been providing services to African American families continuously for the past 120 years.
He is a treasure trove of historical references, quick to identify and tell lesser known stories about other Durham heroes who filled Hayti with life. Referred to as the 'mortician who keeps a neighborhood's history alive,' Skeepie is in his 80s, and refuses to let go of the threads that have woven his cherished Hayti community together. But over a century of family history began with an urgent need: cherished families and community members needed to be buried with dignity and grace — but in the era of Jim Crow, white funeral homes declined to serve and bury Black bodies.
Legend has it that Skeepie's great-grandfather was the first Black man in the country to earn his morticians license, and generations later, Skeepie forged his own historical path by surviving the renewal efforts in Durham that led to the decimation of the Hayti neighborhood, and the majority of the Black-owned businesses within it. As Skeepie sits in the Hayti Heritage Center, he points out a young Arthur Ashe, and Johnny B. McLendon, the basketball legend. He also recalls fond memories of a father who laid the foundation for the work he considers to be both vital to individuals, but also a community who has evolved through significant challenges and changes. Below, he speaks about his continued experiences in Durham's Black community.
John C. "Skeepie" Scarborough was interviewed and photographed at the Hayti Heritage Center, just days before he was honored at the Hayti Heritage Film Festival held annually in the same venue.