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Cary Mitchell, dedicated J.C. Smith alum and fashion designer to elite athletes, has died

Charlotte-based custom clothing designer Cary Mitchell died unexpectedly on Saturday morning. Mitchell counted some of the biggest names in professional sports as his clients. As a graduate of Johnson C. Smith University, Mitchell remained committed to the school throughout his life and served on the university’s board of directors.

Cary Mitchell
John Mitchell
Cary Mitchell

Dwight Howard, Scottie Pippin, Yao Ming, Alonzo Mourning, Ken Griffey, Jr. and Charles Barkley are only some of the people who trusted Mitchell to turn them out in professional style. In 2003, Mitchell designed the first uniforms for the new NBA team, the Charlotte Bobcats.

Then there was Tiger Woods. A May 2004 edition of Sports Illustrated dubbed Mitchell “Tiger’s Pants Guy.” Much of the golfer’s wardrobe was marked with the famous Nike swoosh. But not his pants. Mitchell had been designing Woods’ pants for six years by that time. He told the magazine, “I’m paid by Nike but they don’t sell my designs. When Tiger orders his pants, I send them to Nike and they give them to him.”

Mitchell’s brother, John Mitchell, posted on Facebook Saturday afternoon that his brother died earlier in the day.

“The loss is crushing at times. Keep us and especially his wife Vanessa in your prayers,” John Mitchell posted.

“Cary Mitchell was my friend who cared deeply about community, but especially about the Black communities in Charlotte and Richmond, Virginia,” said Nick Wharton, president and CEO of the Charlotte Area Fund. “Cary, a JCSU alum, launched his passion for clothing design as a college student and became an innovative clothing designer to prominent African American pro athletes helping them dress with style and class. For years, with his charming and disarming personality, Cary privately admonished pro athletes to control their own finances and invest in uplifting Black communities that ignited their pro careers. Cary’s sincere character, personal integrity and commitment to community will live on.”

Mitchell grew up in Richmond, Virginia. No funeral details are available at this time. He was 62 years old.

(Nick Wharton serves as vice chair of the WFAE Board of Directors.)

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Jennifer Lang is WFAE's director of digital news and audience engagement.