“Now I’m stronger than yesterday; now it’s nothing but my way.” Those lyrics from the 2000 hit song “Stronger” by Britney Spears closed out the touching graveside service for Dan Mauney on July 15. While the song may have spoken to Mauney’s courage as a proud gay man from rural North Carolina, many would argue that the community is the one that is stronger today — a benefit of his life and contributions to the Queen City.
Dan Mauney died on July 12 after battling complications from spinal meningitis and a stroke. He was 49.
Growing up just west of Charlotte in Cherryville, Mauney attended Appalachian State University, then transferred to Gardner-Webb University, a Christian college in Boiling Spring, where he graduated with a BA in Psychology. In a 2013 interview in The Charlotte Observer, he talked about how painful his early years were, remembering being taunted in grade school. “I never fit,” said Mauney.
In 1991, Mauney moved to Charlotte and became an incalculable member of the LGBTQ community. He undoubtedly had found his fit. He served on the board of directors for Regional AIDS Interfaith Network, or RAIN, and Time Out Youth. Debbie Warren, president and CEO of RAIN, said, “In recent days I’ve heard Dan described as a beacon of light, a trailblazer and a legacy. He certainly was all those things.”
He was involved in the first decade of Gay Bingo in the city, where he served as the committee chair and in 2002 launched Takeover Friday events at Charlotte bars and restaurants with close friends Rodney Tucker and Rodney Hines. “Nobody could tie him down,” said Tucker in an interview with Charlotte Magazine. “He had an energy that is unmatched by many people.”
“I am grateful for all he contributed to the work of RAIN, Gay Bingo and the AIDS Walk,” says Warren. “I will never forget how much fun we had, how clever he was, and his superpowers of connecting people for good.” She refers to that special way he pushed members of the community to be better, enriching the city of Charlotte along the way as “Dan Magic.”
During the 2017 Human Rights Campaign (HRC) North Carolina Dinner, Mauney was honored by friends Scott Bishop and Shelly Schoenfeld. Bishop spoke of the impact that Takeover Friday had created, saying it “enabled many LGBTQ folks to go beyond the comforts of our ever-important gay bars, to be among the mainstream, and show that we too are citizens of this great city.” Similar events have since spread to more than five cities across the country.
Mauney first got involved with HRC in 2006 and held many roles including serving twice as the North Carolina Dinner co-chair, a Federal Club chair, communications chair, Gala liaison and he served on the organization’s Board of Governors until his death.
“Word cannot express how much he will be missed…by those across the Charlotte LGBTQ community,” read a statement by the local HRC group. “His legacy will have a lasting impact on the lives of his friends and family and those he met along his journey.” HRC and friends organized a virtual outdoor toast to Mauney on July 13 at 8:12 pm, the time of his death the day before.
Fondly known throughout the city as “Dan the Shoe Man,” his entrepreneurial side led him to open two South End boutiques in 2013. Brief became Charlotte’s only underwear shop for men and Shu specialized in women’s shoes. The location at 1426 S. Tryon Street also featured a 3,000 square foot event space that featured trunk shows and various community events. Both stores remained open for three years.
Throughout his career, Mauney was well known in the fashion and shoe world and was an expert in the industry. Prior to opening his own retailers, he was a sales and marketing manager for Renaissance and the Southeast director of sales for a number of brands including Bruno Magli, Sheridan | Mia, Butter of Italy and Zee Alexis. It was often said that “he could sell a box of rocks in a shoe box,” according to the obituary written by his family.
As a small business owner, he was also instrumental in the growth of the Charlotte LGBT Chamber of Commerce (CLGBTCC) and hosted the organization’s first gala in his event space. “We are grateful for the equality work that Dan accomplished in the LGBTQ community,” read a statement from CLGBTCC. “We honor his tenacity as a small business owner. We celebrate his infectious laugh and spirit that helped shape our community.”
Most importantly, Mauney was a stalwart advocate and pioneer for the LGBTQ community. “Dan was a leader in every aspect, whether it was in the shoe industry, LGBT Community or HRC, he gave it 110%,” reads the obituary. “Our community is better today because of Dan, his voice, and his fight for Equality.”
Following his death, memories flooded social media throughout the city including a common thread that exemplified the love he left behind. One Charlotte resident wrote, “He was such a light and he will be so incredibly missed,” while another said that Mauney was “one of the biggest reasons I am who I am today.”
As friend Zuni Johnson said, “the world is a little less bright.” In a statement from Hearts Beat as One Foundation, Joe Davis added that “Dan Mauney has worn a cape or two, or three over the past few years, but that is not what made him a superhero. His love for the LGBTQ community and fight to see equality achieved was unsurpassed and that is the mark of his superpower! We are saddened by the news of Dan’s passing and will continue the great work that he exemplified through his life. A life well lived and a love that reverberates through our community through volunteerism, philanthropy, activism and genuine support!”
Mauney is survived by his mother, Doris Smith Mauney; his sisters Ann Davis and Barbara Mauney McDaniel; his brother Mark; and several nieces and nephews. The family has asked that memorials be made to RAIN, 601 E. 5th St., #470, Charlotte, NC 28202 or online at carolinarain.org/donate; Time Out Youth Center, timeoutyouth.org; Shady Grove Baptist Church Building Fund, 3240 Tryon Courthouse Rd., Cherryville, NC 28021; or St. John’s Lutheran Church Outreach Ministry, P.O. Box 100, Cherryville, NC 28021.