Skip Alston waives $250,000 commission to help civil rights museum

The International Civil Rights Center and Museum is getting a $250,000 discount on the purchase of the former building next door to First Citizen, as Guilford County Board of Commissioners Chairman Skip Alston, one of museum founders, refuses to take a quarter-million-dollar commission on the $10.5 million purchase.

When asked about the decision, Alston acknowledged that as the buyer’s agent on the transaction, his real estate agency – The Alston Realty Group – was entitled to the commission, but refused to take the commission so that Museum County obtains the building and surrounding property at a lower price.

The International Civil Rights Center and Museum is striving for designation as a World Heritage Site – a highly prestigious historical designation by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

The museum, at 134 S. Elm St. is buying the entire downtown block of Greensboro for $10.25 million. The museum also needs parking on the block and this land is included in the purchase.

The Civil Rights Museum plans to use the building next door for additional exhibits and more meeting space. The purchase cost would have been $10.5 million if Alston had not decided to waive its commission.

The Guilford County Board of Commissioners voted last week to have county staff prepare for Guilford County to provide $2 million to the project, and the board is expected to finalize that funding very soon. Others – like the City of Greensboro, the Joseph M. Bryan Foundation of Greater Greensboro, and the State of North Carolina – can also help fund this major museum expansion.

Alston said he never took advantage of the museum and said the purpose of the project was to preserve the historic site where the civil rights sit-in movement began in 1960 and to draw attention to the extremely important role that the Woolworth lunch counter sit-in has played in the advancement of civil rights in this nation. He said he wanted it to be a place where people’s minds were opened and they were educated about civil rights and the history of the movement.

“I never made a dime with the museum,” Alston said, acknowledging that over the years some of his critics have made the allegation.

He said that, in fact, years ago he took over a $60,000 loan that the museum had put on the books to help the museum succeed.

Alston said he had no desire to collect his commission as long as the $250,000 went to the museum and not too much to the seller’s agent.

Per state law, Alston has stayed completely out of funding discussions since he was a co-founder of the museum. Before the board of commissioners held the discussion on awarding the $2 million to the museum on Friday, March 18, Alston left the meeting room at the Bur-Mil Clubhouse and stood by his car as he passed phone calls. The photo above was taken through the clubhouse window as these discussions and the ensuing vote took place.

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