Queen City News

Leon Levine, philanthropist, Family Dollar founder, dies at 85

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) — Leon Levine, the founder of Family Dollar and a major philanthropist in and around Charlotte, died at age 85.

So many buildings in Charlotte are named for Leon Levine, but his story is not about buildings. It’s about the lives he has changed.

Leon Levine’s career started when he and his brother bought a chenille bedspread factory in Wingate after high school, according to the Leon Levine Foundation.

Levine ran the factory and went to college at the same time.

In 1959, with a $6,000 investment, Leon Levine opened the first Family Dollar store on Central Avenue in Charlotte, growing it into thousands of stores.

“Now there’s pretty much a Family Dollar on every corner,” said Dean Jones, Senior Vice-President for Fundraising at the YMCA of Greater Charlotte.

And there’s almost nowhere that you don’t see the Levine name.

“I don’t know what Charlotte would look like without his generosity,” said Jones.

From the arts in Uptown and a street named for him, Levine Avenue of the Arts, to Levine Children’s Hospital and Levine Cancer Institute, so many institutions bear Levine’s name.

“We’ve really lost a legacy leader and philanthropist, not only in Charlotte but really in North Carolina and the region,” said Jones.

Leon Levine retired from Family Dollar in 2003 and started his second career as a philanthropist.

The YMCA of Greater Charlotte built a new addition several years ago, the Leon Levine Center for Healthy Living. The Leon Levine Foundation gave a $2 million grant for that, and their work is evident in other areas at the Y, including children’s literacy.

“It starts probably in elementary school, my first trip to the Levine Museum of the New South,” said Cooper Manley.

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Manley is a Levine scholar and a senior at UNC-Charlotte.

Over the years, Levine and his wife have funded scholarships for hundreds of students.

“It really does mean a lot to me; it’s almost everything of my college experience,” said Manley.

As a Levine scholar, Manley has given back through Habitat for Humanity, and the program has given to him, setting him on his possible career path.

“I see that as a bit of a legacy to continue in a way,” said Manley.

Leon Levine’s legacy continues to reach so many in the Queen City and beyond.

Statement from UNC Charlotte sent to Queen City News:

“Leon Levine and his wife, Sandra, have been stalwart supporters of UNC Charlotte. Through their generosity, hundreds of Levine Scholars have had the opportunity to pursue excellence in the classroom, while giving back to the community around them.

UNC Charlotte sends its deepest condolences to Sandra Levine and the entire Levine family as we mourn the passing of a man who helped transform education at our University and has improved the lives of countless Charlotteans.”

Statement from Atrium Health sent to Queen City News:

“Leon’s passing is a profound loss for the Atrium Health family and beyond. He dedicated his life to helping others and, through his major investments, he shaped the way we deliver care at Atrium Health, especially in pediatric and cancer care. For decades, his philosophy was not only about transforming care but also lifting up every corner of our community. His tremendous generosity is felt across the Carolinas today and because of him, there’s a child taking his first steps, a father walking his daughter down the aisle and a neighbor being the first in their family to graduate from college. His legacy will live on for generations to come through the lives he has touched,” said Eugene A. Woods, Chief Executive Officer, Advocate Health.

“Leon embodied everything that represented good in the world. No matter where you live in our community, you are likely not far from a charitable organization impacted by Leon and Sandra‘s generous support or something that bears the Levine name. Leon’s greatest gift is his legacy. The programs and facilities he has supported have truly changed the course of care at Atrium Health. Our teammates and patients will forever feel his imprint on their lives,” said Armando Chardiet, President, Atrium Health Foundation