Yanci Taylor celebrates his 96th birthday on February 24, 2020. He was born in a rural town of Lot, Texas, in 1924 to Yanci Taylor Sr. and Mariah Taylor. Taylor was the fourth out of eight children.
He would complete high school and later marry Alberta Taylor in 1945. This union would produce two children. Shortly after, he was drafted into World War II, becoming a non-commissioned officer.
While in the Army, Taylor was a barber and learned how to be an electrician. He had skills in carpentry that he learned from his father and skills in clothing from his mother who was a seamstress.
After three years of service, Taylor purchased his first property.
He applied to join the union for electricians but was denied because the electrician union did not accept African Americans. Taylor then joined the union for carpenters, eventually becoming a subcontractor.
Taylor set his sights on starting and owning a clothing store in downtown Oakland. He hired an attorney to obtain a master lease for Yanci’s Clothes Hanger store from Coldwell Banker in June 1964. Taylor had to get an attorney to obtain a lease because there was a lot of reticence from the property managers to lease to an African American man.
Taylor would go on to become the first African American to own and operate a retail shop in downtown Oakland. The store was in a prime location at 1422 Broadway and it became very successful with 21 years of business.
The store carried suits, shirts, shoes, exotic furs and excellent fabrics. Mr. Taylor would travel to manufacturers’ conventions and shop for the clothing himself. The high quality of the materials attracted a diverse clientele from baseball player Willie Mays, to San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown, civil rights attorney John Burris, Congressman Ron Dellums, Huey P. Newton of the Black Panther Party and many influential people.
Taylor has been a member of North Oakland Missionary Baptist Church since the 1940s, joining upon his arrival on the U.S. Army base. He is the father of renowned jazzman Yanci Taylor Jr.
Taylor has won two trophies in recent years for being the oldest living family member at his family reunion in Texas. His grandmother lived to be 100 years old.
At 96, Yanci Taylor does 50 push-ups every morning, listens to jazz, cooks for himself and makes his own juice from his lemon tree.
Taylor drives his car and his California driver’s license will expire in 2024 when he turns 100.