Long-time LGBT community supporter passes away

Provided safe haven for LGBT people to be themselves

Marian Frances Allison Tyson, 82, died on Sept. 24 at Levine-Dickson Hospice at Southminster in Charlotte, N.C.

mariantyson_obit_smMarian and her husband, Floyd/“Okey,” were the original owners of The Scorpio, a nightclub that caters to the LGBT community. They wanted to create a safe haven for LGBT people to be themselves and not have to worry about being judged. And, this was done during 1968 when state and national laws were not so kind to the LGBT community.

An ally, Marian was regularly seen at the door collecting fees and making everyone feel at home. She checked IDs, kept order and ensured that the safety of the patrons was maintained.

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The Scorpio originally opened on South Blvd., but moved later to S. Tryon St. before it landed in the early 1970s at the Freedom Dr. location where it still exists.

“They [Marian and Okey] started it because they had gay friends,” said current owner Donald O’Shields in 2014, noting how few other bars in the area catered to gay clientele. “They listened to their friends.”

The backdrop in those beginning years was at the precipice of gay liberation amidst the Stonewall Inn riots. What Marian and Okey Tyson began has been sustained for over 40 years and has served as a legacy to what they contributed to the community.

Shields began his sojourn with The Scorpio in 1979 when he called to inquire about applying for a job. Marian told him that she only hired people she knew who came out to the bar. Shields shared, “I had only been to the bar one time but I told her she’d recognize me when she saw me. She asked ‘Can you  come down here now?’ and when opportunity knocks, you always answer the door! I said I’d be right down, hopped in the shower, drove there, walked in and she said ‘I remember you, go on back there now.’”

“…I was privileged to work for this precious woman from that night for the next 10 years, except for a stint in the Army. Then in January of 1989, Marian and her husband Okey decided to sell the bar they had opened over 20 years before. My partner Rick Wilds (d. 2008) and I were fortunate at the time to be in the position of purchasing The Scorpio and I am proud of the 36 years I have been here and so very thankful that this woman and man [who] gave a couple of guys the opportunity they did,” he added.

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Shields’ sentiments regarding Marian’s death said it best. “It is with the saddest of hearts this week that I had to say goodbye to Marian for the last time. My thoughts and prayers are with her family and friends. She truly touched many lives. Bye for now Marian, I love you so.”

Not only did the Tysons own and run a bar, but they also did the same with regard to their other family businesses, Tyson Tool Equipment and Ideal Tool Equipment.

Marian was preceded in death by her husband and parents, Howard and Clara Montgomery Allison. She is survived by her children, Diane Tyson and Michael Tyson, and sister, Martha Carpenter, as well as grandchildren Jamie (Crystal) Tyson and Trevor Tyson and great grandchildren, Scottie Tyson, Kevin Tyson and Arianna Conner.

Graveside services were held at Forest Lawn West Cemetery.

Memorial gifts may be made to Levine-Dixon Hospice at Southminster, 1420 E. 7th St., Charlotte, N.C. 28204.

— compiled from information from The Charlotte Observer, qnotes archives and personal interviews.

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Posted by Lainey Millen

Lainey Millen is QNotes' associate editor, special assignments writer, N.C. and U.S./World News Notes columnist and production director. She can be reached at specialassignments@goqnotes.com and 704-531-9988, x205.