BORN LEEDS, MARCH 30, 1913. DIED FULMER, BUCKS, APRIL 12, 2008, AGED 95.
ANOTED PHILANTHROPIST in his native city of Leeds, Bernard Lyons contributed to the city and Jewish community through his business life. He grew up in a family of four girls and two boys, whose Polish-born parents started a flourishing menswear business. Bernard and his younger brother, Jack, who died in February, left Leeds Grammar School to join their father. Their Alexandre shops expanded nationwide in the post-war years and their factory exported successfully.
The 1954 merger of Alexandre with United Drapery Stores, under Bernard Lyons as managing director, made UDS owner of 1,300 high street clothing shops under a variety of names.
After their father’s death in 1959, Jack saw to the retail side while Bernard took over manufacturing. In 1972 Bernard became chairman of UDS, with Jack as deputy chairman, until the group’s sale to Hanson in 1982. He then looked after his private family investment company.
Alongside his prominent business career he gave public and communal service, for which he was appointed CBE in 1964. He was president of the Leeds Jewish Representative Council from 1956-68 and its first life president. He donated the Bernard Lyons community centre, which opened in 1962 in the new Queenshill Jewish Housing Estate.
In the 1950s he was chairman of the Judean Club for Boys and Girls and president of the Leeds Orphan Aid Society. He also fundraised for Israel through the JNF and JPA (now UJIA).
In the city he was a Tory councillor, together with his wife, Lucy, from 195165, and a major donor to the Conservative Party, while on friendly terms with Labour prime minister Harold Wilson.
From the national executive of the Council of Christians and Jews in 1967, he became a member and later chairman of the Yorkshire and North East conciliation committee of the Race Relations Board. He was a JP and deputy lieutenant of the West Riding.
But his big love was Leeds University, where he funded scholarships, the law library’s expansion, a lectureship in community and race relations, and textual research. He sat on the university court in 1964-65 and received an honorary doctorate in 1973.
He described his family’s early life and business growth in Thread Is Strong, and wrote a novel, The Narrow Edge. He spent his last years in his homes in Buckinghamshire and Florida.
Predeceased by his wife in 2002, he is survived by three sons; Stuart, Graham and Robert; daughter, Adrienne; nine grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
Bernard Lyons ( back row, fifth from right) at Leeds University in 1973