Bostic stayed grounded while reaching to great heights
EDITOR’S NOTE: In celebrating Black History Month, the Post-Register is looking back on a life of a true Lockhart Legend.
By Kyle Mooty
CJ Bostick was cleared for takeoff in January after a lifetime of flying high.
The Lockhart native earned her “Gold Wings” last November, and her angel wings on Jan. 10.
During a lifetime that included modeling for world-renowned companies and breaking barriers as the first African American flight attendant for Southwest Airlines, Bostic never lost her love for her hometown, family and friends.
Pat McClain-Reed, also a Lockhart native, said some of her most fond memories are growing up in Lockhart were with Bostic as her friend and role model.
McClain-Reed and Bostic continued their childhood friendship for more than half a century.
Bostic attended her first three years of school at Carver Elementary in Lockhart, A few years older than McClain-Reed and known at the time as Charlene Jenkins, Bostic and MClain-Reed became friends because their families lived next to each other and attended the same church, First Baptist Church on Maple Street.
In fact, McClain-Reed Recalls Bostic’s favorite uncle, Morris Smith, being a pianist at the church and often asking a young McClain-Reed to come up and sing. She would, and Bostic would offer her friend encouragement and tell her “keep up the good work.”
Soon, the Jenkins were on the move due to her father (Shedrick “Ricky” Jenkins) being in the Air Force.
They ended up in Plattsburgh, New York, only about an hour south of Montreal, Canada, yet that didn’t stop CJ from coming back to Lockhart… often.
McClain-Reed’s family we’re neighbors with Bostic’s grandparents, Curtis and Margaret Smith.
Bostic had become a model for the likes of Rothchild and Neiman Marcus. She had attended college in New Jersey.
However, during one particular trip to Lockhart, Bostic, then 23, learned of a new airline hiring flight attendants in Dallas.
“I remember she and her mom (Mercille Smith Jenkins) were visiting family in Lockhart, and she got word about the hiring,” said McClain-Reed. “It was about 1971 and she applied at love Field. It was Southwest Airlines. She had confidence. It came from her mother, I guess. Who knows? She was just never afraid and would never let anything stop her.”
Bostic began work at Southwest Airlines in April 1972. She took her final flight in May 2021, a year after the COVID-19 pandemic.
McClain-Reed and Bostic last talked on Christmas Day, McClain-Reed now living in Austin and Bostic was in Dallas. Sixteen days late, Bostic passed after being diagnosed with myeloma, a cancer of the plasma cells, a few years earlier. Born April 12, 1948, she was 73.
Bostic had received her 50th Anniversary “Gold Wings” in November 2021, although she had retired after a 49-year career.
“(Bostic) told me once about a lady who got on a plane and was crying uncontrollably,” McClain-agreed recalled. “She sat with her and found out her mother had just died. They cried together. She held her hand for two hours and consoled her. She told her, ‘You just have to relax and go about it one day at a time. You know your mother would be proud of you and what all you’ve done.’
“CJ handled everything with such grace. She always said there were going to be things in life to deal with, but how you respond to it was most important. She said people were gonna be mean and ignorant and you would find racism, but she handled it all with an award-winning smile and such grace. That’s how she got through it. She focused on what she had to do and didn’t let it get her down. She kept moving forward. She was very positive.”
Usually, when Bostic would return home she and her old friend would enjoy sitting around laughing and singing. McClain-Reed recalled her Lockhart address — 702 San Saba — without hesitation. Those were special times.
“(Bostic) had the ‘it’ factor,” McClain-Reed said. “When she walked into a room people gravitated to her.”
Bostic remained close to her family regardless of where she called home. She had many ties to Lockhart and the area with cousins Kenneth Smith and Virgie D. Wright, Aunt Crystal Smith in Austin. Mercille’s parents were Curtis and Margaret Smith, and her brother was Morris Smith.
CJ had a brother, Ricardo Jenkins, who lives in Allen, and a younger sister, Michelle.
During her travels, Bostic climbed Mount Kilimanjaro and spent time in Dubai.
“(Bostic) would always put flowers on her grandparents’ graves when she would come back, and she also made donations to the church,” McClain-Reed said. “Her grandparents picked cotton and hired people to pick cotton. She came from good stock. She was a good person, kindhearted and friendly.”