T he story of Huntsville's oldest black business began in 1918. Its first operator and owner was Mr. Charles King Binford, a prominent native and product of Huntsville. He named the business Royal Undertaking Company. Its location was in downtown Huntsville at 118 Holmes Avenue where he ran the enterprise for twenty two years until his death in 1940.
After his death, his spouse, Mrs. Carrie Parker Binford and their daughter Miss Helen Binford continued the operation of the firm until 1946 at which time they decided to leave Huntsville and join the rest of the familly in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Mrs. Binford also chose to sell the business and made an offer to Lawrence B. and Amanda Rice Hundley who accepted the challenge and purchased the business along with the Binford family's two-story home at 534 Gallatin Street and surrounding properties. The home became the new location of Royal Undertaking Company. The name was changed by the Hundleys to Royal Funeral Home.
Its operation at this location was from 1946 to 1972; however, in 1967 it was purchased from the Hundleys (first generation) by the Joneses, James A. and Barbara Hundley Jones (second generation.) In 1972 because of the urban renewal Royal moved to its present location 4315 Oakwood Avenue.
Royal's rich black history is a point of pride for Karen Jones Smith and David W. Smith. The wife and husband team, president and vice president respectively of Royal Funeral Home, Incorporated are the third generation to purchase, own and operate the business. In 2000 the business was purchased by the Smiths'. They are following in the steps of the second generation, her parents, James A. and Barbara, making this the fifty ninth year of family ownership of the Royal Funeral Home.
Funerals conducted by the Royal staff have a distinctive Royal flair. The business has served many of the Tennessee Valley's black families. Royal funerals are noted as much for the employees' attire as the pearl white vehicles (less dreary, more uplifting). The men dress in black tuxedos, with black satin stripes down the legs and black bow ties. The women also wear black dresses or suits with distinctive hats.
The owners and workers are very much aware of the business' historic significance. It is evident as they talk about the firm's mission statement. It was James A. Jones who came up with the company's motto, "When only memories remain, let them be beautiful."