Today in Black History, February 4, 2016 | Tony Dungy and Lovie Smith - The Charles H. Wright Museum Blog

Today in Black History, February 4, 2016 | Tony Dungy and Lovie Smith

February 4, 2007 Two African American National Football League head coaches, Tony Dungy and Lovie Smith, met in the Super Bowl. This was the first time that any African American head coach had led his team to the Super Bowl. The Indianapolis Colts defeated the Chicago Bears 29 to 17, making Dungy the first African American head coach to win a Super Bowl.

February 4, 1900 John Percial Parker, inventor, Underground Railroad conductor and businessman, died. Parker was born February 2, 1827 in Norfolk, Virginia. He was sold into slavery at eight. He had earned enough money by 1845 to buy his freedom for $1,800. Parker became involved in abolitionist activities and aided in the freeing of over a thousand enslaved people. Parker established the Ripley Foundry and Machine Company in 1854. His foundry employed more than 25 workers and remained in operation until 1918. Parker served as a recruiter for the Union Army during the Civil War and supplied castings for the war effort. He received patent number 304,552 for the Follower-Screw for Tobacco Presses September 2, 1886. He received patent number 318,285 for the Portable Screw Press, popularly known as the Parker Pulverizer, May 19, 1885. His home in Ripley, Ohio was designated a National Historic Landmark February 18, 1997. His autobiography, "His Promised Land: The Autobiography of John Parker, Former Slave and Conductor on the Underground Railroad," was published in 1996.

February 4, 1901 Jefferson Franklin Long, the first African American from Georgia elected to the United States House of Representatives, died. Long was born enslaved March 3, 1836 near Knoxville, Georgia. He was self-educated and worked as a merchant tailor. He was emancipated at the end of the Civil War and was a prominent member of the Republican Party, traveling throughout the South urging formerly enslaved men to register to vote, by 1867. Partially as a result of his efforts, 37 African Americans were elected to the Georgia constitutional convention of 1867 and 32 were elected to the state legislature. Long advocated for public education, higher wages, and better terms for sharecroppers. He also helped organize the Union Brotherhood Lodge, a Black mutual aid society, in Macon, Georgia. Long was elected to fill a vacancy and was seated in December, 1870. He served in Congress until March, 1871. He became the first African American to speak on the floor of the United States House of Representatives February 1, 1871 when he spoke against the Amnesty Bill which exempted former Confederate politicians from swearing allegiance to the Constitution. The bill passed despite his efforts. Long did not seek re-election but did serve as a delegate to the Republican National Convention in 1880. Long resumed business as a merchant tailor in Macon, Georgia after serving in Congress.

February 4, 1904 Thomas Mundy Peterson, the first African American to cast a vote after the passage of the 15th Amendment to the United States Constitution, died. Peterson was born October 6, 1824 in Metuchen, New Jersey. He was serving as a school custodian and general handyman in Perth Amboy, New Jersey by March 31, 1870. On that date, Peterson cast his vote in a local election to revise the town's charter. After that was approved, he was appointed to the committee to revise the charter. Peterson later became the town's first African American to hold elected office and also the first to serve on a jury. Decades after his death, the school where Peterson worked was renamed in his honor. In New Jersey, March 31 is annually celebrated as Thomas Mundy Peterson Day in recognition of his historic vote.

February 4, 1913 Rosa Louise McCauley Parks, hall of fame civil rights activist and the "mother of the modern Civil Rights Movement," was born in Tuskegee, Alabama. On December 1, 1955 in Montgomery, Alabama, she refused to obey a bus driver's order to give up her seat to a White passenger and was arrested. Her arrest sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott and made her an international icon of resistance to racial segregation. Eventually, she moved to Detroit, Michigan and worked for United States Representative John Conyers from 1965 to 1988. Parks received many honors, including the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People 1979 Spingarn Medal, 1983 induction into the Michigan Women's Hall of Fame, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor, presented by President William J. Clinton September 9, 1996, and the Congressional Gold Medal in 1999. The City of Detroit renamed 12th Street Rosa Parks Boulevard in 1976. Parks died October 24, 2005. She was honored as the first woman and the second African American to lay in state at the Capitol Rotunda in Washington, D. C. She also laid in state in the Rotunda of the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit, Michigan for 48 hours. Her name is enshrined in the Ring of Genealogy at the museum. Her biography, "Rosa Parks: A Biography," was published in 2011. The Washington National Cathedral dedicated a sculpture of Parks May 24, 2012 on the cathedral's Human Rights Porch which celebrates those who struggled to bring equality and social justice to all people. The United States Postal Service issued a commemorative postage stamp in her honor in 2013.

February 4, 1943 Purvis Young, artist, was born in Miami, Florida. Young was a self-taught artist who communicated a social message with his work, depicting poverty, crime, and other social issues of the Overton section of Miami. He painted on discarded objects as his canvas, including doors, cardboard, and pieces of wood. Young died April 20, 2010. His works are in the collections of many museums, including the Corcoran Gallery of Art, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Bass Museum of Art, and the Virginia Museum of Fine Art.

February 4, 1959 Lawrence Julius Taylor, hall of fame football player, was born in Williamsburg, Virginia. Taylor attended the University of North Carolina from 1978 to 1981 and was an All-American and 1980 Atlantic Coast Conference Player of the Year. He was selected by the New York Giants in the 1981 National Football League Draft and over his 13 season professional career was the Defensive Rookie of the Year, the 1986 Most Valuable Player, three-time Defensive Player of the Year, and ten-time Pro Bowl selection. Taylor retired after the 1993 season and the Giants retired his uniform number 56 in 1994. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1999. Taylor published two autobiographies, "LT: Living on the Edge" (1987) and "LT: Over the Edge Tackling Quarterbacks, Drugs, and a World Beyond Football" (2003).

February 4, 1975 Louis Thomas Jordan, hall of fame musician, songwriter and bandleader, died. Jordan was born July 8, 1908 in Brinkley, Arkansas. He studied music under his father, including playing in his father's band. Jordan moved to New York City in 1932 and played in the influential Savoy Ballroom orchestra from 1936 to 1938. He formed his first band in 1938 and fronted his own band for the next 20 years. The prime of Jordan's recording career was 1942 to 1950 during which he placed more than a dozen songs on the national charts and dominated the R&B charts with 18 number one singles and 54 top ten singles, including "Is You Is Or Is You Ain't My Baby" (1944), "Caldonia" (1945), and "Choo Choo Ch'Boogie" (1946). Jordan ranks as the top Black recording artist of all time in terms of the total number of weeks at number one on the R&B charts with a total of 113 weeks. Jordan wrote or co-wrote many of the songs he performed. He was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1975, the Blues Hall of Fame in 1983, and received the Rhythm and Blues Foundation Legacy Tribute Award in 2001. The United States Postal Service issued a commemorative postage stamp in his honor in 2008. Jordan's biography, "Let the Good Times Roll: The Story of Louis Jordan," was published in 1994.

February 4, 1980 Levi Watkins, Jr. performed the first human implementation of the Automatic Implantable Defibrillator, a small electronic device which automatically detects irregular rhythms in the heart and shocks the heart back to life. This revolutionary surgical procedure has saved the lives of thousands of patients who suffer from arrhythmia. Watkins was born June 13, 1945 in Parsons, Kansas but raised in Montgomery, Alabama. He attended the churches of both Ralph Abernathy and Martin Luther King, Jr. as a youngster and actively participated in the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Watkins earned his Bachelor of Science degree, with honors, from Tennessee State University in 1966 and became the first Black student to enroll at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine that same year. Despite being the only Black medical student on campus for the next four years, he earned his Doctor of Medicine degree in 1970. Watkins interned at John Hopkins Hospital and became the institutions first Black chief resident in cardiac surgery in 1978. He joined the faculty of John Hopkins University School of Medicine that same year. He was named dean for postdoctoral programs and faculty development in 1991. Watkins also led an intensive drive to recruit more Black students to the medical profession. He received honorary doctorate degrees from several institutions, including Meharry Medical College in 1989 and Morgan State University in 1997. Watkins died April 11, 2015. The Levi Watkins, Jr. Faculty and Student Awards are given annually by the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, the Levi Watkins Learning Center at Alabama State University is named in his honor, and the Levi Watkins Professorship of Cardiac Surgery has been established at John Hopkins.

February 4, 1984 Lawrence Joel, Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, died. Joel was born February 22, 1928 in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. He joined the United States Army in 1946 and served in the Korean and Vietnam Wars. On November 8, 1965, while serving as a medic with the rank of specialist five assigned to the 1st Battalion of the 503rd Infantry Regiment of the 173rd Airborne Brigade, Joel's actions earned him the medal, America's highest military decoration. On that date, Joel and his battalion found themselves in a Viet Cong ambush. Under heavy gunfire, Joel administered first aid to wounded soldiers. He defied orders to stay to the ground and risked his life to help the many wounded soldiers. Even after being shot twice, Joel continued to do his job. He bandaged his wounds and continued to help the wounded in not only his unit, but in the nearby company as well. When his medical supplies were depleted, he hobbled around the battlefield for more, using a makeshift crutch. Joel attended to 13 troops and saved the life of one soldier who suffered from a severe chest wound by improvising and placing a plastic bag over the soldier's chest in order to seal the wound until supplies were refreshed. President Lyndon B. Johnson presented Joel with the medal March 9, 1967. Joel was the first living African American to receive the medal since the Spanish-American War. He retired from military service in 1973. The Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Winston-Salem, the Joel Auditorium at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, and the U. S. Army clinics at Fort McPherson and Fort Bragg are all named in his honor.

February 4, 1998 Thomas Kilgore, one of the few men to lead two major national Baptist organizations, died. Kilgore was born February 20, 1913 in Woodruff, South Carolina. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from Morehouse College in 1935 and his Bachelor of Divinity degree from Union Theological Seminary in 1957. Kilgore began his fight for equality in the 1940s, registering voters and organizing tobacco workers in North and South Carolina. He moved to New York City in 1947 and as pastor of Friendship Baptist Church raised bail money for civil rights workers jailed in the South. He also served as founding president of the Heart of Harlem Neighborhood Church Association which was organized in 1957 to fight segregation in New York City. Kilgore was also an organizer of the Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom in 1957 and the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963. He was elected the first Black president of the American Baptist Churches USA in 1969 and served as president of the Progressive National Baptist Convention from 1976 to 1978. The Morehouse College Campus Center is named in his honor.

February 4, 2001 James Louis "J. J." Johnson, hall of fame jazz trombonist, composer and arranger, died. Johnson was born January 22, 1924 in Indianapolis, Indiana. He started studying the piano at nine but decided to play the trombone at 14. Johnson started his professional career in 1941. He played in Benny Carter's orchestra from 1942 to 1945, recording his first solo in 1943. He joined the Count Basie Band in 1945, touring and recording with him until 1946. Johnson began recording as the leader of small groups in 1947 and joined with Kai Winding in 1954 to set up the Jay and Kai Quintet which was musically and commercially successful. Johnson began dedicating more time to composing in the early 1960s, writing a number of large scale works which incorporated elements of both classical and jazz music. He began to compose for film and television in 1970, scoring movies such as "Across 110th Street" (1972), Cleopatra Jones" (1973), and "Willie Dynamite" (1974), as well as television series such as "Starsky & Hutch" and "The Six Million Dollar Man." Johnson was inducted into the Down Beat Jazz Hall of Fame in 1995 and designated a NEA Jazz Master, the highest honor the nation bestows upon a jazz artist, by the National Endowment for the Arts in 1996. His autobiography, "The Musical World of J. J. Johnson," was published in 2000.

February 4, 2005 Raiford Chatman "Ossie" Davis, actor, director, playwright and social activist, died. Davis was born December 18, 1917 in Cogdell, Georgia. He began his acting career with the Rose McClendon Players in Harlem, New York in 1939. Davis made his film debut in "No Way Out" (1950) and appeared in almost 50 movies over the next 55 years, including Spike Lee's "Do The Right Thing" (1989), "Jungle Fever" (1991), "Malcolm X" (1992), and "She Hate Me" (2004). His last role was in the Showtime Television drama series "The L Word." Davis also directed five films, including "Cotton Comes to Harlem" (1970) and "Gordon's War" (1973). He and his wife, Ruby Dee, were deeply involved in the Civil Rights Movement and were instrumental in organizing the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Davis delivered the eulogy at the 1965 funeral of Malcolm X and a tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King at the 1968 memorial for him in New York City.Davis and Dee were presented the National Medal of Arts, the highest honor bestowed on an individual artist by the United States, by President William J. Clinton October 5, 1995. They received Kennedy Center Honors in 2004. Davis and Dee published their memoir, "With Ossie and Ruby: In This Life Together," in 1998. Davis' name is enshrined in the Ring of Geology at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit, Michigan.

February 4, 2013 Donald Byrd, jazz and R&B trumpeter, died. Byrd was born Donald Toussaint L'Overture Byrd II December 9, 1932 in Detroit, Michigan. While attending Cass Technical High School, Byrd played with Lionel Hampton. After playing in a military band during a stint in the United States Air Force, he earned his bachelor's degree in music from Wayne State University in 1954 and later earned his Master of Arts degree in music education from Manhattan School of Music. Byrd played with such jazz greats as Art Blakey, John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins, Thelonious Monk, and Herbie Hancock prior to forming his first band in 1958. Byrd led his group into jazz fusion and R&B in the 1970s and recorded such hits as "Black Byrd" (1972), Blue Note Records highest ever selling album, "Street Lady" (1973), "Steppin' Into Tomorrow" (1974), and "Places and Spaces" (1975). Byrd earned his law degree in 1976 and his Ph. D. in 1982 from Teachers College at Columbia University. Byrd was designated a NEA Jazz Master, the highest honor the nation bestows on a jazz artist, by the National Endowment for the Arts in 2000. Byrd taught music at a number of institutions, including Rutgers University, Hampton Institute, Howard University, and Oberlin College. He was named artist-in-residence at Delaware University in 2009.

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