Today in Black History 05/12/2015 | Samuel “Toothpick Sam” Jones - The Charles H. Wright Museum Blog

Today in Black History 05/12/2015 | Samuel “Toothpick Sam” Jones

  • May 12, 1906 William Landon “Gorilla” Jones, hall of fame boxer, was born in Memphis, Tennessee. Jones started boxing professionally in 1923 and won the World Middleweight Boxing Championship in 1925. He lost the title later that year but continued boxing until retiring in 1940 with a record of 101 wins, 24 losses, and 13 draws. After retiring, he served as a chauffeur and bodyguard for the movie star Mae West and trained other boxers from the late 1940s to the 1970s. Jones died January 4, 1982. He was posthumously inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2009.
  • May 12, 1908 George Washington Murray of Sumter County, South Carolina received patent number 887,495 for a portable hoisting device. His invention provided an inexpensive, durable, and efficient device for use in stores and warehouses for unloading goods from place to place. Murray had previously received patent numbers 520,889 for a fertilizer distributor, 520,890 for a planter, and 520,892 for a reaper, June 5, 1894 and 644,032 February 20, 1900 for a grain drill. Murray was born enslaved September 22, 1853 in Sumter County. After being freed, he attended the University of South Carolina for two years and taught school for 15 years. He served as chairman of the Sumter County Republican Party and was known as the “Republican Black Eagle.” Murray served as inspector of customs at the Port of Charleston from 1890 to 1892. He was elected to the United States House of Representatives in 1893 and served until 1897. During his time in Congress, Murray fought for Black rights, spoke in favor of retaining Reconstruction Period laws, and highlighted Black achievement by reading into the congressional record a list of 92 patents granted to African Americans. He was the last Black Republican to serve in Congress from South Carolina until 2010. He moved to Chicago, Illinois in 1905 and sold life insurance and real estate until his death April 21, 1926. His biography, “A Black Congressman in the Age of Jim Crow: South Carolina’s George Washington Murray,” was published in 2006.
  • May 12, 1916 Albert L. Murray, literary critic and novelist, was born in Nokomis, Alabama. Murray earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from Tuskegee Institute (now University) in 1939. He enlisted in the military in 1943 and spent the last two years of World War II in the United States Army Air Corps. He earned his Master of Arts degree from New York University in 1948. Murray rejoined the military in the U. S. Air Force in 1951 and retired a major in 1962. After leaving the military, Murray began his writing career. He published essays such as “The Omni-Americans: Black Experience & American Culture” (1970) and “Stomping the Blues” (1976), novels such as “Train Whistle Guitar” (1974) and “The Magic Keys” (2005), and a memoir, “South to a Very Old Place” (1971), which was a finalist for the National Book Award. Murray challenged Black separatism and insisted that the Black experience was essential to American culture. He was a co-founder of Jazz at Lincoln Center in 1987 and served on the board for many years. He also served as a visiting professor at several institutions, including the University of Massachusetts, Columbia University, and Emory University. He received the National Book Critics Circle Lifetime Achievement Award in 1997. Murray died August 18, 2013.
  • May 12, 1926 Mervyn Malcolm Dymally, the first Black person elected to statewide office in California, was born in Cedros, Trinidad and Tobago. Dymally earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from Los Angeles State College in 1954, his Master of Arts degree from California State University in 1969, and his Ph. D. in human behavior from United States International University (now Alliant International University) in 1978. After earning his bachelor’s degree, Dymally taught school from 1954 to 1960. He was elected to the California State Assembly in 1962 and the California State Senate in 1966, the first Black person elected to that body. Dymally was elected Lieutenant Governor of California in 1974, a position he held until 1979. He was elected to the United States House of Representatives in 1980, the first foreign-born Black person to serve in Congress. While serving his five terms in Congress, Dymally was recognized as an expert on international policy. After leaving Congress, Dymally founded and served as president of Dymally International Group. He returned to politics in 2002 and was again elected to the California State Assembly where he served until 2008. Dymally died October 7, 2012. Mervyn M. Dymally Senior High School and the Mervyn M. Dymally School of Nursing in Los Angeles, California are named in his honor.
  • May 12, 1928 Henry “Hank” Cosby, hall of fame songwriter, saxophonist and record producer, was born in Detroit, Michigan. After serving in the United States Army during the Korean War where he played in the military band, Cosby became a mainstay on the Detroit jazz circuit. He joined Motown Records in 1959 as a member of the Funk Brothers, the studio band. Cosby is best known for co-writing or producing many of Stevie Wonder’s hits, including “Uptight (Everything’s Alright)” (1966), “I Was Made to Love Her” (1967), and “My Cherie Amour” (1969). He also co-wrote “Tears of a Clown” (1967) for Smokey Robinson and the Miracles. Cosby died January 22, 2002. He was posthumously inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2006.
  • May 12, 1929 Samuel Daniel Shafiishuna Nujoma, the first President of the Republic of Namibia, was born in Owambo, South West Africa (now Namibia). Nujoma left school at 16 to work as a railway dining car steward. He helped found the Ovamboland People’s Organization in the late 1950s. That organization became the South West People’s Organization (SWAPO) in 1960 with Nujoma as president. That same year, Nujoma went into exile. After years of negotiating for independence from South Africa, Nujoma authorized armed resistance in 1966. This began the Namibian War of Independence which lasted until 1988. Nujoma returned to Namibia in 1989 and the country was declared independent with him as the first president March 21, 1990. Nujoma received the coveted 1990 Indira Gandhi Peace Prize from the Republic of India.  Nujoma was reelected in 1994 and 1999. Nujoma stepped down as president of the country in 2005 and relinquished the presidency of SWAPO in 2007. He earned a master’s degree in geology in 2009. Nujoma has received honorary doctorate degrees from universities around the world, including Doctor of Laws degrees from Lincoln University in 1990, Central State University in 1993, and University of Atlanta in 1996.
  • May 12, 1933 Henry Hugh Proctor, author, lecturer and clergyman, died. Proctor was born December 8, 1868 near Fayetteville, Tennessee. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from Fisk University in 1891, his Bachelor of Divinity degree from Yale University in 1894, and his Doctor of Divinity degree from Clark University in 1904. He co-founded the National Convention of Congregational Workers Among Colored People in 1903 and became its first president. The mission of the organization was to help Black Congregational churches in the South become self-sufficient, employ more of their own graduates, promote Congregationalism among African Americans, and strengthen the theological departments of the schools in the American Missionary Association. Proctor was a strong believer in self-improvement and wanted to give the Atlanta African American community tools for improving their lives. Proctor founded the Atlanta Colored Music Festival Association in 1910 and they presented an annual concert based on the belief that music could ease racial animosity and promote racial harmony. He authored “Between Black and White” in 1925.
  • May 12, 1951 Oscar Stanton De Priest, the first African American elected to Congress in the 20th century, died. De Priest was born March 9, 1871 in Florence, Alabama but raised in Salina, Kansas. He moved to Chicago, Illinois in 1889 and became a successful contractor and real estate broker and built a fortune by helping Black families move into formally all-White neighborhoods. De Priest was a member of the Board of Commissioners of Cook County from 1904 to 1908 and served on the Chicago City Council from 1915 to 1917. De Priest was elected to the United States House of Representatives in 1928. During his three consecutive terms from 1929 to 1935, as the only Black congressman, he introduced several anti-discrimination bills. After being defeated for re-election in 1934, De Priest was again elected to the Chicago City Council in 1943 and served until 1947. The Oscar Stanton De Priest House in Chicago was designated a National Historic Landmark May 15, 1975 and Oscar De Priest Elementary School in Chicago is named in his honor.
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Today in Black History, 05/13/2015 | Stevie Wonder
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