Today in Black History, 06/24/2015 | Prince Hall - The Charles H. Wright Museum Blog

Today in Black History, 06/24/2015 | Prince Hall

  • June 24, 1906 Solomon G. Brown, the first African American employee of the Smithsonian Institution, died. Brown was born February 14, 1829 in Washington, D. C. He was unable to be formally educated because he had to work to support his family. As a teenager, he worked for Samuel F. B. Morse and helped to install the first Morse telegraph. Brown joined the Smithsonian in 1852 as a general laborer and over the next 54 years became a registrar in charge of materials received by the institution, transportation, and the storage of animal specimens. Brown was the founder of the Pioneer Sabbath School and served as president of the National Union League in 1866. He also served as a member of the House of Delegates for D. C. from 1871 to 1874. Trees were planted around the National Museum of Natural History in his honor in 2004. The Solomon G. Brown Corps Community Center in D. C. is named in his honor.  

  • June 24, 1933 Samuel Jones, hall of fame basketball player, was born in Wilmington, North Carolina. Jones earned his bachelor’s degree from North Carolina Central University where he was a three-time All-Conference selection. He was selected by the Boston Celtics in the 1957 National Basketball Association Draft and spent his entire 12 season professional career with the team. Over his career, Jones was a five-time NBA All-Star and ten-time NBA champion, second only to Bill Russell in NBA history. His peers called him “Mr. Clutch.” After retiring in 1969, Jones coached at Federal City College, North Carolina Central University, and served as an assistant for the NBA New Orleans Jazz. He is now retired. He was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1984 and was named one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History in 1996. Jones was inducted into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame in 2006.

  • June 24, 1933 Matilda Sissieretta Joyner Jones, opera soprano and businesswoman, died. Jones was born January 5, 1869 in Portsmouth, Virginia but raised in Providence, Rhode Island. She began her formal study of music at the Providence Academy of Music in 1883 and studied at the New England Conservatory of Music in the late 1880s. She made her New York City debut in 1888 and made successful tours of the Caribbean that year and in 1892. Jones became the first African American to sing at the Music Hall of New York City (now Carnegie Hall) June 15, 1892. She also performed for Presidents Benjamin Harrison, S. Grover Cleveland, William McKinley, and Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. By 1896, Jones found that access to most American classical concert halls was limited by her race and therefore formed the Black Patti Troubadours, a variety act made up of singers, jugglers, comedians, and dancers. The revue was successful enough to provide Jones an income in excess of $20,000. Jones retired from performing in 1915. “Sissieretta Jones: The Greatest Singer of Her Race” was published in 2012.

  • June 24, 1963 Ernest Judson Wilson, hall of fame Negro Baseball League player and manager, died. Wilson was born February 28, 1894 in Remington, Virginia. His professional career spanned 1922 to 1945 and he had a career batting average of .351, ranking among the top five hitters in the league. After retiring from baseball, he worked for a road crew in Washington, D. C. Wilson was posthumously inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2006.

  • June 24, 1966 Gilbert Haven Jones, the first American to earn a Ph. D. from a German university, died. Jones was born August 21, 1881 in Fort Mott, South Carolina. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1902 and Bachelor of Science degree in 1903 from Wilberforce University, his master’s degree in philosophy from Dickinson College in 1906, and his Ph. D. from the University of Jena in 1909. After returning to the United States, Jones became professor of philosophy and psychology at Wilberforce. He also served as dean of the College of Liberal Arts from 1914 to 1924 and president of the university from 1924 to 1932. Jones published “Education and Theory and Practice” in 1919.

  • June 24, 1993 Archibald Franklin “Archie” Williams, hall of fame track and field athlete, died. Williams was born May 1, 1915 in Oakland, California. He attended the University of California, Berkley where he won the 1936 National Collegiate Athletic Association Championship in the 400 meter race and set a world record. That same year, he won the Gold medal in the 400 meter race at the Berlin Summer Olympic Games. After returning home, he was asked “how did those dirty Nazis treat you?” Williams replied “I didn’t see any dirty Nazis, just a lot of nice German people. And I didn’t have to ride in the back of the bus over there.” The next year, a serious leg injury ended his track career. After earning his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering in 1939, Williams was a member of the first Civilian Pilot Training class where he earned his private pilot’s license and instructor rating. He enlisted in the United States Air Force in 1942 and served as a weather officer until his retirement as a lieutenant colonel in 1964. For the next 21 years, he taught high school mathematics and computers. Williams was inducted into the USA Track & Field Hall of Fame in 1992.

  • June 24, 2005 Jeanine Menze became the first African American female to earn United States Coast Guard aviation designation. Menze was born in Kingston, Jamaica in 1979. She earned her bachelor’s degree in international business from Florida International University  in 2001. Menze joined the Coast Guard in 2003 after graduating from the Coast Guard Officer Training School. After earning her aviator wings, Menze has flown rescue missions for the Coast Guard following the earthquake in Haiti and Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. She also serves as secretary/treasurer of the Tampa, Florida chapter of the National Naval Officers Association.

  • June 24, 2008 Ira Tucker, Sr., lead singer of the hall of fame Dixie Hummingbirds, died. Tucker was born May 17, 1925 in Spartanburg, South Carolina. He joined the Hummingbirds at 13. In addition to his vocal skills, Tucker introduced energetic showmanship, including running through the aisles, jumping off the stage, and falling to his knees. Tucker performed with the group for 70 years, right up until his death. The Dixie Hummingbirds won Grammy Awards for Best Soul Gospel Performance in 1973 for “Loves Me Like a Rock” and Best Traditional Gospel Album in 2007 for “Still Keeping It Real.” Their 1946 recording of “Amazing Grace” was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2000 as a recording of “qualitative or historical significance.” The group was inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2000 and the Christian Music Hall of Fame in 2007. The Dixie Hummingbirds were the subject of the 2003 book “Great God A’Mighty! The Dixie Hummingbirds: Celebrating the Rise of Soul Gospel Music” and the 2008 documentary “The Dixie Hummingbirds: Eighty Years Young.”

  • June 24, 2010 Fred Anderson, jazz tenor saxophonist, died. Anderson was born March 22, 1929 in Monroe, Louisiana. He taught himself to play the saxophone as a teenager and moved with his family to Evanston, Illinois in the 1940s. In 1965, he was one of the founders of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians which was a collective devoted to nurturing composers and players of modern music. Anderson opened a succession of important Chicago nightclubs, including the 1983 ownership of the Velvet Lounge which became a center for the city’s jazz and experimental music scene. Although he was an active performer, Anderson recorded little during the 1980s. He resumed recording as a leader in the 1990s with albums such as “Live at the Velvet Lounge” (1998), “From the River to the Ocean” (2007), and “Staying in the Game” (2009).



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