Today in Black History 12/12/2010
exhibition of drawings in 1961 and her first New York exhibition in 1966. In 1975, a major Evans exhibition was curated at the Whitney Museum of Art. Evans died on December 16, 1987, leaving more than 400 artworks to the Cameron Art Museum in Wilmington. Today she is recognized as one of the most important folk artists of the 20th century. In 1983, she was the subject of a documentary, “The Angel That Stands By Me: Minnie Evans’ Art,” and in 2008 a retrospective book of her art was published. May 14, 1994 was declared Minnie Evans Day in Greenville, N. C. and the Minnie Evans Art Center in Wilmington is named in her honor. Her biography, “Painting Dreams: Minnie Evans, Visionary Artist,” was published in 1996.

• December 12, 1899 Dr. George Franklin Grant received patent number 638,920 for his invention of the golf tee. Grant was born September 16, 1846 in Oswego, New York and graduated from the Harvard School of Dentistry in 1870, the second African American to graduate from the school. He then became the first African American member of the Harvard faculty when he took a position in the department of Mechanical Dentistry where he served for 19 years. He was also recognized internationally for his invention of the oblate palate, a prosthetic device for the treatment of cleft palate. Grant was a founding member and later president of the Harvard Odontological Society. He was also a member of the Harvard Dental Alumni Association and was elected president in 1881. Grant died on August 21, 1910.

• December 12, 1912 Henry Jackson, Jr. (Henry Armstrong), the first boxer to hold world titles in three separate weight classes at the same time, in Columbus, Mississippi. Armstrong assumed the surname of his mentor and trainer, Harry Armstrong, in 1931. Because the fight purses were small, Armstrong usually fought 12 times a year. On October 29, 1937, he won the Featherweight Championship of the world, on May 31, 1938 the Welterweight Championship of the world, and on August 17, 1938 the Lightweight Championship of the world. Ring Magazine named Armstrong Boxer of the Year for 1938. In 1939, Armstrong produced and starred in an autobiographical movie, “Keep Punching.” After losing his titles, Armstrong retired from boxing in 1945 with a professional record of 149 wins and 29 losses. In 1951, Armstrong was ordained a Baptist minister and he created the Henry Armstrong Youth Foundation, which he funded with the profits from the two books he had written, “Twenty Years of Poem, Moods, and Mediations,” (1954) and his autobiography “Gloves, Glory, and God” (1956). In 1954, Armstrong was a charter inductee, along with Joe Louis and Jack Dempsey, to the Boxing Hall of Fame. Armstrong died October 22, 1988 and was posthumously inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1990.

• December 12, 1918 Joseph Goreed (Joe Williams), jazz singer, was born in Cordele, Georgia. Williams’ family moved to Chicago in 1922 and by his early teens he had taught himself to play the piano and formed his own gospel group. By 1939, he had started to tour with established bands and got his big break in 1954 when he was hired as the male vocalist for the Count Basie Orchestra where he remained until 1961. His first album was recorded in 1955, “Count Basie Swings, Joe Williams Sings,” and contained the single “Every Day I Have the Blues,” which reached number two on the R&B charts. That recording was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1992 as a recording of “lasting qualitative or historical significance.” By the 1970s Williams was appearing regularly on such variety shows as “The Tonight Show” and “The Steve Allen Show.” In 1985, Williams won the Grammy Award for Best Jazz Vocalist for the album “Nothin’ but the Blues” and in 1992 he won his second Grammy in that category for “I Just Want to Sing.” Williams worked regularly until his death on March 29, 1999. In 1983, he was given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, in 1993 he was named a National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master, and in 1995 he was inducted into the Big Band and Jazz Hall of Fame. Prior to his death, Williams established the Joe Williams Every Day Foundation to provide support for music and musicians, especially those in jazz, and to create career opportunities for deserving young talent.

• December 12, 1929 Vincent Dacosta Smith, figurative painter, was born in New York City. At the age of 15, Smith dropped out of high school and became a hobo working odd jobs and spending a year in the army. In 1953, he discovered his love of art and became a full-time artist. His first solo show was held at the Brooklyn Museum Art School Gallery in 1955. In a career that spanned half a century, Smith documented in brilliant color some of the most compelling events of the 20th century, including 1940s Harlem jazz clubs, civil rights workers confronting hate, and the creative militancy of the Black Arts Movement. One of his works, “Rootin Tootin Blues”, was presented to President William Clinton during his first inauguration ceremony. Smith died December 27, 2003.

• December 12, 1940 Marie Dionne Warwick, singer and activist, was born in East Orange, New Jersey. Warwick began singing gospel as a child and sang her first solo at the age of 6. In 1958, she and other members formed the Gospelaires which, in their first performance together, won the weekly amateur contest at the Apollo Theater. In 1962, Warwick’s first solo single was released, “Don’t Make Me Over,” which went to number 21 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Over her career, Warwick is second to Aretha Franklin as the female vocalist with the most Billboard Hot 100 hits between 1955 and 1999 with 56, including “Anyone Who Had a Heart” (1963), “Walk on By” (1964), “I Say a Little Prayer” (1967), and “I’ll Never Love This Way Again” (1979). She has won five Grammy Awards and has three songs in the Grammy Hall of Fame as recordings of “lasting qualitative or historical significance:” “Don’t Make Me Over” (1962), “Walk on By” (1964), and “Alfie” (1967). In 2002, Warwick was appointed United Nations Global Ambassador for the Food and Agricultural Organization and in 2003 she was inducted into the Rhythm and Blues Hall of Fame. The Dionne Warwick Institute of Economics and Entrepreneurship in East Orange is named in her honor.

• December 12, 1949 Henry Thacker “Harry” Burleigh, classical composer, arranger and professional singer, died. Burleigh was born December 2, 1866 in Erie, Pennsylvania. He was trained at the National Conservatory of Music in New York and began his professional singing career as a soloist for the all-White St. George’s Episcopal Church where he sang until 1946. In 1900, he also became the only Black member of the synagogue choir at the Temple Emanu-El. In the late 1890s, Burleigh began to publish his own arrangements and compositions and by the late 1910s he was one of America’s best known composers. Over his career, Burleigh wrote 265 vocal works and made 187 choral arrangements of African American spirituals. He was a charter member of the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers in 1914. In 1917, Burleigh was awarded the NAACP Spingarn Medal for Outstanding Achievement by an African American. His biography, “Hard Times: The Life and Music of Harry T. Burleigh,” was published in 1990.

• December 12, 1967 John Anthony Randle, hall of fame football player, was born in Mumford, Texas. Randall played college football at Trinity Valley Community College and Texas A&I University. After college, he was not selected in the NFL Draft but signed with the Minnesota Vikings in 1990. Over his 14 season professional career, Randle was a 7-time Pro Bowl selection. Randle retired in 2004 with 137.5 sacks, the most by a defensive tackle in NFL history. He was named to the NFL 1990s All-Decade Team, inducted into the National Collegiate Football Hall of Fame in 2008, and inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2010.

• December 12, 2007 Ike Wister Turner, bandleader and record producer, died. Turner was born November 5, 1931 in Clarksdale, Mississippi. His music career began in the late 1940s when he formed a group called The Kings of Rhythm. In 1951, the band recorded “Rocket 88” which many historians recognize as the first rock and roll record. While playing with the band, Turner also played guitar as a sideman for blues acts such as Howlin’ Wolf and Otis Rush. In 1956, he met a teenage singer named Anna Mae Bullock whose name he changed to Tina Turner and the name of the band became the Ike & Tina Turner Revue. In early 1960, they recorded “A Fool in Love” which became a national hit, reaching number 2 on the R&B charts. From then until 1976, they were one of the most explosive duos in rock and soul music, recording singles such as “It’s Gonna Work Out Fine” (1961), “Proud Mary” (1971) and “Nutbush City Limits” (1973). After Tina left, Ike struggled as a solo act until 2001 when he released the Grammy nominated “Here & Now” album. In 2007, he won his first solo Grammy in the Best Traditional Blues Album category for “Risin’ With the Blues”. Ike and Tina were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1991.