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Raymond Ellis Jackson

Born on 8-3-1900. He was born in Buffalo, NY. He was accomplished in the area of the Arts. He later died on 2-14-1990.
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Raymond Ellis Jackson was born in Buffalo, New York on August 3, 1900. He was the son of Samuel and Harriet Anderson Jackson. Mrs. Jackson remarried to Milton Hardon. He and his older sister, Frances Jackson Nash, were the only survivors among six siblings. Raymond's formal education ended after the second year of high school, when he dropped out to augment the meager household income of his family. According to his nephew, Jesse Nash, Jr., as a youth Jackson was of such slight build that he put weights in his pockets in an attempt to avoid being rejected for employment because of his skinny appearance.

After experiencing the "last hired, first fired" practices of de facto segregation, Jackson concentrated on becoming a professional musician and on mastering the mysteries of masonry. He played throughout Western New York and Canada. From the conductor's podium, he directed the concert band of Local 533 A.F. of M. in several programs which were held at the Michigan Avenue YMCA and the Michigan Avenue Baptist Church. During the late 1930s and early 1940s, on a sunny summer Sunday afternoon, at least once a year, it was not unusual to see him as the high-stepping drum major of Local 533's parade band, marching down William Street, up Jefferson Avenue, then down Broadway and finally up Michigan Avenue where the band always broke out into a jazzy "Stormy Weather" directly in front of the Little Harlem Hotel. Also, when Buffalo celebrated "Happy Days are Here Again" after passage of federal legislation adopting the National Recovery Act (N.R.A.) in the early 1930s, there was a large parade down Main Street. The Parade Band of Local 533 was in it and the drum major was Ray Jackson. They drew cheers all along the parade route and were the talk of the town.

He helped organize the first Black labor union in Buffalo in 1917 which became local 533, American Federation of Musicians. He was the business agent for this union for 8 years. James Petrillo, national president of the American Federation of Musicians appointed him to the position of International Traveling Representative in 1936. He co-founded of the Colored Musicians Club in 1917.

In 1933, by the age of 33 years, he had met all of the requirements for the highest degree of masonry "the thirty-third degree". However, he had to wait until his 34th birthday to receive it, because recipients of the degree had to be over 33 years old. In 1939, the Shriners, Ancient Egyptian Arabic Order Nobles of the Mystic Shrine, Inc. (A.E.A.O.N.M.S., Inc.) elected Raymond to lead the organization as Imperial Potentate. He served in that capacity until 1955. He literally revived the organization. He edited its journal, "The Pyramid" and established several programs to invigorate the membership. As the chief officer of the Shriners, he was instrumental in establishing financial support for two research programs that were relevant to the health of Blacks. One was at Howard University in the field of Tuberculosis and the other was at Roswell Memorial Cancer Research Center in Buffalo.

He was also a director of the local and national boards of the Urban League. In retirement, he was a night-shift maintenance supervisor for Cornell Aeronautical laboratories in Cheektowaga, New York. During the late 1960s, City of Buffalo Mayor Frank Sedita appointed him as an Agent in the City's Office of Rumor Control to monitor and evaluate rumors related to civil unrest.

Mr. Jackson was awarded an Honorary degree of Doctor of Humanities from Wilberforce University in Ohio, in recognition of his work in raising the health and living standards of African Americans. He received the "Freedom" Award from President Harry S. Truman. He also was awarded the William Wells Brown Award, from the Afro-American Historical Association of the Niagara Frontier, for his efforts in locating and collecting the records of the Colored Musicians Club.

His hobbies were automobile mechanics, world travel, tennis, photography and cooking.

Raymond E. Jackson used the American Federation of Musicians; the Prince Hall Masons, and the Colored Musicians Club of Buffalo, New York to off-set some of the frustrations associated with de facto and de jure segregation. He constantly sought justice for Blacks and he worked to empower Blacks to improve the quality of their lives. For him, the musicians' union, the Masonic organization and the incorporated social club provided concentrated resources for combating racial injustice. It was his constant criticism of the racial practices and policies of the Musicians' union that brought him to the attention of the president of the American Federation of Musicians, who ultimately appointed him to the position of International Traveling Representative. In taking the position he said: "Half a loaf is better than none." Today, the musicians' union is irrelevant, especially in the areas of employment and race relations, but the Colored Musicians Club of Buffalo is in a resurgent mode emphasizing integration and its historically significant role in the Michigan Avenue Preservation Corridor of Buffalo, New York.

Mr. Jackson was 89 years of age at the time of his death on February 14, 1990. He is buried at Forest Lawn Cemetery.