Article originally published on January 15.
We cover two days with this article as we remember the anniversaries of two African-American leaders: one band leader and one civil rights leader, one from Atlanta and one from right here in Paducah.
Today, January 15, we celebrate the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Born in Atlanta, Georgia in 1929, Dr. King’s legal name at birth was Michael King. Following a trip to Germany in 1934, however, King’s father decided to change both his and his son’s name to Mart
in Luther after the German reformer. No one lived up to the challenge set forth by a new name better than Dr. King: Baptist minister, leader of the Montgomery Bus Boycott and Selma marches, president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, proponent of nonviolent protests, recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, and organizer of the 1963 March on Washington where he delivered some of the most famous, continuously inspiring words, “I Have a Dream.” His legacy lives, his message as crucial today as it was 50 years ago. A search through the McCracken County Public Library catalog reveals more than 80 titles that pertain to Dr. King, in nonfiction books, children’s books, video, and audio.
Tomorrow, January 16, we remember the death of Fate Marable, a Paducah native, an early jazz pioneer, and a champion of the talents of African-American musicians. Fate was born in Paducah in 1890. Though a piano teacher, his mother at first forbid Fate to touch the instrument. Thankfully, he didn’t mind her. He started to play on steamboats up and down the Ohio and Mississippi, and by 1907, at the young age of 17, both his name and word of his talent had reached every major port city between Paducah and New Orleans. Marable became a fixture in the burgeoning New Orleans jazz scene and, with his experience playing the boats, helped spread the sound to other parts of the country. He became the bandleader for the boats on the Streckfus Line, and in 1917 organized the very first all African-American orchestra (initially comprised of all Paducah musicians). Fate was known as a strict bandleader, and through his disciplined and demanding tutelage passed many musicians who would go on to jazz fame. His protégés include Red Allen, Baby Dodds, Johnny Dodds, Pops Foster, Jimmy Blanton, and none other than Louis Armstrong. In the picture below, Fate sits front and center at the piano and Louis Armstrong sits to his left. Despite has vast influence, Fate only made one record in his career. He died on January 16, 1947 and is buried at Oak Grove Cemetery.
To more about Paducah’s jazzy past, visit us at the Local and Family History Department at the McCracken County Public Library.