Harlan Leonard once described N. Clark Smith’s impressive persona as the segregated Lincoln High School’s band leader in Kansas City, saying that Major Smith held a “commanding personality”: “He was short, chubby, gruff, military in bearing, wore glasses, and was never seen without his full uniform and decorations. His language was rather rough and occasionally shocking to the few young ladies who were taking music classes, though never offensive. Major Smith simply ran a tight ship. . . . He drilled the Lincoln marching bands until they were the best in the area, some said the best of their kind in the Middle West.”
“The black schools [in Kansas City] were much better than they had any right to be, partly because they were full of talented teachers who would have been teaching in college had they been white, and partly because Negro parents and children simply refused to be licked by segregation.” Then-reporter Roy Wilkins’s statement about education in the Kansas City area aptly summarizes the unjust obstacles that segregation created for black students, their parents, and educators at the segregated schools of Kansas City.
Julia Lee was known for her husky voice, her straightforward piano style, and the easy, but heartfelt way she sang. In a professional singing career that spanned four decades, Lee built a national reputation as one of the great female blues singers of all time.
Studio portrait of George E. Lee Singing Novelty Orchestra posed playing instruments, ca. 1926. Pictured from left are an unidentified trombonist; Bob Garner, clarinet; Thurston "Sox" Moppins, trombone; George E. Lee, baritone saxophone & vocals; Chester Clark, trumpet; Julia Lee (George's sister), piano & vocals; and an unidentified drummer. Source: Charles Goodwin.
Studio portrait of George E. Lee Singing Novelty Orchestra posed with their instruments, ca. 1926. Pictured: Bob Garner, clarinet; Thurston "Sox" Moppins, trombone; George E. Lee, baritone saxophone & vocals; Chester Clark, trumpet; Julia Lee (George's sister), piano & vocals; et al.. Source: Charles Goodwin.