| Known as "THE AMEN MAN," based on the Spiritual, "Amen," which
JESTER HAIRSTON popularized, and which Rhythm & Blues great Curtis Mayfield
turned into a popular recording, Jester Hairston was devoted to keeping Negro
Spirituals alive. Born in 1901, he achieved fame in unlikely areas during his
long career. He was awarded four honorary doctorate degrees for his
achievements before he died at the age of 98 in 2000.
Hairston was one
of the world's foremost preservers of the Spirituals emanating from Black
slaves. For a number of years, he was assistant director to Hall Johnson's
internationally famous Hall Johnson Choir, a choir dedicated to preserving the
original flavor of the slaves' music. Perhaps more than any one else, Hairston
trained adult choirs and young children around the world how to sing these
wonderful songs of Black people known as Spirituals. Hairston arranged
approximately 300 Spirituals, including "Elijah Rock," "Poor Man Lazarus," and
"In Dat Great Gittin' Up Morning." Spirituals music historian John Lovell, Jr.
said, "It is very likely that Jester Hairston has been the cause of more people
singing spirituals in more places than any other single individual."
Multi-talented Jester was a movie ("Tarzan"), television ("That's My
Mama"), and radio actor ("Amos and Andy"), and a skillful choral director for
Hollywood movie soundtracks. He acted in numerous films, including "To Kill a
Mockingbird," "Lady Sings the Blues," "In the Heat of the Night," "The Alamo,"
and "Road to Zanzibar." In the movie, "Lilies of the Field", it was Jester's
voice that was overdubbed for Sidney Poitier's singing of "Amen."