Campbell Tolbert Collection:
An Inventory of his Records at the Houston Metropolitan Research Center, Houston Public Library
Campbell A. Tolbert started playing alto saxophone and clarinet with the university band at Johnson C. Smith University in North Carolina. He left medical school and went to New York in 1932 where he began working as a musician and studying music at Columbia and Julliard. After formal training he became a skilled arranger and composer. While in New York he performed at the Cotton Club and formed his own band in Greenwich Village; the Gentlemen of Swing. The band gained popularity after recording their song WPA; a humorous commentary of the Works Progress Administration.
After World War II Mr. Tolbert went back to North Carolina to teach high school band. In 1948, he was asked to join the faculty of Texas Southern University (then Texas State). Tolbert was instrumental in starting a black local musicians union in Houston in 1950, and was president from 1950 to 1965, when the university became integrated.
The material in the Campbell Tolbert Collection chronicles Mr. Tolbert’s musical career from his high school years to 1989. The collection consists of two, fully transcribed oral history interviews and nine photographs taken during one of the interviews.
Permission to publish or reproduce materials from the Campbell Tolbert Collection must be obtained from the Houston Metropolitan Research Center or the appropriate copyright holder.
Campbell Tolbert Collection. Collection Number MSS 144. Houston Metropolitan Research Center, Houston Public Library.
Donated by: Campbell Tolbert, November 22, 1989.
Processed by: Charles Stephenson and Tammy Jordan, April 7, 2007. Biographical Note written by Andrew Hempe and Tammy Jordan.