Houston Public Library, Houston Metropolitan Research Center

Campbell Tolbert Collection:

An Inventory of his Records at the Houston Metropolitan Research Center, Houston Public Library

Descriptive Summary

Creator Tolbert, Campbell
Title Campbell Tolbert Collection
Inclusive Date 1932 to 1989
Identification MSS 390
Extent .5 lin. ft.: 1doc. box, 2 cassette tapes
Language Materials are in English.
Repository Houston Metropolitan Research Center, Houston Public Library

Biographical Note

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.

Scope and Contents

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.



The oral history tapes are housed with the Oral History Collection under the numbers OH 468 (November 16, 1989 interview) and OH 469 (November 22, 1989 interview) separate from MSS 390, the Campbell Tolbert Collection.


Access Restrictions


Use Restrictions

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.

Index Terms

Jazz musicians--Texas--Houston
African Americans--Texas
Subjects (Organizations)
Gentlemen of Swing (Musical group)
Subjects (Persons)
Tolbert, Campbell

Related Material

MSS 345 Jimmy Ford Collection

MSS 322 Arnett Cobb Collection

MSS 252 Milton Larkin Collection

MSS 403 Illinois Jacquet Collection

MSS 337 Jewel Brown Collection

MSS 442 Herb Brochstein Collection

MSS 349 I.H. Smalley Collection

MSS 336 Florence "Bu" Pleasant Collection

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Campbell Tolbert Collection. Collection Number MSS 144. Houston Metropolitan Research Center, Houston Public Library.

Acquisition Information

Donated by: Campbell Tolbert, November 22, 1989.

Processing Information

Processed by: Charles Stephenson and Tammy Jordan, April 7, 2007. Biographical Note written by Andrew Hempe and Tammy Jordan.

Detailed Description


Oral History Interviews

Box Folder
1 1 Personal interview transcript, November 16, 1989
2 Personal interview transcript, November 22, 1989
3 Personal interviews correction copy



Box Folder
1 4 Photo identification sheets
5 Photographs
MSS 390-001 Campbell Tolbert
MSS 390-002 Campbell Tolbert repairing a saxophone
MSS 390-003 Campbell Tolbert and Louis Marchiafava, archivist
MSS 390-004 Campbell Tolbert repairing a saxophone
MSS 390-005 Campbell Tolbert
MSS 390-006 Charles Stephenson, Campbell Tolbert, and Louis Marchiafava
MSS 390-007 Campbell Tolbert and Charles Stephenson
MSS 390-008 Charles Stephenson, Campbell Tolbert, and Louis Marchiafava
MSS 390-009 Campbell Tolbert and Charles Stephenson