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Hattie V. J. McInnis was born Hattie V. Joyce Jones around 1902 in Hattiesburg, Forrest County, Mississippi. She completed the music course of Jackson College, Jackson, Hinds County, Mississippi, in 1916, and received her high school diploma from Jackson College’s preparatory school in 1917. She also received a bachelor’s degree from Jackson College in 1935 and an advanced degree from Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana. McInnis also received training at the American Conservatory of Music in Hammond, Indiana, and from composer Carl Orff in Vienna, Austria.
Hattie V. J. Jones married Ulyssess McInnis, a World War I veteran, around 1920. They had three daughters: Sebelle (b. ca. 1921) Rose (b. ca. 1923), and Hattie Jr. (called Joyce) (b. ca. 1925). The McInnis family moved to Laurel, Jones County, Mississippi, in 1925, and opened a funeral parlor in the northeast section of town. In December 1929, Hattie McInnis began writing a column entitled “Colored News of Interest” for the Laurel Daily Leader. As a reporter, she covered events of the African American community in Laurel and the surrounding areas. McInnis used the column as a forum for expressing her opinions on the conditions of the African American community and segregation in Laurel, in Mississippi, and in general. McInnis also covered athletic events of the segregated Oak Park Vocational High School as well as those of the African American colleges of the region, such as Tougaloo College and Jackson State College in Jackson, Hinds County, Mississippi; and Alcorn Agricultural and Mechanical College in Lorman, Jefferson County, Mississippi. The year 1929 marked the beginning of McInnis’s teaching career at Oak Park Vocational High School. She taught general music, history, and algebra; she also assumed the leadership of the Oak Park Chorus. McInnis led the chorus for thirty-five years and to success in several competitions. McInnis also wrote the Oak Park School Song, setting the lyrics to a Thurigian folk song of Germany.
A student of Hattie V. J. McInnis was opera singer Leontyne (then called Leontine) Price. Price began to study voice and piano under McInnis at the age of three; continuing her training with McInnis into high school, joining the Oak Park Chorus. McInnis introduced Leontyne Price to the musical world, presenting her earliest recital on December 17, 1943. At that recital was Elizabeth Chisholm, Price’s future financial benefactor. Leontyne Price went on to study at The Juilliard School, New York, and enjoyed a distinguished musical career in opera as lead soprano in several productions, such as Porgy and Bess and Aida. Price did not forget her first music teacher: she brought McInnis to New York for the opening of a season at the Metropolitan Opera and sent McInnis recordings of her work.
In 1967, Hattie V. J. McInnis retired from the Laurel School District. Her daughter, Rose McInnis Portis, became the director of the Oak Park Choir and Chorus. Oak Park High School dedicated its first yearbook to Hattie V. J. McInnis. As of 1980, Hattie V. J. McInnis was still residing in Laurel, Mississippi.
Scope and Content:
This collection consists of a journal article, a program, and two photographs. The article, entitled “My Most Famous Student,” was written by Hattie V. J. McInnis for the National Retired Teachers Association Journal about Leontyne Price. There are also a program of Leontyne Price’s first musical recital in December 1943, and annotated photographs of Hattie V. J. McInnis and Leontyne Price.