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Dr. Isaac Greggs, legendary SU band director, dies

5th May 2014   ·   0 Comments

Legendary Southern University band director Dr. Isaac Greggs, the man who led the famed HBCU marching band for nearly four decades and gave the “Human Jukebox” its signature look, sound and marching style, passed away Monday afternoon in Baton Rouge at the age of 85.

“Dr. Isaac Greggs was a visionary, who created a marching band — the Human Jukebox — that constantly set the standard of greatness for all college marching bands,” SU Chancellor James Llorens said. “He poured his heart and soul into every performance. With Dr. Greggs, perfection was the only outcome he accepted.”

DR. ISAAC GREGGS

DR. ISAAC GREGGS

“The true testament of his leadership is reflected not only in the number of his students who have become band directors and musicians of note around the country, but the multitude of former band members who, through the dedication and commitment instilled in them by Dr. Greggs, became leaders in their respective chosen careers outside of music,” Llorens said. “What he created with our marching band drew thousands of students to Southern University and left fans of the band in cities from Los Angeles to Houston to New York City. The Southern University family has lost a giant and he will be missed.”

Greggs led Southern’s marching band for 36 years before retiring in 2005. In 2013, he was inducted into the Louisiana Black History Hall of Fame.

Under Greggs’ leadership, the Human Jukebox performed during six Super Bowls, four Sugar Bowls and three U.S. presidential inaugurations.

Louisiana paused last week in a moment of silence to honor the former SU band director and remember his contributions to the state that transcended the marching band.

“It’s very ironic that Dr. Greggs passed on Southern University’s day at the Capitol. It was because of his efforts and abilities that led many people in this country to know of Southern University,” said state Rep. Katrina Jackson, D-Monroe and chairwoman of the Legislative Black Caucus.

“Dr. Greggs has been a catalyst for leadership for Southern and this state for many years.”

Current SU band director Lawrence Jackson, who was a member of SU’s famed Human Jukebox from 1971 to 1975 and served as an assistant band director under Greggs before succeeding him in 2006, told WAFB last week that Greggs was an icon.

“Dr. Greggs was an icon in the marching band world,” Jackson said. “He was an impeccable leader and believed in innovation. Many of the things we do today, we do because Dr. Greggs was the architect.”

Greggs was remembered last week as a band director who took an interest in the well-being of his young charges.

“When I was a freshman, he knew I didn’t have much money,” Jackson told The Advocate. “He knew no one in the band had much money, and he didn’t have much money to work with. So, he went around campus and asked administrators in different areas what kind of money they might have that could help his students out in the band. He wasn’t the kind of band director who would sit behind the desk and prop his feet up. He worked hard.”

Jackson spoke last week about Greggs’ legacy and the indelible mark he left on the Southern University Marching Band.

“A lot of the success we have enjoyed is because of the system that he put in place,” Jackson told WAFB. “He was my mentor and he taught me a lot about being a band director. I know that he will be missed.”

A viewing was held Friday from 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.at the F.G. Clark Activity Center on Sout­hern’s Baton Rouge campus followed immediately by a memorial service.

His funeral was held Saturday morning at 11:00 a.m. at Mount Pilgrim Baptist Church.

This article originally published in the May 5, 2014 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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