At J.U.M.P. we are passionate about preserving the musical soul of Jefferson St. In 2015 we launched the Jeffersonian Award, given to an individual who embodies and embraces the unique characteristics of Jefferson St. and North Nashville through music. This award highlights the musical heritage of our beloved Jefferson St.

This year, J.U.M.P. is pleased to recognize Leonard H. Morton, Sr. as our Jeffersonian Award recipient. Morton, a Chicago native, served in the 118th Army GF Jazz Ensemble and the Tennessee State University Jazz Band, in the late 1940’s and early 50’s. During the years of his undergraduate and graduate studies, Morton looked to music to provide a supplemental income for his young, growing family.

JUMP-Extravaganza-Bio-Card-Leonard-Morton-Sr

Because of the times, many black musicians were confined to performing in ‘their’ own areas/night clubs. Blind to the adversities, The Leonard Morton Trio secured their first ‘regularly’ scheduled gig at the New Era Club on Charlotte Ave. and went on to play at clubs on Jefferson – including:
• Club Del Morocco
• Prices Dinner Club
• Brute Hayes
• Brown’s Hotel
• Club Barron
• Vanilla Wafer

It was at the most prominent of these, the Del Morocco, that Morton met Theodore “Uncle Teddy” Acklen, the owner, Tennessee State College graduate and member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. There the trio preformed for audience members for over 3 years. In 1966, other jobs/gigs were beginning to become available for black musicians, leading The Leonard Morton Trio to a nine-year session at Nero’s Cactus Canyon, in South Nashville.

After receiving both his Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Music Education from Tennessee State University, he went on to begin his teaching career at Wilson County High School in Lebanon, Tennessee. Upon leaving Wilson County High School in 1957, the City of Lebanon declared a “Leonard Morton Day,” for a ‘job well done’ and as a ‘thank you’ for having a passion and commitment to training and developing young people in the field of music.

Continuing in education, Leonard served as the Director of Bands at Cameron High School in Nashville, TN (1961-1969), Supervisor of Music for Elementary Schools, for Metro Nashville Public School System, and was the first African American appointed to serve as Director of Music Education.

Receiving awards from the National Community of Kappa Alpha Psi (Nashville Chapter and the State of Tennessee), Alpha Delta Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority (Established the “Leonard Morton Scholarship” in recognition of the many years of service by assisting their chapter in raising funds for scholarships.) and from The Pearl Cameron Community Choir, Leonard Morton Sr. has a long history with the Nashville community and along the Jefferson St corridor.