February is Black History Month
Alonzo "Slick" Smith
Born April 15, 1918 or 1919, with a twin sister, they were the eldest of eight children. They grew up near Taft, Oklahoma and attended school there and at Vann School near Porter.
At age 33, he moved to Muskogee and worked in a restaurant as a cook at 12th & Okmulgee. About 1950, he had a chance to own his own barbeque business and was at 7 Mile Corner, between Muskogee and Taft. Stories differ, but about 1957, he rented a small building on 24th & Shawnee, and moved his business there.
In 1979, he was written up in Oklahoma Monthly Magazine and was known far and wide. His secret sauce recipe was passed to Norman Grayson when he retired. The building was torn down in 2001. He died April 23, 2003.
Photograph from the Black Heritage Calendar 1987 from the museum's James Harris Collection; Biographical information from the above and the Muskogee Daily Phoenix newspaper files.
Born in Muskogee September 5, 1908, he graduated from Manual Training High School. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree from Langston University.
Russell was Band Director at Pemberton High School in Marshall, Texas for 17 years and taught two terms at Wiley College there.
He taught another 16 years, eight as Band Director of Manual Training High School and eight at Muskogee High School.
In 1975 he retired to run for County Commissioner. He did not win the seat but continued retirement.
He was married for 43 years to Christine Boulware Russell and they raised one daughter. He died January 19, 1980.
Photograph from 1974 Muskogee High School Chieftain in the museum's Boston Russell Collection. Information from the Boston Russell Collection.
Johnnie C. McIntosh
Born September 20, 1915, the sixth of nine children, in Beland, Oklahoma, he finished school and graduated from Okmulgee Tech. He later earned his license as a Nursing Home Administrator from Oklahoma University.
He served 21 years in the U.S. Army, including duty in World War II. Part of this time, he was in charge of a Motor Pool Division, serving with an all black unit.
After his service career, he married Jessie on August 19, 1952. Together they established McIntosh Nursing Home, May 3, 1956.
After her death in 1974, he continued with the help of daughter Margaret, a son, a brother, and a loyal staff. This career spanned 35 years, ending with his death on May 3, 1991.
Photograph and biographical information from the museum's Margaret McIntosh Taylor Collection.
S. Aaron Bell
Born April 24, 1921 in Muskogee, Oklahoma, one of ten children. His education in music took him to Xavier University, New York University, and a Doctorate from Columbia University.
After teaching music at Manual Training High School, he began to play as bassist for groups, including Andy Kirk and Sammy Davis, Jr. He was considered by many as the best to ever play for the Duke Ellington Orchestra.
Awards were numerous including induction into the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame.
A life long Catholic, his life ended July 28, 2003, with his wife DeLores, and three children surviving. He is buried in Putnam Valley, New York.
Photographs and information from the Muskogee Public Library collection.