By Sonya Stevens
CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) – The local Jazz community is mourning the loss of one of their own. Jack McCray, known as Mister Charleston, has passed away.
Charlton Singleton of the Jazz Artists of Charleston says that Jack was a mentor, confidant at times, advisor and leader.
“I’m sure that there are many people that would say the same thing,” Singleton said.
His roots ran deep in Charleston, the city he called home. He grew up downtown and attended Burke High School, where he played the trumpet.
Mark Sterbank, also of Jazz Artists of Charleston, says that although Jack no longer played an instrument primarily, he was an integral part of the jazz scene.
“On any given night where jazz music was happening around town, you could find Jack McCray,” he said. “…I was going to say Jazz McCray. He would be there.”
Charlton Singleton said McCray was a true expert.
“Jack knew everything about jazz in terms of Charleston, S.C., and that’s just one of the things he wanted everybody else to learn,” Singleton said. “If they didn’t know anything about it, he tried to tell them about it and explain it to them in a way that they would understand it.”
But his involvement in the community included more than just music. Wendell Johnson was a lifelong friend of Jack. He says that McCray was one of the first black soccer officials.
“He was a ref. When he started Little Pele’s there weren’t any black referees,” Johnson said. “We were being mistreated, so he got into the system.”
Mark Sterbank said, “He left an indelible mark on this whole area on musicians particularly, but other artists, professionals, writers, photographers, videographers, non-profit organizations. Jack McCray was a visionary and he has left that so deeply in the people that he worked with and came in contact with that Charleston is not going to be the same without him.”
McCray co-founded the Charleston Jazz Initiative and was an advising member for the Jazz Artists of Charleston. He even penned a book about the Holy City’s contribution to the genre calledCharleston Jazz.