Jack the Jazz Man

by Ken Burger (kenburgerblog)

When I took over the sports department at The Post and Courier in 1988, Jack McCray was one of the 20 staff members I inherited. Thank God.

Jack was not only a good newspaperman who could meet deadlines, turn a phrase and make you laugh at the same time, he was a good guy.

In addition to those accolades, Jack was a genuine Charleston native, the kind that knew where the bodies were buried and which ones not to dig up.

You need people like Jack in your corner when you’re editing a local newspaper. He was always there to tell you the story behind the story. If he didn’t know how to get in touch with somebody, he knew how to get in touch with their parents.


But for all the good he did in the daily production of the newspaper, Jack meant even more to the community he lived in and loved so much.

There was no corner of this city that Jack couldn’t saunter into and know almost everybody in the room. Or least they knew him.

Though he was quiet by nature, the inner light in Jack’s jazz soul shone through a big smile that would appear any time you told a joke, mentioned an old friend, or reminded him he wasn’t as good looking as he thought he was.

Of course, Jack will be remembered most for what he did after he left the newspaper. That’s when he wrapped himself in his first love, jazz, and was instrumental in creating the Charleston Jazz Orchestra that has entertained thousands yearning to learn more about the Holy City’s history in that musical genre.

He even penned a history of Charleston’s role in bringing jazz to the world’s ear, “Charleston Jazz,” published in 2007.

But mostly, Jack was just coolest guy in town.

After our working relationship ended, he occasionally invited me to spend time with him in certain watering holes around town where he would hold court with a variety of people spread across a mosaic of demographics.

Often you would see him walking down King Street, or ducking down an alleyway, recognizable by his trademark hat.

News of his death on Wednesday came as a shock and a reminder of how short our time on earth is, and that we should spend it doing something we love.

When all is said and done, my old friend Jack McCray did just that.