Ernest H. Lampkins
Musician, Teacher, Mayor

"Lamp," as friends called him, was born at Shreveport Confederate Hospital. The family lived at 1012 Allen Avenue. Ernest came from a family of musicians. His father, Major Abner Lampkins, traveled with a band as a pianist. When he came to Shreveport to perform, he decided to remain, and began playing piano at the Strand Theater during silent movies. Ernest's grandfather, born into slavery, was also a musician. Ernest's mother, Josephine Simms, worked as a pastry cook at Fair Park High School. Ernest graduated from Central High School and entered Fisk University in pre-med. Hoping to be a member of its famous Fisk Jubilee Singers, Ernest joined the choir as a music minor. Ernest was drafted in 1952 while working on his Masters degree at Columbia University. He went into the U.S. Air Force, was trained as a communications center specialist, and served in Newfoundland for 18 months. He married Gwendolyn Coble in December of 1952. Before he left the service he performed with the Harmon Aires, an Air Force vocal group. Released from duty in 1956 he returned to Columbia to finish his Masters in instrumental music. Ernest attended the University of Michigan to study under William D.Revelli and with "one of the greatest college bands in the nation." Meanwhile, Ernest had begun teaching at Walnut Hills High School from 1956 to 1963. He served as band director at Booker T. Washington High School, an institution he calls "one of the most innovative schools in America." While there he raised money to hire musicians from the Shreveport Symphony to teach his students symphonic instruments. Ernest developed a symphonic band for the school before he left in 1973 for Grambling University. There, he taught theory, composition, and orchestra, and from his own funds started a jazz group. He also journeyed to Chicago to join Operation Push, an organization in which he helped organize the Institute of Black American Music, an advocacy group for African-American music in college curricula. Ernest left Grambling for the University of Pittsburgh, where he earned a PhD in ethnic musicology in 1975. Dr. Lampkins then became supervisor of music programs for Caddo Parish schools (K-12) before retiring in January of 1981. Meanwhile, he had created a proprietary school, Louisiana School of Professions, teaching music, courtroom stenography, medical assistance, and other fields. He also helped start one music program for Shreveport Parks and Recreation Department, and another for musical therapy for kids with drug problems. Named Distinguished Professor of Music at Wiley College, he was elected to the African-American Educators Hall of Fame. He also served as mayor of Greenwood. Dr. Lampkins married Shirley Rhodes. The couple has five children.