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Graham W. Jackson papers

Collection number: ahc.MSS526

Scope and Content

This collection contains materials pertaining to the musical career of Graham Washington Jackson, including advertisements, pamphlets, newspaper clippings, correspondence, musician contact records, a recital program, and a certificate for the WSBeaver Award from WSB Radio. In addition, this collection includes some of Jackson’s personal papers, such as his driver’s license, some postcards, birth announcements, business and membership cards, and event programs.


  • 1923-1983, undated


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Reproduction and Use

Unpublished manuscipts are protected by copyright. All requests to publish, quote, or reproduce must be submitted through the Kenan Research Center.

Administrative/Biographical History

Graham Washington Jackson (22 February 1903- 15 January 1983) was born in Portsmouth, Virginia, and began his musical career at age seven accompanying silent movies. He played piano, organ, accordion, and led singing groups. Jackson attended Morehouse College, Chicago Musical College, Hampton Institute, Loyola (Chicago) University, and Atlanta University. He was a music teacher, an orchestra leader, and a radio station organist at WERD. In 1924 he moved to Atlanta, Georgia as leader of a musical group, the Seminole Syncopators. He later became the orchestra leader and pianist for Bailey's 81 Theater on Auburn Avenue. In 1928, Jackson began teaching at Booker T. Washington High School, where he remained until 1940. Jackson married Helen Balton of Birmingham, Alabama, in 1953 and had two sons, Graham Jackson, Jr. and Gerald Wayne Jackson.

In 1933, Jackson first met and performed for President Franklin D. Roosevelt at the Little White House in Warm Springs, Georgia. In 1942, he enlisted in the United States Navy where he was assigned to recruitment and entertainment duties. The U.S. Treasury Department commended him for bond sales totaling more than $2 million. Jackson obtained worldwide recognition following the publication of the April 17, 1945 issue of Life magazine which published a photograph taken by Ed Clark. The image of him playing Going Home on his accordion for President Roosevelt's funeral procession, as it left Warm Springs, became one of the most remembered images surrounding President Roosevelt's death. Graham Jackson built a home in Atlanta modeled after Franklin Roosevelt's Little White House in Warm Springs. The original address was 60 Abbott Street, Atlanta, Georgia, but Jackson had the name of the road changed to White House Drive.

Graham Jackson played for five other U.S. presidents: Harry Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, and Jimmy Carter. In 1969, Georgia Governor Lester Maddox, a well-known segregationist, appointed Jackson to the State Board of Corrections. He was the first African American to hold such an office in Georgia since Reconstruction. Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter named Jackson the state's official musician on November 30, 1971. Graham Jackson appeared on Ed Sullivan's Toast of the Town and Dave Garroway's Today Show. In 1985, Jackson was inducted posthumously into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame.


6.75 linear ft. (seven document cases, one record center box, two oversize boxes, and six reel-to-reels)



Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

Audio recordings were made on 1/4" reel-to-reels and can be made accessible only through conversion to digital surrogates. Patrons who request access to the audio content in this collection are responsible for digital conversion costs.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift, 1983

Related Archival Materials

Graham Jackson photographs, VIS 34, Kenan Research Center at the Atlanta History Center.

Graham W. Jackson papers
Sue VerHoef
Description rules
Finding Aid Prepared According To Dacs
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid is written in English.

Repository Details

Part of the Kenan Research Center at the Atlanta History Center Repository

130 West Paces Ferry Road
Atlanta GA 30305