While on tour on the west coast, Jimmie Lunceford was about to autograph Callahan’s record store wall, reserved for musical celebrities who came to Seaside, Oregon when owners Edward and Walter Hill noticed the bandleader looking weak and ill. A moment later Lunceford collapsed and was seized by severe convulsions, according to the newspaper’s report. The owners called the police and an ambulance, but Lunceford died. The show, despite Lunceford’s death, went on that night,
Within a day of Lunceford’s passing, the myth surrounding Lunceford’s death was in full swing. The Clatsop County Coroner declared Lunceford died of “coronary occlusion, due to thrombosis of anterior coronary artery due to arteriosclerosis” — in other words a heart attack caused by a blockage. Just recently a Lunceford biographer resurrected the age old unsubstantiated rumor that Lunceford was poisoned by the owner of a local diner due to racism and was insulted when Lunceford demanded that he and his band be served lunch. Controversy lingers but Seaside residents and jazz historians completely disagree. Seaside’s residents at the time believe it’s not plausible Lunceford and his bandmates were sickened or worse, or even turned away. “Oh, he was served,” longtime Seaside resident Gloria Stiger Linkey said. “There was no animosity. No racism at all. At least growing up in Seaside, I didn’t feel it.” As a tourist town, the goal was to sell as many tickets as possible, she said. “Because if you can serve tourists, you can serve an African-American.” Linkey added the biographer “took giant leaps” in suggesting a racial incident was a factor in Lunceford’s death. Linkey said while there “weren’t many blacks in the area,” there were no segregated dances. “We did have African-Americans in the summer from Portland. There was an influx during World War II. They worked in the shipyards.”
Final Resting Place:
824 S. Dudley Street
Memphis, Tennessee, 38104
Grave Location:South Grove 10, Plot 427
Grave Location Description
As you enter the cemetery drive straight though to the very back of the cemetery and park at the corner of Morgan’s Grand Tour and Church Drive. Jazz legend Jimmie Lunceford is buried 4 rows from Church Drive in the South Grove section.