The Memry Midgett papers consists of photographs, correspondence, musical programs, and artifacts documenting the musical
career and family history of Memry Midgett.
Jazz pianist and social worker Memry Florence Midgett (1920-2013) was born on December 10, 1920 in Chicago, Illinois the only
child of Julia Ross and Thomas Jefferson Midgett, a bar tender and iron worker. Her parents both emigrated to Chicago, Illinois
from the American South, her mother from Tuscumbia, Alabama and her father from Hickman, Tennessee. After graduating from
Englewood High School in Chicago in 1939, she was awarded a music scholarship at the American Conservatory of Music where
she studied piano. She worked as the assistant director of music at St. Elizabeth’s High School before going on to perform
as a concert and jazz pianist and vocalist for many years. She started her career as a professional musician in the 1950s
performing as an opening act for legendary bands such as Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, and Count Basie at Downbeat and
Black Hawk night clubs in San Francisco, California. In 1954 she was discovered by Billie Holiday who asked her to play piano
with her on tour. She performed with Billie Holiday under contract for 18 months, performing with her throughout 1954-1955
including a performance with Holliday at Carnegie Hall in September 1954.