WALK OF FAME
William “Willie” Baker ran the longest operating black-owned business in the Homewood-Brushton area, but he represented much more than that. A Southern gentleman who survived the racist Jim Crow era, Mr. Baker served as a substitute parent for some kids in the neighborhood, as well as an iconic figure and widely admired businessman.
His free deli sandwiches were the only meal some children would eat that day. At Christmas, he would give away the broken and disused bicycles that he’d spent the year collecting and refurbishing.
Mr. Baker, 79, of Homewood, passed on April 29 2020 of complications from Alzheimer's Disease.
Charles Henry Cooper (September 29, 1926 – February 5, 1984) was an American professional basketball player. He and two others, Nat "Sweetwater" Clifton and Earl Lloyd, became the first African-American players in the National Basketball Association (NBA) in 1950.
Cooper was also the first African American to be drafted by an NBA team, as the first pick of the second round by the Boston Celtics. Cooper was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on September 9, 2019.
John Brewer was bigger than life—that’s probably because he documented the lives of so many other Black Pittsburghers over the years. An author, raconteur, and collector of oral histories.
As noted in the biography of him the Pittsburgh Black Media Federation wrote, he could recite the history of the Pittsburgh Trolley System from memory. He knew who owned a long-gone meat market on an East End street that is there no longer—and who worked there, and who they married.
Brewer passed on February 13, 2018. He was 73.
Cornelius Dorsey was a multi-media pioneer in the Homewood community. In 1946 he founded Dorsey's Radio at 7614 Frankstown Avenue (known today as Dorsey's Records). His shop was one of the few places where Pittsburghers could take a windup phonograph and get it repaired, purchase the latest music releases, meet and greet with artists, and for many, experience their first taste of Homewood. Cornelius Dorsey passed in 2020.
MARY CARDWELL DAWSON
In 1927, Dawson opened the Cardwell Dawson School of Music in the Homewood neighborhood of Pittsburgh, which remained open until 1941, as well as organized the Cardwell Dawson Choir.
After presenting the opera Aida at the National Association of Negro Musicians convention of 1941, Dawson launched her National Negro Opera Company (NNOC) later that same year with a performance at Pittsburgh's Syria Mosque.
In 1961, Dawson was appointed to the National
Music Committee by President John F. Kennedy.
Dawson passed in 1962.
Helen Faison (1924–2015) was an American educator. She had a long career with the Pittsburgh Public Schools, rising from teacher to the superintendent of Pittsburgh Public Schools. She was the first African American and the first woman to become superintendent of the Pittsburgh Public School District.
On June 15, 1921 Garner was born in the Hill District of Pittsburgh, Pa. Following behind his older brother Linton, Garner was playing piano by three years old and quickly becoming accomplished at picking up tunes. At six he began taking lessons. Just a year later, Garner began to play regularly on Pittsburgh’s KDKA radio station with a group called The Candy Kids, and by the age of eleven he was playing on Allegheny riverboats.
In the early 1950’s Garner was one of the country’s most popular entertainers, On January 2, 1977, he passed away at just 55, buried at the Homewood Cemetery in Pittsburgh, leaving behind a rich legacy of great music that is still enjoyed today.
William Goldwyn Nunn III (October 20, 1953 – September 24, 2016) was an American actor known for his roles as Radio Raheem in Spike Lee's film Do the Right Thing, Robbie Robertson in the Sam Raimi Spider-Man film trilogy and as Terrence "Pip" Phillips on The Job (2001–02).Nunn also performed on stage, including August Wilson's Fences, a Pittsburgh-based play; Nunn performed alongside Anthony Mackie, who played Nunn's character's son. Nunn was also very involved in community outreach, and he formed his own Pittsburgh-area outreach project in 2008.
The Cleveland native, who moved to Pittsburgh in 1983 to attend the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, became a bustling player in the city’s jazz, R&B, funk and soul scene as a promoter, educator and dreamer. Mr. Patterson, who passed at age 61 after suffering from heart disease, was one of the founders of The Soul Show on WYEP and over the years worked at both the Kingsley Association in East Liberty and the Afro-American Music Institute in Homewood, where he helped coordinate fundraising events and do public relations.
William Goldwyn Nunn Jr. (September 30, 1924 – May 6, 2014) was a sportswriter, newspaper editor and American football scout for the Pittsburgh Steelers in the National Football League (NFL) and is a 2021 member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Due to the fame of his son, actor William G. Nunn III, he was also known as Bill Nunn Sr. Nunn was born and raised in the Homewood neighborhood of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Naomi Ruth Sims (March 30, 1948 – August 1, 2009) was an American model, businesswoman, and author. She was the first African-American model to appear on the cover of Ladies' Home Journal, which occurred in November 1968, and is widely credited as being the first African-American supermodel.
She attended Westinghouse High School and began college after winning a scholarship to the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City. She also appeared on the cover of the October 17, 1969 issue of Life magazine. This made her the first African-American model on the cover of the magazine.
The images from the 1967 New York Times fashion magazine cover and the 1969 Life magazine cover were exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in an exhibition entitled The Model as Muse.
Dakota Staton (June 3, 1930 – April 10, 2007) was an American jazz vocalist who found international acclaim with the 1957 No. 4 hit "The Late, Late Show". Born in the Homewood neighborhood of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, she attended George Westinghouse High School, and studied music at the Filion School of Music in Pittsburgh. Later she performed regularly in the Hill District, a jazz hotspot, as a vocalist with the Joe Westray Orchestra, a popular Pittsburgh orchestra.
William Thomas Strayhorn (November 29, 1915 – May 31, 1967) was an American jazz composer, pianist, lyricist, and arranger. Born in Dayton, Ohio, United States. His family soon moved to the Homewood section of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. While still in grade school he worked odd jobs to buy his first piano. He attended Westinghouse High School, He played in the school band, and studied under Carl McVicker, who had also instructed jazz pianists Erroll Garner and Mary Lou Williams. In Pittsburgh, he studied classical music for a time at the Pittsburgh Music Institute.
The former Regent Theatre in Pittsburgh's East Liberty neighborhood was renamed the Kelly Strayhorn Theater in honor of Strayhorn and fellow Pittsburgher Gene Kelly in 2000. It is a community-based performing arts theater.
In 2015, Strayhorn was inducted into the Legacy Walk.
Maurice Stokes (June 17, 1933 – April 6, 1970) was an American professional basketball player. He played for the Cincinnati/Rochester Royals of the National Basketball Association (NBA) from 1955 to 1958. Stokes was a three-time NBA All-Star, a three-time All-NBA Second Team member and the 1956 NBA Rookie of the Year. Stokes was inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 2004.
Mary Lou Williams (born Mary Elfrieda Scruggs; May 8, 1910 – May 28, 1981), was an American jazz pianist, arranger, and composer. She wrote hundreds of compositions and arrangements and recorded more than one hundred records. The second of eleven children, Williams was born in Atlanta, Georgia, and grew up in the East Liberty neighborhood of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. A musical prodigy, at the age of three, she taught herself to play the piano. In 1981, Mary Lou Williams died of bladder cancer in Durham, North Carolina at the age of 71, and She was buried in the Calvary Catholic Cemetery in Pittsburgh, PA.