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James ‘Pappy’ Martin, renowned musician, youth worker

May 27, 1933 – March 12, 2015

James Herbert Martin, a renowned band leader and musician, died last Thursday at HighPointe in Michigan Health Care Facility. He was 82.

Born in Asheville, N.C., he displayed such a serious personality as a youngster that he was given the nickname, “Pappy”, which remained with him for the rest of his life.

In 1935, he and his family moved to Niagara Falls, where he grew up in the Center Court Housing Units. He often talked about the warmth and great influence of the men in the community there and their commitment to youth. He was a member of the Boy Scouts and several sports teams, including baseball, his favorite. During this time, his parents brought musical instruments into their home, where he began his love for music first as a trumpet player, later changing to bass.

A local jazz icon, Mr. Martin played with such greats as Aretha Franklin, Ruth Brown, Johnny Griffin, Billy Taylor, Betty Carter and Al Hibbler. As a band leader and musician, he played in many famous area nightclubs, including Little Harlem, Pine Grill, Revilot, Royal Arms, Moon Glow, Shalimar, Town Casino, Ontario House, and Blue Note.

He earned a bachelor of science degree in psychology from Daemen College and a master’s degree in generalist and students with disabilities program from SUNY Buffalo State. He worked as a youth coordinator at the West Seneca Development Center for 25 years.

As a community activist, Mr. Martin founded the Love Supreme School of Music that focused on instrumental music lessons, music theory and the science of music. Love Supreme School launched careers of many local and national musicians. He co-founded the Masten Jazz Festival that continued under his sole leadership and remains a summer mainstay 20 years later.

Mr. Martin performed at Wegmans’ Amherst Street store, including the store’s annual Black History Month featuring students from the Love Supreme School of Music, and was a regular performer at the Lewiston Jazz Festival. He founded the General Bass/Pappy Martin Tennis Program at Martin Luther King Park, where hundreds of young people were taught the sport.

He received many accolades and awards for his volunteer work from community and civic organizations, including NAACP/ACT-SO, Buffalo Urban League, Christian Science Church, Durham Memorial AME Zion Church, Shiloh Baptist Church, St. John Baptist Church, Colored Musicians Club, CAO of Buffalo, Daemen College and MOOT Center.

Survivors include two daughters, Dawn Berry-Walker and Denise Watson; two sons, James and Damon; a brother, Kenneth; a sister, Daisy Lewis; 10 grandchildren; 17 great-grandchildren; and a great-great-grandson.

Funeral services will be held at noon Saturday in St. John Baptist Church, 184 Goodell St.

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