Singer-songwriter, recorder, producer, arranger, and musician Barry White (Barry Eugene Carter) was born in Galveston, Texas on September 12, 1944. Raised in California, he was introduced to music listening to his mother’s classical collection. During his celebrated career, White’s music and songs charted at Platinum, Gold, and Silver level and his infamous voice was often utilized for voice-overs in movies, television shows, and commercials. White often appeared as himself in screen and television productions and although he moved away from the island when still a child, Galvestonians proudly claim him as one of their own. Other Galvestonians, however, also attained national recognition in the music industry.
Camille Howard (Camille Agnes Browning) was born in Galveston on March 29, 1914, and attended Galveston’s public schools. Musically talented at a young age, she played piano and provided vocals as a teenager performing with a local band, The Cotton Traven Trio, before she headed to the west coast for greater opportunities. Shortly after she arrived in California, Howard joined a small band called The Roy Milton Trio. By 1945, when they recorded the hit, “The R. M. Blues,” the seven-member group changed their name to Roy Milton & His Solid Senders. After their success, Camille stepped out on the piano with the band’s instrumental tune, “Camille’s Boogie” and provided vocals on “When I Grow Too Old to Dream.” Other hits for the band that featured Camille’s piano and vocal talents included “Thrill Me” and “Big Fat Mama”. In 1948, the president of Specialty Records decided it was time for Camille to record under her own name. Her first releases were immediate hits and sold more than 100,000 copies of the instrumental, “X- Temporaneous Boogie” and the flip side ballad, “You Don’t Love Me.” Howard continued to record and tour under her own name and with the Roy Milton Band until the late fifties. Deeply religious, Camille ended her music career in the early 1960s as the music world turned its focus to the new genre of “Rock & Roll.”
Eddie Curtis was a singer, songwriter, composer, arranger, and playwright as well as a versatile instrumentalist who started his own band at the young age of 15. Curtis was born in Galveston on July 17, 1927, and later attended the Boston Conservatory of Music, the Berklee School of Music, the University of California at Los Angeles, and Pepperdine University. Among the hundreds of songs he wrote or composed for many artists, Curtis’ two biggest hits were “Lovey Dovey,” recorded by the R & B group, The Clovers, and “It Should’ve Been Me,” recorded by Ray Charles. Curtis also wrote multiple songs for Connie Francis that included her 1959 hit “You’re Gonna Miss Me.”
Texas City, Texas, native Charles Brown (Tony Russell Brown), was born on September 13, 1922. Although raised on the mainland of Galveston County in Texas City, Brown graduated from Galveston’s Central High School as it was the only high school in Galveston County at the time for African Americans. Raised by his maternal grandparents, Brown’s grandmother encouraged him to learn classical music and provided him with the opportunity to take piano lessons. Brown was a member of Central High School’s band and also played piano with a local band that included his science teacher, who played saxophone. After Brown earned a degree in chemistry from Prairie View A&M College, he taught chemistry in Baytown, Texas, and was later employed by the federal government in Arkansas before moving to Richmond, California, to accept a job as an apprentice electrician. In 1943, Brown eventually settled in Los Angeles. During his first year there, Brown held a variety of jobs. In 1944, after he won a local talent show, Brown was hired to play at Ivie’s Chicken Shack. Jonny Moore later offered Brown a job with his band, the Three Blazers. Together, they recorded the hit, “Driftin Blues” that featured Brown on vocals. Brown recorded several more songs with Moore, including “Merry Christmas Baby,” released in 1947. After Brown and Moore split, Brown continued to record under his name.
In the field of sports, the most famous athlete to have been born in Galveston was Jack Johnson (John Arthur Johnson), the first African American Heavy Weight Champion of the World. Johnson was born on the island on March 31, 1878, and dropped out of school around the sixth or seventh grade to work on Galveston’s wharves. As a teenager, Johnson’s fighting skills were formidable and led to his first debut as a professional fighter during a match on November 1, 1897. As Johnson continued to win matches, his colorful lifestyle did not sit well with some people, particularly among whites. He was eventually arrested for violating the Mann Act, and accused of “transporting women across state lines for immoral purposes.” Johnson skipped bail and left the United States, but returned and served his sentence. While incarcerated, he made improvements on a wrench and was issued a patent for his invention on April 18, 1922 (U. S. Patent #141121). He continued to fight in exhibitions to earn money well into his sixties. He died in a car accident in North Carolina on June 10, 1946.
Ray Dohn Dillon was born in Tylertown, Mississippi, on September 22, 1929, and moved to Galveston with his family at a young age. He graduated from Central High School in 1948 and was an outstanding athlete in high school and Prairie View A&M College, where he earned his degree in Physical Education. In 1952, Dillon was the first African American from Galveston to be drafted into the National Football League and played for the Detroit Lions in various backfield positions before he moved to Ontario to play in the Canadian Football League with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. In 1953, under Coach Carl Voyles, the Tigers-Cats won the Grey Cup Championship. Soon after, a knee injury ended Dillon’s professional football career and he returned home to Galveston where he was hired by the City of Galveston as the Recreation Director for Norris Wright Cuney Recreational Center, a position he held until 1957 when the Galveston Independent School District hired Dillon to teach swimming and coach football at his alma mater under Head Coach, Ray T. Sheppard. With the merging of the two public high schools during the 1968-1969 school year, Dillon was appointed to the position of Human Relations and Attendance and Chief of the District’s Police Department. Dillon will celebrate his 92nd birthday in September 2021. He resides in Hitchcock, Texas.
Charley Ferguson (Charles Edward Ferguson) was born in 1939 in Dallas, Texas, and moved to Galveston with his family when he was young. An outstanding athlete, Ferguson attended Tennessee State University after he graduated from Central High School in 1957. He was drafted into the National Football League in 1961 by the Cleveland Browns. In 1962, he was picked up by the Minnesota Vikings and traded a year later to American Football League’s Buffalo Bills. He remained with the Bills until his retirement in 1969 after which he stayed in Buffalo. During his career in Buffalo, Ferguson was in playoff games four consecutive years and won AFL Championships in 1964 and 1965. Ferguson was also named an American Football League All-Star in 1965.
Joel B. “Baby Joe” Smith, Jr. was born in Galveston on August 17, 1939, and graduated from Central High School in 1957. Joel attended Prairie View A & M University and earned a degree in Industrial Education. He played in the American Football League one year and the Canadian Football League in 1962 and 1963. After his football career, he returned to Galveston and taught Industrial Arts at Central High School for several years before he resigned to establish his own construction business.
Edward Mitchell (Edward Levine Mitchell) was born in Galveston on September 5, 1942, and graduated from Central Hugh School in 1960. He attended Nebraska University and Southern University before he was drafted by the American Football League in 1965 to play for the San Diego Chargers. Two years later, Mitchell was picked up by the Houston Oilers. After he retired from professional football, Mitchell taught for ten years for the Galveston Independent School District. He died in 1985.
Galveston Historical Foundation