BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C. will unveil its brand new African American Museum of Culture and History on Saturday, September 24.
There's great excitement in Baton Rouge because when visitors walk through those doors, they will see Dr. Isaac Greggs, the legendary band director of Southern University's Human Jukebox marching band.
Wanda Dunn is a friend of the Greggs family who has grown up calling Greggs and his wife Rose "Aunt" and "Uncle." Her voice bubbled with excitement when she talked about how she lobbied and won Greggs a spot in the revered history of our nation.
"I regret that he's not alive to see this, but he knew it was going to happen," Dunn said. "He would always ask me 'Wanda when am I gonna be able to go and visit and look at my things. I want to go and visit,' and I would always say 'Oh Uncle Doc, I'm working on it, I'm working on it. You're gonna be able to go and see it,' and he would just always laugh."
Dunn said that the items that will be in the display case were actually gathered for a previous honor. Greggs had been added to the Black History Hall of Fame in Baton Rouge and they used his former band leader uniform and hat, his white gloves, and his vintage trumpet to make a lovely display at the grand banquet given by the Hall of Fame.
Greggs had been luminous that night. He grinned and laughed and thoroughly enjoyed the program as memories spilled from the mouths of former band members, co-workers, and relatives.
Some of the Dancing Dolls alums attended and lined up on the stage, as they told him,"We were your girls before there were girls in the band!"
Greggs died at the age of 85, a year after that golden night. Dunn decided then that the nation should remember Isaac Greggs.
After two years of negotiations with the Smithsonian Institution, Dunn had a Deed of Gift for Rose Greggs to sign and Greggs was in the museum's permanent collection. His items are now protected for a proud nation.
As an HBCU, his band tradition of intense discipline, his push for perfection, his incredible showmanship, the man was grand scale incarnate! He even ruled over New Orleans Mardi Gras when he was Grand Marshal of the Zulu Parade. WAFB ran video of him speaking to then-reporter Jim Shannon, gushing "I'm lovin' it! I'm loving it. I'm seeing former students along the parade route. They're calling toi me. They up and down this place!"
Dunn showed pictures from his childhood throughout his career that will also be kept in the Smithsonian's archives. As she showed picture after picture of his broad smile, you realize his enthusiasm was infectious.
Isaac Greggs loved life, loved his craft. From the time he was a child in overalls, he grabbed music and never let go. Dunn will not see the hectic first day or even first week of the museum on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., but she said Dr. Greggs will be there.
"He'll be there, full of joy, smiling!"