Skip to main content Skip to search Skip to search results

Lyon, Leviticus, 1894-1958



  • Existence: 1894 - 1958

Leviticus Lyon was born on May 29, 1894 in San Francisco, California and spent most of his childhood in Oakland, California. He was born to Elizabeth Garland Lyon and Giraldo Gomez Lyon. Lyon's mother was born in the West Indies (Saint Kitts and Nevis) while his father was born in Guinea-Bissau, West Africa. His father was likely a steward, as his employment in the United States 1900 census is listed as "Stewart" and he frequently discussed life on ships in letters to his son. According to Giraldo Gomez Lyon's personal writings, he immigrated to the United States in 1880 from West Africa and married Elizabeth Garland in 1888. As a teenager, Leviticus Lyon held many jobs including elevator operator at the United States Customs Service in San Francisco, California. Lyon demonstrated his singing talent to officials in the customs department who in turn used their influence to transfer Lyon to work at the New York Customs office in 1919 to assist him in pursuing his musical education. He eventually received a fellowship to study at the Julliard School in 1925. In the course of his career, Lyon became a prominent tenor and choral director, giving performances at Carnegie Hall and St. Marks Methodist Church in Harlem, New York City. Lyon also took leadership positions in New York's music scene, assisting in the formation of the Negro Symphony Orchestra and chairing the Westchester Negro Choral Union. He lived chiefly in New York City until his death in 1958.

Found in 2 Collections and/or Records:

Leviticus Lyon Papers

Call Number: JWJ MSS 173
Overview: The Leviticus Lyon papers document the professional and personal activities of the tenor singer, music conductor and choral director. Letters, writings, illustrations and photographs are included in this collection. Correspondence details the life of Leviticus Lyon from childhood to adulthood with personal letters from parents, siblings, and friends including the originally titled "world's fastest human," African American Olympic track star Howard P. Drew. Other correspondence includes letters...
Dates: 1905-1948

Photographs of prominent African Americans

Call Number: JWJ MSS 76
Overview: Photographs drawn from various collections in the James Weldon Johnson Collection. The collection includes predominantly images of prominent African American writers, cultural leaders, and entertainers, as well as photographs by important African American photographers. A small number of images document people and places outside the United States. The collection forms a visual record of artists, writers, actors, musicians, and politicians active chiefly in the United States from the 1920s...
Dates: 1875-1978