MUSIC … and a legacy

Family has connection to military, concert hallOBSERVER Staff Report

The Harry A. King Concert Hall at the Rockefeller Arts Center will be the location of a very special performance of the “President’s Own” Marine Corps Band on Friday.

The daughter of the namesake of this venue is Kathryn King Johnston. She was excited to share some family treasures with the OBSERVER’s readers.

Katherine King Johnson’s father was Harry A. King, a renowned musician, music educator and academic leader. According to information compiled by Pat Cummings-Witter, Library Clerk of Archives and Special Collections at the Daniel A. Reed Library, in 1928, Harry A. King was hired at State Normal School of Fredonia as instructor of instrumental music.

In 1939, he earned a doctorate degree from New York University. In 1949, he became assistant director of the music department, and in 1952, associate director of the music department.

He was appointed dean of the college in 1960, and upon his retirement in 1966, was named dean emeritus and a member of the board of directors of Fredonia College. In 1973, he died at the age of 71. The Rockefeller Arts Center concert hall was dedicated in his honor in October of 1973. Doug Osborne-Coy, the public relations assistant at the Rockefeller Arts Center, also assisted in researching this article.

Harry King’s father (Katherine’s grandfather), Frank Arlington King, a native of Parkersburg, W.Va., was a career military musician. Born in 1869, he enlisted in the Army as a musician in 1884 and served three years at Fort Clark, Texas. He enlisted in the 20th Infantry Band, Fort Leavenworth, Kan., in 1895 and served three years.

He enlisted as first class musician in the Marine Band in 1898, where he played first violin and E flat clarinet. He was known as “Teddy Roosevelt’s Fiddler.” He retired as Principal Musician in 1922. He played in the Soldiers Home from 1922-1938.

He also had a friend, Archie Butts, who was heroic in saving people and went down with the Titanic.

Submitted pictures include a caricature of Frank Arlington King, above, his headstone, left, his professional portrait at top and a shot of him marching down Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, D.C., with the Marine Corps Band in 1920. He is the circled clarinetist.

Is it a twist of fate or destiny that 95 years after Frank A. King’s retirement, the current members of his beloved Marine Corps Band will stir an audience in the hall that bears his son’s name?