VICKSBURG FACTS: Vicksburg’s soprano soloist, Lucia Hawkins
Published 8:00 am Friday, April 21, 2023
Did you know about Vicksburg’s soprano soloist, Lucia Hawkins?
Lucia Hawkins was an opera singer that was born in Vicksburg on June 11, 1922. She was raised by her grandmother due to her mother being unwed and deaf. By the age of 15, Hawkins’ grandmother died and she moved to New York. Hawkins took jobs cleaning floors and washing clothes to help pay for her rent and voice lessons.
“Every night, we’d go to town to shop and walk around. One night, I met a lady from New York. She was a dancer and her husband was a sax player. She thought I’d do well in New York and said I could stay with her,” Hawkins said in a 2001 interview with The Vicksburg Post.
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Eventually, she met Donald Hayward and was brought to his studio. She then changed vocal coaches and expanded her music career.
“She changed vocal coaches, eventually studying with Lola Hayes who, in her 90s, continues to tutor her now. And she enrolled in the Ophelia De Vore school of charm, an institution that also primed Diahann Caroll and Cicely Tyson,” according to The Vicksburg Post Aug. 27, 2001.
Soon, Hawkins began booking various gigs including playing the original Cindy Lou in the touring production of “Carmen Jones.” She would also step in and play Margaret Tynes in the cast of “Porgy and Bess.”
Hawkins then formed a trio with Avon Long and LeVern Hutcherson as the Porgy and Bess Singers. The trio would travel to various parts of the world
“Miss Hawkins, who will be making her first appearance in Saskatoon, has toured Alaska, Canada, the United States and the Caribbean as soprano soloist with the Porgy and Bess Trio,” the Star-Phoenix reported in its Jan. 14, 1969 edition.
She has also performed with the Symphony of the Air, the Miami Symphony, and the Trenton Symphony, and on television with Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show. Hawkins also performed at Saskatoon Symphony in Canada, Madison Square Garden and Radio City Music Hall.
“Her clear bell-like voice, powerful and beautiful, rings from every corner of the Music Hall,” according to The Pittsburgh Courier, Feb. 6, 1971.
During the 1960s, Hawkins sang at the White House during the John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson administrations, according to the Catfish Row Museum.
“At the Urban League Dinner in 1962, Miss Hawkins’ work was commended by the then-Vice President, now President Lyndon B. Johnson, who was a guest speaker and took several photographs with her,” as was reported in The Pittsburgh Courier on May 13, 1967.
In 1972, she attended the reception for President Nixon. However, she paused performing due to her husband being killed at a bar in Harlem and to help take care of her aunt back in Vicksburg. While caring for her aunt, she earned her nurse’s aide degree. Hawkins also worked as a home health nurse for Mercy Hospital for 11 years.
She tried to restart her singing career while living in Vicksburg but had very little success. Still, she sang at funeral services, events like Mayor Laurence Leyens’ inaugural ceremony and to anyone who recognized her work as a professional opera singer.