NEW ORLEANS - Ellis L. Marsalis Sr., the patriarch of a family of world famous jazz musicians, including grandson Wynton Marsalis, has died. He was 96.
Marsalis' son, Ellis Jr., is a prominent New Orleans pianist and music professor who mentored crooner Harry Connick (news) Jr. as well as four musician sons: Wynton, the trumpeter; saxophonist Branford; trombonist Delfeayo and drummer Jason.
Ellis Sr., who died Sunday, was involved in the civil rights movement through ownership of a motel in suburban New Orleans whose guests included the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., New York congressman Adam Clayton Powell Jr., future Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall and musician Ray Charles.
He was born in Summit, Miss., and had lived in New Orleans since 1921. In 1936, he became the first black manager of an Esso service station in the city.
Marsalis opened the Marsalis Motel near the Mississippi River in 1943, a converted barn that featured a restaurant, lounge and swimming pool. The motel's business dwindled after civil rights legislation in the 1960s allowed blacks to stay at formerly all-white inns. The motel closed in 1986 and was later demolished.
He is survived by his son, a daughter and seven grandchildren.