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Gordon County Historical Markers

Roland Hayes

  • Source: David Seibert
  • Marker: Roland Hayes
  • Location: Civic Auditorium, 540 Oothcalooga St, Calhoun

ROLAND HAYES June 3, 1887-January 1, 1977

Roland Hayes, the first internationally reknowneded African- American classical singer was born in Gordon County and performed at this site, the former Calhoun High School Auditorium. Hayes opened doors for African-American concert and opera performers and elevated Negro spirituals to the classical level, singing them in concert with operatic arias. He sang in seven languages. Hayes studied at Nashville’s Fisk University and toured the United States, performing at Carnegie Hall and Boston Symphony Hall. His foreign tours included a command performance for King George V and Queen Mary at Buckingham Palace. At the height of his half-century career, Hayes was one of the world’s highest paid singers. He made a number of recordings and published his music in the book My Songs. In 1991, Roland Hayes was named to the George Music Hall of Fame. On his 80th birthday, Hayes was honored with this tribute, “He is and ever was at once one voice, one race, one citizen, one triumph in belief, one compromise with nothing … he is a country to himself that borders not on nations whole or sundered, but on art, on life - on people prizing now and then nobility in man.