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Winston, Ivory, 1911-1936



  • Existence: 1911 - 1936


Ivory Green was born in 1911 to Effie and Reverend E.P. Green, and raised in a strict Baptist family. An only child, Green moved frequently from one pastorate to another and during her teen years studied to become a concert pianist. As a Baptist-raised musician, church offered the foundation for Green's musical development and friends and family encouraged her to develop her natural talent for singing. She came to Ottumwa when her father was appointed pastor of the Second Baptist Church and studied music at Drake University and languages (German, Italian, French, Spanish and Hebrew) at Ottumwa Heights College to aid her singing. In 1936, she married Clyde Melvin Winston, a worker at the John Morrell plant. Clyde Winston was the grandson of William James Winston, a former slave from Virginia who came to Iowa in 1890 and purchased five acres of farm land to raise hogs. Clyde Winston's father Julian Oscar Winston, later purchased 120 acres and opened the Willow Spring Dairy. Clyde Winston's family attended the Second Baptist Church, where he and Ivory Green likely met. During Ivory Winston's singing career, Clyde Winston served as her manager and publicity agent. The couple raised two children, Berta Lou, born in 1937, and Byron, born in 1938. As a mother and housewife, Winston had little time for piano practice, but was able to sing while doing housework, allowing her to continue vocal training. She gave her first vocal recital in 1946 and in less than a year had given thirty performances throughout Iowa. A coloratura soprano, she sang for tens of thousands of Iowans over her career. In 1948 Winston sang for President Harry Truman on his birthday during a campaign stop, and led the crowd of 20,000 in a rendition of 'Happy Birthday' for the President. In 1950 Winston beat 3,000 other performers for top ranking in the Des Moines Registers and Tribune Cavalcade of Music festival. Later that year she performed an original composition at the state Republican convention. Other career highlights include a victory in the Meredith Wilson's Iowa Greater Talent Search and a national radio performance. Winston was billed as 'Iowa's First Lady of Song' and called the Midwest's foremost coloratura, yet despite her professional success, the family encountered racial prejudice, when they attempted to move to a new neighborhood in Ottumwa a neighbor circulated a petition to bar them (the petition went unsigned and they moved in). Winston raised musical children, and during local performances would be joined by Berta Lou on violin and Byron on cello (Berta Lou would go on to sit first chair violin in the University of Iowa orchestra in the late 1950s). Winston died in 1996 at the age of 84.

Found in 1 Collection or Record:

Ivory Winston papers

Identifier: IWA0883

Concert vocalist and Ottumwa housewife.

Dates: 1936-2010