From NKAA, Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (main entry)

Elkins, James Lewis

(born: January 17, 1916  -  died: January 20, 1989) James L. Elkins, a noted music director, was born in Paris, KY. He was the son of James M. and Cynthia Kennedy Elkins. He was a brother to Mildred M. Elkins Mott. In the 1920 and the 1930 U.S. Census records, the family was living on Lilleston Avenue with James M. Elkins' parents, Will and Amanda Elkins.

James L. Elkins would leave Paris, KY to attend college; he is a graduate of Lane College in Jackson, TN. He studied music at the University of Belgium in Seige, Belgium where he earned the diploma American in Voice. He also attended the Chicago Conservatory and the Julliard School of Music in New York City, NY. He was the conductor of the Wings Over Jordon Choir for several years. The choir sang Negro spirituals. James L. Elkins was also a WWII veteran; he was in the U.S. Army from 1943-1945. He served overseas and returned to the United States in December of 1945.

James L. Elkins moved to Texas after his military service. He taught music at Paul Quinn College and Carver High School, both in Waco. Starting in 1962, he was a music teacher in the Blackshear Junior-Senior High School in Odessa, TX. In 1973, Elkins visited his hometown, Paris, KY, to conduct a recital at St. Paul United Methodist Church in memory of his mother. He would spend the remainder of his life in Texas. Elkins retired from Hayes Elementary School in 1982 and continued as a substitute teacher for the Ector County Independent School District. James L. Elkins died at the Lubbock General Hospital in January of 1989 from injuries suffered in a house fire. He is buried in the Rose Hill Cemetery in Odessa, TX. 

James L. Elkins was the first African American member of the Ector County Lions Club. He was a member of the Midland/Odessa Symphony and Chorale. He was a member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity. In 2001, the James Elkins Singers, named in his honor, were formed with 30 alumni members of the Blackshear High School music program. Blackshear High had been an all-black school. The singers performed Negro spirituals in 2004 at the Odessa College Deadrick Auditorium. It was the group's first Black History Month concert. 

Sources: Kentucky Birth Index (Ancestry); U.S. Social Security Applications and Claims Index (Ancestry); "James Elkins to present recital at St. Paul," The Lexington Herald and the Lexington Leader, 08/18/1973, p.6; Cliff Hamilton, "James Elkins Singers revive Negro spirituals," Odessa American, 02/21/2004, front page; "Overseas veterans return to states," The Lexington Herald, 12/13/1945, p17; U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs BIRLS Death File (Ancestry); "Deaths: James Elkins," Odessa American, 01/23/1989, p.10.

Kentucky County & Region

Read about Bourbon County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Kentucky Place (Town or City)

Read about Paris, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Outside Kentucky Place Name


Cited in this Entry

NKAA Entry: St. Paul United Methodist Church (Paris, KY)
NKAA Source: The Lexington herald and Lexington leader
NKAA Source: The Odessa American (newspaper)
NKAA Source: The Lexington herald (newspaper)
NKAA Source: Ancestry (online)

Cite This NKAA Entry:

“Elkins, James Lewis,” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed February 7, 2023,

Last modified: 2022-02-17 20:55:56