Sherman Washington, longtime Zion Harmonizers member & manager, dies
Dominic Massa / Eyewitness News
Gospel great Sherman Washington, the last original member of the
legendary Zion Harmonizers and coordinator of gospel music programming
at Jazz Fest, died early Monday.
He was 86.
Mr. Washington died at his home in Boutte, according to Brazella
Briscoe, manager of the Zion Harmonizers, a role he inherited from Mr.
Mr. Washington had been homebound for the past several months and was
unable to walk, Briscoe said, but was able to attend at least part of
the act's performance at last year's Jazz Fest.
"He was the epitome of our group," Briscoe said. "He was more or less
the backbone and sustainer of this group."
Mr. Washington joined the Zion Harmonizers when he was just 15 years
old, three years after the group was founded in 1939.
In 1948, when founder Benjamin Maxon left the group to preach, Mr.
Washington took over management of the group.
The Zion Harmonizers performed at the first New Orleans Jazz and
Heritage Festival in Congo Square, in 1969, and since that first
appearance, Mr. Washington coordinated gospel music programming for
the event and its legendary gospel tent.
His vision and network of contacts in the gospel music scene helped
establish the Gospel Tent, soon after the festival moved to the Fair
Grounds in the early 1970s.
"He means everything to the Gospel Tent," Jazz Fest producer Quint
Davis told Times-Picayune columnist Sheila Stroup in a 2008 profile.
"It was a shared vision, but Sherman did it."
Mr. Washington's younger brother Nolan was a longtime member of the
Harmonizers. He died in 1997. Mr. Washington is survived by his wife, two sons, a daughter and several grandchildren, according to Briscoe.
Funeral arrangements have not been finalized, Briscoe said, but would
likely include a celebration of life in New Orleans and funeral
services in Boutte.
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