Lloyd Eugene "Gene" Quandred Prettyman, a former teacher and swing band member whose memories are preserved in the Peabody Institute's oral archives of African-American musicians, died in his sleep Monday at his West Baltimore home. He was 98.
Mr. Prettyman worked for Baltimore City public schools as a teacher and, later, as a counselor. He also was active for decades in the Boy Scouts of America. But he will be remembered thanks to the archives for his days as a 1920s touring musician.
He counted singer and band leader Cab Calloway among his friends, and he interrupted his high school education to go on the vaudeville circuit with a band called Icy Hot. It included Baltimore native Avon Long, who went on to become a Tony Award-nominated Broadway singer and actor.
Mr. Prettyman played the bass as well as the French horn and banjo. The band left the circuit after parents encouraged its members to finish their schooling.
"We folded up and went back to school," Mr. Prettyman told interviewer Elizabeth Schaaf in September 1996 for the Archives of the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University.
Mr. Prettyman also played French horn in the Masonic Band and the City Colored Park Band, which gave concerts at then-segregated Druid Hill Park and was led by his brother, Edward Prettyman, according to an archives biography.
He was born on a farm near Lisbon in Howard County. He was the seventh of nine children. The family moved to West Baltimore when he was young but also kept working the farm for a number of years, he told the archives.
He said he became involved in music as he grew, singing at church and at home with his mother accompanying on a "one-man organ."
"In the back woods everybody sang," he said. "After supper, the dishes were washed ... and you'd go into the dining room and you'd do your homework and you'd sing."
He went to Baltimore's segregated schools, graduating from Frederick Douglass High School in 1928 after returning from the vaudeville circuit. He graduated from Coppin Normal School in 1930 and later studied at New York University, at what is now Morgan State University and at Loyola College.
In 1931, he married Buena Vista Gray, whom he had met in high school. Mrs. Prettyman died in 1993.
He worked for 46 years in Baltimore City public schools, first as a grade-school teacher and later as a junior high school counselor. He taught until about 1970, said his daughter Waltyn Prettyman of Baltimore. He then became a counselor at Barclay Elementary School, where he was the first African-American on staff, said another daughter, Quandra Prettyman of New York City.
Despite living most of his life in the city, including at least six decades on Madison Avenue, Mr. Prettyman's rural roots instilled in him a lifelong love of the country, his daughters said.
In a self-written obituary, he described trapping along an unnamed river with his brother and selling the pelts to Sears & Roebuck in Chicago. For years he had a second home near Mount Airy, where he set aside 20 acres as a wildlife preserve, Quandra Prettyman said. He didn't hunt there but liked to target shoot and walk the property and garden.
In the obituary, Mr. Prettyman also described himself as a Civil War buff who admired Gens. Stonewall Jackson and William Tecumseh Sherman.
"It's hard to describe his egalitarian, open spirit, but that's the sort of person he was," Quandra Prettyman said. "I find it very hard to figure out about Sherman and Jackson, but I think it had something to do with their boldness and their standing."
Mr. Prettyman's extensive musical tastes included opera, classical music, folk and jazz.
Services will be at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday at Grace Presbyterian Church, 2604 Banister Road.
In addition to his daughters, survivors include a granddaughter.