Honoring Black History Month

February 3, 2021

Utah Department of Commerce and its Division of Corporations are excited to Highlight one of Utah’s Civil Rights Pioneers and someone who had a lasting impact on Utah Business.

This month is Black History Month and we are proud to highlight one of Utah’s adopted sons Joe McQueen.  Born in Texas and raised in Oklahoma, Joe was an up and coming tenor saxophonist for a Jazz Band which had been touring the United States.

On December 7th 1945 his band arrived in Utah to play a 2-week gig in Ogden and as Joe said “one thing led to another and we stayed and we still like it,” Ogden was so different from any place he had ever been.

By the 1950’s Joe and his band who originally played in Black Only Clubs had started playing in White Only Clubs.  Joe who had been involved in the Civil Rights Movement made it clear that his black fans were not to be turned away when he was preforming at a club.  “I made it known if they were going to hire my band and not let black people come in, I wouldn’t be playing there,” and he said that many clubs afraid of losing the opportunity relented and opened their doors to everyone.

Joe had become so popular that many of the most popular Jazz artist would stop in Utah to play with him on their way from Chicago to San Francisco.  Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Lester Young, Nat King Cole, Cab Calloway and Ray Charles are a few of the artist who played with Joe. Ending Segregation in parts of Utah was something Joe McQueen was proud of in his life, said his friend Brad Wheeler.  We in the Utah Department of Commerce are proud of the positive change Joe and other black leaders have made on Utah Businesses.  Thank you for choosing Utah for the last 74 years of your life Joe!  We were sad to hear of your passing on December 7th 2019, but find it interesting you died the same day 74 years apart that you arrived here.  You lived a wonderful life and your legacy will live on with the hearts you touched and in Utah businesses.

Joe McQueen
Photo credit: Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune