News From Terre Haute, Indiana


November 2, 2013

Historical Treasure: Demetrius Ewing: African-American musician, businessman

TERRE HAUTE — When I needed information about the Wee Hours Serenaders, Barbara Carney, the museum’s assistant director, went to the archives and located some articles from the 1970s about one of the group’s members, Demetrius Ewing. Not only did they highlight his musical talent, but they also described his life as a successful African-American businessman.

Demetrius “Dee” Ewing was a man who tailored his dreams. Born in Tennessee in 1921, Ewing came to Terre Haute with his family in 1921. He graduated from Wiley High School and attended Indiana State Normal School (now Indiana State University) for one year. In an interview, he recalled that the black students were permitted to socialize in only one room, located in the basement of the administration building.

Talented on both clarinet and saxophone, Ewing and some friends formed the Wee Hours Serenaders band. His musical idol was jazz musician Duke Ellington.

During World War II, Ewing enlisted and was assigned to a medical training battalion and used his musical talents to entertain at service clubs. While in the Army, he met his future wife, Mary Cox, a nurse.

After the war, Ewing played engagements with the Royal Syncopators. With a wife and son, he needed a day job. Irwin Jacobs, owner of the National Tailor’s Shop, hired him as a salesman. The two became friends, and when Jacobs died in 1956, his heirs sold the shop to Ewing. The shop, at 17 S. Sixth St., was one of Terre Haute’s most prestigious businesses.

Becoming the first African-American in Terre Haute to own a successful business was one of many firsts for Ewing. He was the first black person admitted to the local musicians’ union and the first to join the retail clerks’ union. He was also the first African-American to own a nursing home in Terre Haute. The Ewing Nursing Home was managed by his wife.

Ewing belonged to several civic organizations, including the Young Men’s Civic Club and the Pachyderm Club. Ewing died in 1989.

He noted in an interview that he believed he had lived to see a time when he was judged by his character and not by his skin color.


Text Only | Photo Reprints
Latest News Poll
AP Video
UN Security Council Calls for MH 17 Crash Probe Raw: Israel Bombs Multiple Targets in Gaza Obama Bestows Medal of Honor on NH Veteran Raw: Plane Lands on New York Highway AP Exclusive: American Beaten in Israel Speaks Raw: Black Boxes of Downed Jetliner Turned Over Diplomacy Intensifies Amid Mounting Gaza Toll Raw: International Team Inspects MH17 Bodies Texas Sending National Guard Troops to Border Hopkins to Pay $190M After Pelvic Exams Taped Raw: 25 Family Members Killed in Gaza Airstrike Recording May Show Attempt at Crash Cover-up Raw: Gaza Rescuers Search Rubble for Survivors New Orleans Plans to Recycle Cigarette Butts Raw: Cargo Craft Undocks From Space Station Foxx Cites Washington 'Circus Mirror' Raw: Gaza City Shelling Attack Raw: Girl Killed in Kansas After Police Chase Raw: Eric Garner's Wife Collapses at Rally in NY Veteran Creates Job During High Unemployment
NDN Video
Tsarnaev Friend Is Convicted In First Boston Marathon Trial Guilty Dog Apologizes to Baby for Stealing Her Toy Kanye West Tells-All on Wedding in "GQ" Interview Tony Dungy Weighs in on Michael Sam Scarlett Johansson Set To Marry In August New Star Wars Episode XII X-Wing Revealed Obama: Putin must push separatists to aid MH17 probe Michigan inmates no longer allowed to wear orange due to 'OITNB' Adam Levine Ties the Knot Sebastian The Ibis Walks Beautiful Bride Down The Aisle | ACC Must See Moment NASA Ceremony Honors Moon Walker Neil Armstrong Faces of Souls Lost in Malaysian Plane Crash 105-year-old woman throws first pitch Man Creates Spreadsheet of Wife's Reasons for Turning Down Sex 'Weird Al' Is Wowed by Album's Success Rory McIlroy struggles, surges, wins British Open NOW TRENDING: Real life Pac-Man Explosions as hot air balloon crashes in Clinton DUI Driver Dragged to Safety by Officer After Walking Onto Busy Freeway Celebrities That We'd Like to Send to the Moon

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
  • -


    March 12, 2010