Prominent Black Friend of the University: Lionel Hampton

Black history was further recorded at the University with the arrival of Lionel Hampton. Hampton, a Jazz musician from Louisville, Kentucky, made quite a name for himself in the 20th century, becoming an international sensation with the Lionel Hampton Orchestra. A musical prodigy, Hampton wrote over 200 musical works and established two of his very own record label companies, which only further spiraled him into the spotlight.

His first appearance at the University of Idaho was in 1984, when he and his New York band performed at the Jazz Festival.1 His performance at the Jazz Festival must have had some profound effect on himself and the community, as he would return in 1985 to perform again, but this time at the newly renamed Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival.2 This relationship between Hampton and the University continued, with the University renaming its music school to the Lionel Hampton School of Music in 1987 and gifting Hampton an honorary doctorate degree in 1988.3

With knowledge of the University’s seeming interest in furthering Jazz, and Hampton’s participation in the festival, many other iconic Black musicians, like Dizzy Gillespie and Ella Fitzgerald, would find their way to the University of Idaho. The Jazz Festival was a stunning success with international attention, thanks to the efforts of Lionel Hampton, who would continue to play at the festival until his unfortunate passing on August 31, 2002.4 Despite his passing, the Lionel Hampton International Music Festival (renamed in 2006) was awarded the National Medal of the Arts in 2007. Hampton’s time at the University had a profound impact not only towards the Black history on campus, but also to the musical experience and education offered.


  1. “Lionel Hampton Collection – Biography,” International Jazz Collections, University of Idaho Library, University of Idaho, accessed September 1, 2022,
  2. “Saving Jazz in Moscow, Idaho,” Intermountain Histories, Annysia Hoffman, University of Idaho,
  3. “Lionel Hampton Collection – Lionel and the University,” International Jazz Collections, University of Idaho Library, University of Idaho, 
  4. “The Swing is Gone – Famed Musician, Jazz Festival Icon Dies at Age 94,” Argonaut, September 4, 2002, (accessed September 1, 2022)


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The Seminal History and Prospective Future of Blacks at the University of Idaho Copyright © 2023 by Brody Gasper and Sydney Freeman Jr. is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.