The Nat King Cole Society was founded in 1994 by Amos Harris. A recent Montgomery Advertiser article tells our story well.
What better place to celebrate 100 years since Nat King Cole's birth than in the city in which he was born?
On March 17, fans of the legendary musician will have that chance at the 25th Annual Unforgettable Scholarship Gala at the Renaissance Hotel in downtown Montgomery.
The event will be highlighted by performances from Nat King Cole impersonator Darrell Cole and local musician Ron Handy as well as a guest appearance by Kirk Jay, a Montgomery resident who placed third in this past season of "The Voice."
"'Unforgettable' will always be unforgettable," said John McGowan, chairman of the Nat King Cole Society, referring to Cole's 1951 hit.
A Route 66 VIP Riverboat ride on the Harriott II will kick the weekend off. The ticketed events will raise money for the Nat King Cole Society's scholarship fund, which last year paid approximately $7,000 to Alabama State University visual and performing arts students.
Individual tickets are $50 and tables for 10 can be secured for $500 with table sponsors featured in the Gala programming.
Nathaniel Adam Coles was born in Montgomery on March 17, 1919, to Perlina Coles, a church organist, and Edward James Coles, a minister at Beulah Baptist Church. Cole wasn't yet 5 years old when he and his family moved to Chicago where Cole would develop his signature sound.
Cole was also the first African-American to host a variety television show, "The Nat King Cole Show," in 1956.
Cole's childhood home on Saint John Street was marked for demolition as Alabama State University expanded, but the house was saved by Amos Harris, founder of the local Nat King Cole Society.
Harris, a retired Chicago police officer, had moved to Montgomery with his wife Rozelia and was surprised to find that one of Chicago's favorite sons had been born in Montgomery.
Harris has since passed, but District 3 City Councilman Tracy Larkin, a radio host at the time, recalls Harris hearing a radio segment discussing the house and being spurred to purchase it.
"On a radio talk show we were talking about what we can do to honor Nat King Cole and he called the station and said,'I want to do whatever I can do to help.' And he actually came over and purchased this house that was about to be demolished." Larkin said. "There are not many stars in the galaxy that would be greater than Nat King Cole."
In 2000, ASU relocated the home to the corner of Harris Way and North University Drive after purchasing it from Harris.
According to archived media reports, the house has undergone $200,000 in renovations, primarily from grants.
However, this year's gala will also contribute a portion of proceeds to the continued restoration of the house.
Destiny Williams, cultural heritage manager for ASU's National Center for the Study of Civil Rights and African-American Culture, said it's unknown how much the Nat King Cole Society will donate, but the money will be used to purchase technology that will allow for interactive, in-depth exhibits within the home.
Williams said she hopes the home is able to be completed and open to the public in the next few years.
"We're working with the Nat King Cole Society to bring to fruition this interpretive house museum project," Williams said. "They're working hard, and I feel like it's going to be nice."
The Nat King Cole Society was founded 27 years ago by Amos Harris to recognize Nat King Cole, a Montgomery native. Each year, we award scholarships to deserving students. The Nat King Cole Society is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.
Our Annual Birthday Bash and Scholarship Fundraiser had to be canceled in 2020. For 2021, we are sharing the video, The 27th Annual Nat King Cole Birthday Bash and Scholarship Fundraiser.
We hope you will continue to support us and our scholarship mission. To make a donation, go to our Donate Page.