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Jazz Patriarch Ellis Marsalis Sr. Dead at 96

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Ellis Marsalis Sr, patriarch of the family of jazz greats that includes his grandsons Wynton and Branford, died over the weekend at the age of 96, a New Orleans funeral home said on Wednesday.

Marsalis, who took an active role in the civil rights movement, died at an area hospital on Sunday.

Marsalis was a poultry farmer who converted a barn along the Mississippi River into a motel in 1943.

The 40 room motel catered to African-Americans, who were not allowed to stay in New Orleans hotels because of racial discrimination.

The motel attracted some of the best musicians in the United States, who helped foster a love of jazz among the members of the Marsalis family, including his son Ellis Marsalis Jr, another jazz great.

The Marsalis Motel quickly became famous for its well appointed rooms, fancy restaurant and shaded gardens.

Its clients included civil rights leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr, US Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall and US Republican Adam Clayton Powell Jr.

The motel saw its fortunes turn for the worse in the 1960s when civil rights legislation allowed African-Americans to stay at New Orleans hotels that formerly catered only to whites.

In 1986 the facility closed and was later demolished.

A funeral is scheduled for Thursday in New Orleans.

--Reuters

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