Hundreds of former students, friends, relatives mourn Dr. Isaac Greggs

Photo provided by staff
Saturday, May 3, 2014 - 8:00am

Southern University paid its final respects to one of its biggest legends.

Hundreds of people attended a memorial service for Dr. Isaac Greggs, the long-time director of bands who passed away on Monday at the age of 85.

He led the bands at Southern for 36 years, but music was not really what he taught.

"It doesn't matter what field you went in, what you were studying, you still used some of his tactics, some of his teachings, in order to further yourself in life," said Eric Johnson, an alumnus and former band member.

Dr. Greggs could be funny and he could be demanding, but he was always charismatic. He was a role model that many of his students did not have until they put on his uniform.

"He taught them how to be men," said Sandra Byrd, his long-time administrative assistant. "You know, whatever they was lacking in, when he finished with them, they were men.

"The (Dancing) Dolls over there, all those are his girls. All those (male alumni), his boys. And they knew just what, they knew what to expect."

His bands had a distinct style that took them to the biggest events around the world, including the Super Bowl and presidential inauguration. But his favorite phrases showed a sense of humility.

"'The tallest building will tumble down if it's not rooted in solid ground,'" Johnson recalled. "And that's something that he just, he spoke all the time."

The directors of bands at Texas State and Grambling State were among the speakers Friday night, honoring a man who, by profession, should have been their rival.

"It speaks well to his influence," Johnson claimed, "it speaks well to what he's done for so many people, as far as building them up to be where they are. And just the love and the camaraderie beyond the music."

But as much as he taught, as much as he gave, Dr. Greggs stayed at Southern all those years because of what he received from his students.

"That was his life," Byrd said. "They put joy in his life every day. He looked forward to just being around them. What he had, he poured into them."

Funeral services will be held today at 11:00 a.m. at Mount Pilgrim Baptist Church, 9700 Scenic Highway.  

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