Birmingham native Erskine Hawkins was a prominent African American trumpeter, bandleader, and composer during the Big Band era of the 1930s and 40s. His Erskine Hawkins Orchestra was a popular dance band in New York City, and with it he recorded the hit “Tuxedo Junction” about a streetcar intersection on the Ensley-Fairfield line that was a center of nightlife for African Americans. Hawkins is a member of the Alabama Music and the Alabama Jazz Halls of Fame.
Born in the Enon Ridge section of Birmingham, Jefferson County, on July 26, 1914, Erskine Ramsay Hawkins was one of five children of Edward and Cary Hawkins. After his father died in France during World War I, the family moved in with Cary’s relatives across the street from the Tuggle Institute, a private school for African American boys (now Tuggle Elementary School). Hawkins attended Tuggle from the age of six, excelling in music and athletics. Under the direction of the school’s band director, he first played drums, trombone, and saxophone, before concentrating his talents on the trumpet. He was nearly always at the school, either playing music or at the gym, where he played basketball, football, and tennis.