Ellis L. Marsalis Sr., 96; Patriarch of Family of Famed Jazz Musicians

From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Ellis L. Marsalis Sr., 96, the patriarch of a family of world-famous jazz musicians, including his son Ellis Marsalis Jr. and grandsons Branford, Delfeayo, Jason and Wynton Marsalis, died Sunday at a hospital in New Orleans. The cause of death was not announced.

A native of Summit, Miss., Marsalis moved to New Orleans in 1921. He was the first African American to manage an Esso service station in the city. He also made his living for a time as a poultry farmer.

In 1943, he opened the Marsalis Motel, which featured a restaurant, lounge and swimming pool.

It became a mecca for visiting African American musicians, businessmen and civil rights leaders.

The motel's business declined after the passage of civil rights legislation in the 1960s allowed blacks to stay in formerly all-white hotels.

The motel was closed in 1986 and later demolished.

Marsalis also helped found the Boosters Club of Jefferson Parish, which helped black residents in registering to vote.

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