The Ottley Family
Roi's parents, Jerome Peter and Beatrice Brisbane Ottley
emigrated to New York from the island of Grenada. "According to
family legend he was born while his mother was employed by a family named
Fitzroy who wanted the child named in their honor rather than for her native
island of St. Vincent. His mother acceded by calling him Roy, a spelling
he later gallicized." (1) In
a 1944 interview with Dexter Teed of the New York Post, Ottley said that his
mother influenced him more than any other human being. "He remembers
one incident which proved her intellectual honesty. She went with a white
woman to a Negro beauty shop and when they refused to beautify the white woman, Mrs. Ottley unleashed a verbal barrage that singed their hair. That was
racial prejudice in reverse!" (2)
Mrs. Beatrice Brisbane Ottley
Ottley was very close to his brother Jerome who was only one year younger
than him. The two played sports together throughout their childhood, and
Jerome even followed his brother to St. Bonaventure in 1927.
||Picture of the 1925 Abyssinia Baptist Church
basketball team. Roi is seated in front holding the basketball and
Jerome is standing third from left in the back row.
Future eleven-term U.S. Congressman Rev. Adam Clayton Powell is
second from right.
Back row: (from left) Mr. Hickman, coach; James Price, nephew of
W.C. Handy; Jerome P. Ottley, Jr.; Dective [sic] Manny Khine
Front row: (from left) Anthony Hicks; W.C. Handy, Jr.; Dr. Frank
Steele; Rev. Adam Powell; Richard "Dick" Kennard
Seated (with basketball): Roi Ottley
||Photo of the two brothers in their track
uniforms at St. Bonaventure. Roi is on the right. The Ottley brothers,
along with Charlie Major and Gus Moore helped make one of the most famous
track teams in Bonaventure history.
||Jerome's senior profile in the 1931 St.
Dr. Jerome Ottley D.D.S with Fr.
Irenaeus Herscher (left) and Fr. Gerald McMinn
at a ceremony in Friedsam Memorial Library. Dr. Ottley donated
four books written by his late brother, Roi.
June 17, 1964)
Fr. Gerald McMinn was president of St. Bonaventure when the Ottley boys
"It was Fr. Gerald who encouraged Roi to follow a writing career
while he was a student at St. Bonaventure Fr. McMinn encouraged Roi to follow his dreams
to become a writer."
(1) Dictionary of American Biography. Suppl. 6
(2) Dexter Teed, New York Post Daily Magazine and Comic
Section April 7, 1944
(3) Buffalo Courier-Express, June 18, 1964
05 December 2011