Andre Head

Black Towns Tour Co-Founder Is Dead of Virus

Andre Head, co-founder of the Historic Black Towns Tour, died following a bout with the coronavirus.

Mr. Head, a former firefighter and former federal marshal, became ill with COVID-19 and died on Nov. 26. 

He was 72.

Mr. Head was co-founder of The Coltrane Group, a non-profit organization he and his wife, Jessilyn Hall Head, created to preserve and revitalize the 13 remaining all-Black towns in Oklahoma. 

The organization is perhaps best known for creating the Historic Black Towns Tour program, which took patrons to visit the state’s Black towns, including Clearview, Rentiesville, Langston, Tullahassee, Brooksville and Boley.

Mr. Head, a native of Guthrie and a 1966graduate of Douglass High School of Oklahopma City, also was a board of directors member of the Oklahoma Genealogy Society and president of the Black Genealogy Research Group.

“Andre was a faithful Christian, who possessed a deep and abiding compassion for his people and he considered the history of African-Americans to be an invaluable commodity, not only for people of color, but also for the community at-large,” commented Rev. Major L. Jemison, pastor of the St. John Missionary Baptist Church.

“He worked tirelessly to ensure that the Black towns in this state received their due recognition.”

Mr. and Mrs. Head were members of St. John Baptist.

Rev. Jemison described Mr. Head as “a pacesetter” in genealogy, “who worked across racial lines, across religious lines and ecumenical lines to bring to the African-American community the best tools available for them to research their history and find out their family connections as far back as our first arrival here on the shores in Virginia.”

Andre Head’s grandparents lived in Boley and he spent a lot of time there growing up.  The town was the site or the focus of several of his projects. 

Last year, the non-profit received a National Park Service grant to help restore a Boley bank building that was the scene of a bank robbery by members of a gang led by Charles “Pretty Boy” Floyd.

“Andre was a great advocate, supporter and friend to the town of Boley, as he is from a long line of original inhabitants of this great town,” Henrietta Hicks, a Boley historian, and Joan Matthews, wrote about the genealogist.

In August, The Coltrane Group won a $15,000 Wonder Grant sponsored by Oklahoma City-based Trifecta Communications. 

Mr. Head and his wife planned to use the grant for a mobile app to create augmented reality “time-portals” that transports patrons to the state’s Black town as they were during the early 20th Century.

Funeral services were held on Dec. 12 at Temple & Sons Funeral Directors.

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