Jazz Great Teddy Washington Dies at 78

Teddy Washington, a Jacksonville native who played the trumpet with such giants as James Brown, B.B. King, Frank Sinatra, Louis Armstrong and Dizzie Gillespie, died Tuesday night. He was 78.

Mr. Washington died at Shands Jacksonville, apparently from complications caused by a blood clot, said his manager, Ron Pathac.

Pathac called Mr. Washington “one of Jacksonville’s cultural jewels … our own ambassador of music.”

“A kind and gentle man,” said Cindy Mosling, founder of the bird sanctuary B.E.A.K.S., for whom Mr. Washington played charity concerts for more than 20 years.

After moving back to Jacksonville in the early 1980s, Washington was best known for his involvement with the Jacksonville Jazz Festival. Inducted into the festival Hall of Fame in 2006, he performed in the festival 19 times, most recently this spring with other members of the Hall of Fame.

“Teddy was a giant,” said Dan Kosoff, who spent eight years as festival director. “He not only played for us, he brought a lot of friends. He was more than a local legend. He was absolutely respected all over the country. Everybody loved Teddy.”

Mr. Washington, who grew up in LaVilla, began playing music when he picked up a bugle at 8. Soon he switched to the trumpet.

One of his favorite stories from his musical boyhood was joining a band that included R.C. Robinson, a blind singer who was living with an aunt in LaVilla while attending the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind in St. Augustine. R.C. Robinson went on to fame as Ray Charles.

After graduating from Old Stanton High School in 1949, Mr. Washington was drafted and played with the Army band. Back in civilian life, he toured for a time with B.B. King.

He told the Times-Union in 2007 that he was performing at the Palms, a club at 45th and Moncrief previously known as the Two Spot, when he was spotted by James Brown in the early 1960s. Brown invited Washington to join his band.

In a 1985 interview with the Times-Union, Brown said he had wanted Mr. Washington to remain with the band. “I enjoyed working with Teddy Washington,” Brown said. “… He was a very fast and a very accurate musician.”

But Mr. Washington left Brown so he could work in New York City and Miami.

In 1975, with his mother in poor health, he made the first of a series of returns to Jacksonville. But the city, once a musical hotbed, had very few jazz venues and Washington soon moved to Atlanta.

In 1979, he was involved in an automobile accident that almost derailed his musical career. He told the Times-Union in 1985 that he fractured his pelvis and tore ligaments in his right arm. As a result, he was forced to learn how to play the trumpet left-handed, an incredibly difficult transition he eventually made.

He returned to Jacksonville in 1981 and launched a cable TV show, “The Teddy Washington Show,” that lasted about five years.

In the last decade, Mr. Washington, who had an extensive collection of musical memorabilia, became increasingly interested in musical history.

Beginning in 1999, he produced a series of awards shows, called the Teddy Washington Follies, that honored those who had contributed to Jacksonville’s musical heritage.

“He really wanted to better the conditions of his fellow musicians in Jacksonville,” said his brother, Frank Washington.

In addition to his brother, who lives in Jacksonville, Mr. Washington is survived by three sons, Teddy Washington Jr., of Washington, Roderick Washington, of Los Angeles, Terry Washington, who lives in Germany, and a daughter, Mistye Washington, who lives in Atlanta, as well as eight grandchildren.

Funeral arrangements are incomplete. There will be a celebration of Mr. Washington’s life at the Jacksonville Landing at a date not yet determined.