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Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Edgar "Dooky" Chase Jr., Musician, Restaurateur and Civic Leader, dies at 88

Edgar "Dooky" Chase Jr., musician, restaurateur and civic leader, dies at 88

Creole Trailblazer transitions on November 22, 2016
November 22, 2016

by Todd A. Price
NOLA



Edgar "Dooky" Chase Jr. at their Family Foundation Annual Gala at the Grand Ballroom of the Hyatt Regency Hotel in New Orleans on Saturday, June 14, 2014. (Photo Credit: Peter G. Forest)

Edgar 'Dooky' Chase Jr., who with his wife Leah turned the family's Treme sandwich shop into a world renowned restaurant and a beacon of civility, died Tuesday (Nov. 22). A family member confirmed the death. Mr. Chase was 88.

Mr. Chase, born March 23, 1928, in New Orleans, grew up in a musical family. A jazz trumpeter, Mr. Chase delivered sandwiches for his parents' shop while honing his musical skills, according to a bio posted by the Chase Family Foundation.

After attending Booker T. Washington High School, Mr. Chase founded the Dooky Chase Orchestra, a big band that included his sister, Doris, on vocals.


Dooky Chase's orchestra in the 1940s in an undated photo.
(Photo Credit: A.P. Bedou, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune archive)

Mr. Chase, according to the foundation page, also became active in the Musicians Union and helped increase the pay of local performers. In 1945, the Dooky Chase Orchestra played a Mardi Gras ball, where Mr. Chase met Leah. The couple married a year later.



Dooky and Leah Chase in January of 1996. (Photo Credit: Bryan S. Berteaux, Staff Archive)
The orchestra played its last show in 1949, but Mr. Chase and Leah went on to turn the family's humble business into a white-table cloth restaurant admired and celebrated around the world.


Dooky Chase "Lunch with Leah: New Orleans' Grande Dame of Creole Cuisine" CultureFest on Sunday October 28, 2007 with Edgar "Dooky" Chase Jr. (left), Chef Leah Chase and Edgar "Dooky" Chase IV (right). (Photo Credit:  by Steven Forster, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune)
The restaurant because a meeting place for civil rights leaders. In an upstairs room, the Chases allowed black and white civil rights activists to eat and plan, in violation of the law. The Rev. Martin Luther King Sr., James Meredith and Thurgood Marshall all passed through the doors on Orleans Avenue.

African-American musicians, who were barred at time from white establishments, also frequented Dooky Chase's Restaurant. The list of notable customers included Lena Horne, Count Basie, Sarah Vaughan and Ray Charles, who mentioned the restaurant in his song "Early in the Morning."


Dooky Chase and wife/honoree Leah Chase at the Orpheum Theater on February 27, 2002. (Photo Credit: Steven Forster, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune archive)
Later, presidents would come to the Treme restaurant for gumbo and hospitality.

The restaurant was heavily damaged by the levee failures following Hurricane Katrina. Mr. Chase and Leah lived in a FEMA trailer across from the restaurant for more than a year. Dooky Chase's Restaurant would not reopen for two years.


Singer Chase Kamata performed "Sondheim Meets Satchmo at Dooky's" at Dooky Chase restaurant,Monday November 14, 2011. Chase Kamata (left), Dooky Chase Jr. and Leah Chase Kamata (right). (Photo Credit: Steven Forster, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune archive)
The couple and their family, after the restaurant returned, founded the Edgar "Dooky" Jr. & Leah Chase Family Foundation, which supports culture, education, culinary arts and social justice.



Edgar "Dooky" Chase Jr. and Leah Chase at their Family Foundation Annual Gala at the Grand Ballroom of the Hyatt Regency Hotel in New Orleans on Saturday, June 14, 2014.
(Photo Credit:  Peter G. Forest, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune archive)
Edgar "Dooky" Chase Jr., Musician, Restaurateur and Civic Leader, dies at 88
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