Dr. Joyce Inez Johnson Bolden, age 90, peacefully transitioned with her daughter and grandson by her side on January 6, 2023, at her daughter’s home in Metairie, LA.
She was born in New Orleans, LA on December 27, 1933, to Alcee LaBranche and Thelma Wethers Johnson.
Joyce was raised on the campus of Prentiss Normal and Industrial Institute, a college preparatory and junior college institution of higher learning, which was founded by her paternal grandparents, Jonas Edward and Bertha LaBranche Johnson in June of 1907.
Joyce received her early education at the Institute. She grew up loving music and played piano at age 4 in all the local churches in Prentiss and surrounding areas. At 15 she began her collegiate education at Fisk University (Nashville, TN) and graduated in the spring of 1953, with a Bachelor of Arts in Music and subsequently added organ to her repertoire of musical training.
Dr. Bolden extended her education and studied music at Harvard University and earned a Master of Arts in Music at the University of Illinois Champagne-Urbana (Urbana, IL). She also studied music at Heidelberg University (Heidelberg, Germany) earning her Doctor of Philosophy at Michigan State University. She was the first African American woman to receive a doctorate in music from Michigan State University.
Dr. Bolden’s teaching and professional career began at Utica Junior College in Utica, MS where she met many lifelong friends, including the love of her life, James L. “Billy” Bolden. They were married in 1954 and later moved to Alcorn State University in 1957. To this union their only child was born, Pamela Joyce Bolden Gracin, while they both served on the faculty at Alcorn State University.
She gave 42 years of devoted love and service to Alcorn State University and considered herself an “Alcornite.” She served in many capacities at Alcorn State University: Concert Choir Director, Music Professor, Honors Colloquium Professor, and Department of Fine Arts Chair. Along with teaching and mentoring, the accomplishments she was most proud of were initiating scholarships for music majors and music ensemble participants and in particular, spearheading the initial accreditation for Alcorn State University into the National Association of Schools of Music (NASM). She later became the first woman and first minority Chairman of the Commission on Accreditation for NASM headquartered in Reston, Virginia.
After retiring from Alcorn State University in June 1999, Dr. Bolden served as a consultant to several Historically Black Colleges and Universities aiding them in their successful quest to have their college music programs accredited by NASM. Alcorn State University named its Fine Arts Department Building in her honor on November 18, 2016, and additionally named her one of its “Notable Alcorn Women.” Her social and professional memberships included: Alpha Beta Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., Fisk University; The Links, Inc.; charter member of Alcorn State University Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.; Prentiss Institute Board of Trustees; NASM; Phi Delta Kappa professional organization for educators; and the Claiborne County Preservation Committee.
Joyce was proceeded in death by her parents Alcee and Thelma Johnson; her loving husband of 42 years, James L. “Billy” Bolden; a grandson, James Anthony Hutchinson; sister-in-law, Dr Jacquelyn Bolden Beck and brother-in-law, Dr. Thomas Bolden. She leaves to cherish her memory her daughter Pamela Bolden Gracin (Richard); beloved grandson Nicholas Hutchinson; brother Al Wethers Johnson (Classie); nieces Tasha Johnson Brown (Harry), Juanda Beck Jones, Classie LaShae Johnson, Jennifer Lee Swanson (Richard); nephew Eric Bolden; great nieces Elizabeth Jones, Taija, Taylor, and Tia Brown; great nephew Cameron King; cousins, Barbara Carson, Eva Hannah, Carla Wethers Bell (Kenneth) and a host of other relatives.
“Dr. Joyce Bolden was a pillar and cornerstone in the music department and community for over four decades,” said Dr. Tracy M. Cook, interim president. “An accomplished educator, Dr. Bolden took great pride in her work. She made sure students were knowledgeable and ready for the workforce. Our deepest thoughts and prayers are with the entire family.”
Memorial services will be held Tuesday, January 16, 2024, at 11:00 a.m., in the Dr. Rudolph Waters Sr. Classroom Building, Alcorn State University. An Omega Omega Ceremony will be held earlier at 9:30 a.m. in the Waters Classroom Building. In lieu of flowers, the family is requesting donations in her name to Prentiss Institute, Alcorn State University, or Fisk University.