Roi Ottley Collection  

St. Bonaventure University

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 sitting 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. Bonaventure Yearbook.


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. 
(Wednesday June 17, 1964)

Fr. Gerald McMinn was president of St. Bonaventure when the Ottley boys attended.  
"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 p.489-491

(2) Dexter Teed, New York Post Daily Magazine and Comic Section April 7, 1944

(3) Buffalo Courier-Express, June 18, 1964

Last updated: 05 December 2011

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