Grandson of legendary Tri-State Defender editor blazes his own trail through music


One was a significant figure in the civil rights era; the other a young, accomplished music scholar who joined the prestigious Detroit Symphony Orchestra this fall.

Both men distinguished themselves as artists: one a writer and photographer and the other a master of wind instruments. Their connection is undeniable, and although they never actually met, their relationship is strong, transcending space and time.

These images of the attack on Tri-State Defender editor L. Alex Wilson appeared in the New York Times and reportedly spurred President Dwight Eisenhower to send the National Guard to Little Rock to assure order amid efforts desegregate schools.

L. Alex Wilson was editor and general manager of the Tri-State Defender newspaper. He covered the desegregation of Little Rock Central High School in 1957 and the injuries he sustained – some say – likely triggered the onset of Parkinson’s disease, which claimed his life in 1960. He was 51.

“I never met my grandfather, but I have heard so much about him from my mother, but especially from my grandmother,” said Adam Wilson Sadberry, Wilson’s 22-year-old grandson. “My grandfather recorded events concerning black people in the South. …My grandmother has told me many stories about him. All of my knowledge of him has been through our family’s oral history.

“To me, he was kind of this cool figure,” Sadberry said. “My grandmother has a picture of him with Dr. (Martin Luther) King (Jr.) during the (Montgomery) bus boycott. It makes me proud to know he was on the front lines of the civil rights movement trying to make a difference.”

Wilson had traveled to Little Rock to cover the Little Rock Nine and the desegregation of schools. The National Guard was called in to protect the 9 African-American children attempting to enroll at the high school.

Some in a crowd of angry white protestors attacked Wilson, beating him severely and causing head and body injuries. He wrote about the attack in the newspaper. Later, he was called back to Chicago to head up the daily edition of the Chicago Defender.

Sadberry’s mother, Karen Wilson-Sadberry, was three years old when her father died. His grandmother and Wilson’s widow, Emogence Wilson, moved back to Memphis after her husband passed. For 35 years, she taught school, including many years at Hamilton High School.

A recent graduate of Eastman School of Music at the University of Rochester (NY), Sadbery joined the Detroit Symphony Orchestra this fall. He was awarded the Bachelor of Music degree in Flute Performance and a Performance Certificate.

Sadberry, whose father is Alonzo J. Sadberry, grew up in Montgomery, Texas. He has enjoyed several significant experiences  at Eastman. He recorded with the Eastman Wind Ensemble as principal flute; and toured with the Eastman Philharmonia as principal piccolo for a performance at the Lincoln Center, with Renee’ Fleming. In 2017 he was the recipient of a $5,000 scholarship award from the National Links Organization.

At age 11, Sadberry studied piano and sang with the St. James Episcopal youth choir.  Two years later, he joined the Montgomery High School Band and soon discovered his passion for the flute.  He became proficient in both flute and saxophone and later, piccolo.

He joined the Jazz Connection, a popular local youth band that performs regularly in Montgomery County and surrounding areas. He became principle flutist and piccolo player with the Houston Youth Symphony during his final two years in high school. He became the silver medalist in the Houston Symphony League Concerto competition and performed on National Public Radio’s “From the Top” as a Jack Kent Cooke Young Artist.

His orchestral experiences are varied and prestigious and his talent has netted numerous awards and recognition.