Rocky Simmons Photographs

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Rocky Simmons photographs
Creator: Simmons, Steven Wynder, 1915-1994
Call Number: D.353
Dates: 1920's-2008 ; 1940-1970 [bulk]
Physical Description: 1 Cubic feet
Language(s): Materials are in English
Repository: Rare Books, Special Collections, and Preservation, River Campus Libraries, University of Rochester

Table of Contents:

Biographical/Historical Note
Scope and Content
Arrangement
Subject(s)
Processing Information
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Access
Use
Citation
Related Materials
Content List
Series I: Rocky Simmons and family
Series II: Athletics
Baseball
Youth Sports
Other Sports
Series III: Musicians and the club scene
Series IV: Politics
Series V: Photographs by Rocky
Series VI: Newspaper articles and memorabilia, 1945-1968
Series VII: Additional materials, 2007-2008
Collection Overview
Title: Rocky Simmons photographs
Creator: Simmons, Steven Wynder, 1915-1994
Call Number: D.353
Dates: 1920's-2008 ; 1940-1970 [bulk]
Physical Description: 1 Cubic feet
Language(s): Materials are in English
Repository: Rare Books, Special Collections, and Preservation, River Campus Libraries, University of Rochester

Biographical/Historical Note
Steven Wynder "Rocky" Simmons (1915-1994) was born in Magnolia, MS to Irvine and Gladys Simmons. The family moved to Bogalusa, LA where Rocky spent much of his youth. A gifted athlete, he was recruited by Wiley College in Marshall, TX to play football and baseball. He became a professional baseball player and played in the Negro Leagues for several teams, including the Bogalusa Tigers (LS) and the Utica Monarchs (NY). He played with such notables as Satchel Paige and Jackie Robinson. With the coming of World War II, Simmons served his country in the US Army.

When the War ended, Simmons opted for greater opportunities in the North and he made a new home for himself in Rochester, like so many others from the South. Here he managed the Rochester American Giants baseball team and coached many youth teams. He married Miss Beatrice Dawkins in 1954. Together they had four children: Wynder, Roxie, Michelle and Dwayne.

Simmons became involved in Republican Party politics when he lived on Scio St. in Rochester's 7th Ward. He was a powerful campaigner, encouraging voter registration, and participation. Simmons campaigned for Caroline Branch to be the first local female judge and when she won the election in 1964, she appointed Simmons to the position of Monroe County Family Court Attendant in 1964. He was the first African American to hold the position. He remained in this position until his retirement in 1988.

Simmons sought to improve the lot of Rochester's African American community by organizing youth activities and agitating for positive change. He also became a professional photographer, documenting, with his business partner George Mitchell, the lives of the community of which he had become so vital a part.

From the online exhibit: "Rocky Simmons (1915-1994) was a dynamic presence in Rochester and an iconic figure in the black community for several decades. He was a gifted athlete, an astute politician, the first African-American Court Attendant in Monroe County, an organizer of youth activities, a professional photographer and much more. He was a man who made things happen for the better. Everyone knew Rocky. He described himself as "the last rock standing." "

Scope and Content
The Rocky Simmons photographs (1920s-2008) are comprised of photographs originally assembled by Simmons in an album, plus additional materials donated by his children and family. The photos feature Simmons, his family and friends, and various locations central to his life. It also contains photographs he took as a professional photographer, featuring local events, weddings, musicians, sports teams, beauty contests, award ceremonies, and new businesses. The photographs are a unique window on the lives of Rochester's African American community at mid-20th century.

In addition to the photographs, there are newspaper clippings about Rocky's activities, cards and other ephemera.

Arrangement
The collection is arranged in seven small series, with assorted subseries, as follows:

Series I: Rocky Simmons and family [dates]

Series II: Athletics

Subseries 1: Baseball

Subeseries 2: Youth Sports

Subseries 3: Other Sports

Series III: Musicians and the Club Scene

Series IV: Politics

Series V: Photographs by Rocky

Series VI: Newspaper Articles and Memorabilia, 1945-1968

Series VII: Additional Materials, 2007-2008

Subject(s):
New York (State)--Monroe County
New York (State)--Rochester
African American photographers
African Americans
African American women
Sports
Baseball players
Musical groups
African Americans--Social life and customs
Photographs
Simmons, Steven Wynder, 1915-1994
Social reformers
Processing Information
The "Celebrating Rochester's Rocky Simmons: The Life & Photographs of an African American Activist" exhibit was installed in Rush Rhees Library in February 2008. The exhibit was so well received that it was permanently installed in the Monroe County Hall of Justice in October 2008. The collection contains photographs, cds, and other ephemera associated with these exhibits. A digital version of the exhibit is also available .The Rocky Simmons photographs collection was first processed in 2008. The finding aid was re-written in 2020 to reflect updated standards. Immediate Source of Acquisition
The materials in the Rocky Simmons photographs collection were donated to RBSCP by members of the Simmons family in 2006. Additional materials were added by the family in 2008.Access
The Rocky Simmons photographs is open for research use. Researchers are advised to contact Rare Books, Special Collections, and Preservation prior to visiting. Upon arrival, researchers will also be asked to fill out a registration form and provide photo identification.Use
Reproductions are made upon request but can be subject to restrictions. Permission to publish materials from the collection must currently be requested. Please note that some materials may be copyrighted or restricted. It is the researcher's obligation to determine and satisfy copyright or other case restrictions when publishing or otherwise distributing materials found in the collections. For more information contact rarebks@library.rochester.eduCitation
[Item title, item date], Rocky Simmons photographs, D.353, Rare Books, Special Collections, and Preservation, River Campus Libraries, University of RochesterRelated Materials
https://rbscp.lib.rochester.edu/rocky-simmons


Administrative Information
Author: Melissa Mead, Lev Earle.
Publisher: Rare Books, Special Collections, and Preservation, River Campus Libraries, University of Rochester
Address:
Rush Rhees Library
Second Floor, Room 225
Rochester, NY 14627-0055
rarebks@library.rochester.edu
URL:

Finding aid publication date: 05-10-2020
Content List
Series I: Rocky Simmons and family
From the online exhibit:

"My parents raised four children together: Roxie, Wynder, Dwayne, and Michelle. My father had three older children Elaine, Joyce and Leander. Being a loving and devoted husband and father, he had very strong family values. He always had time for his family, attending all school activities. We enjoyed many family dinners together.

I remember the family conference where we could talk about anything that happened in our lives. Anyone could call a family conference. This was a way of building a strong bond with each other. We learned to listen to each other and how to conduct a meeting. He would say "Family is everything and without it you have nothing." When many of our family members moved to Rochester from the south, they lived with us."

--Roxie Simmons Sinkler

Box 1, Folder 1Childhood images of Rocky Simmons
Box 1, Folder 2Formal portrait as a young boy
Photographic postcard
Box 1, Folder 3Small photograph of Rocky in military uniform
Box 1, Folder 4Pictures of Rocky in suit
Box 1, Folder 5Rocky in a Yankees jacket
Box 1, Folder 6Rocky posing by car
Box 1, Folder 7Rocky in W college sweater
c. 1935
Box 1, Folder 8Rocky in white suit by car
Box 1, Folder 9Rocky at an older age in a suit
Box 1, Folder 10Small photograph of an older Rocky by Christmas tree
Box 1, Folder 11Rocky in his last years with his family
Rocky with his family, wearing baseball gear, 1991
Box 1, Folder 12Rocky's mother, Gladys Simmons, holding a parasol
Box 1, Folder 13Rocky and his father, Irvine Simmons
posed in suits, clasping hands
Box 1, Folder 14Rocky's sister, Alice Otis
Box 1, Folder 15Rocky's brother
Box 1, Folder 16Beatrice as a young women, 1955
Box 1, Folder 17Rocky's daughter, Roxie Simmons, 1964
Box 1, Folder 18-19Social life of the family
Box 1, Folder 20Elks Club
Elks Club Marching Band, Clarissa St., Rochester, 1950s
Series II: Athletics
From the online exhibit: "In his early years living in the south, he and all other African Americans were not allowed to play in established baseball leagues. He played on the Negro league teams Bogalusa Tigers, and the Chicago American Giants as a catcher. He once caught for the great Satchel Paige. Rocky became manager of the Atlantic City Foley All-stars and the Utica Monarchs. He also managed the New York Black Yankees which finished its last season in 1948 in Rochester. The Rochester American Giants, a Negro minor league team was also managed by Rocky." -Roxie Simmons Sinkler

Baseball
Box 1, Folder 21Utica Monarchs
Rocky clasping hands with Utica Monarchs player
Simmons is on the right in the jacket. In this photo he is the manager of the Utica Monarchs.

Box 1, Folder 22Rochester American Giants
Team photograph, Rochester, NY, c. 1950
Photo by Rocky Simmons.

at the Buffalo Bisons' home park, c. 1940s
From the online exhibit: "The Rochester American Giants at the Buffalo Bison's home park, circa 1940s. Players from left to right in the bottom row include Lemuel Jeffries, Nate Harris, Walter Williams, unidentified, unidentified, unidentified, Victor Wright, John Bruce, Gilbert Taylor, Gordon Terrell, unidentified, team manager Rocky Simmons and business manager Mr. A. Vallot. The two players in the back row are Richard Phillips and Charles Cleveland." -Roxie Simmons Sinkler

Box 1, Folder 23S.R.
Box 1, Folder 24E.A.A. team photo
Southern Negro League team, Rocky Simmons at right.

Box 1, Folder 30Brooklyn Dodgers Baseball team, 1947
Youth Sports
From the online exhibit: "Rocky saw many young people coming to Family Court and it troubled him. He wanted to know why and how he could help. Being a man who loved sports, he saw a way to get the youth involved. Rocky enlisted the help of family and friends Judge Caroline Branch and Mr. John Branch, Sheriff Al Skinner, and Mayor Steven May and co-workers in the Court. They sponsored baseball, basketball, football and track teams. These young people learned the skills of teamwork, self-discipline, and self-respect and most of all how to treat others." -Roxie Simmons Sinkler

Box 1, Folder 25Football
Rocky with the youth team he coached in Rochester
Box 1, Folder 26Girls Basketball
Team coached by Rocky Simmons, 1950s
Baden Street Center, Rochester, NY.

Box 1, Folder 27Whiz Kids boys' basketball team coached by Rocky Simmons, 1950s
Baden Street Center, Rochester, NY. Top row, left to right: Josh Jeffries, John Beckley, James "Junior" Johnson, Claude Griffin, Charles Felton, and Robert "Doc" Turner. Front row, left to right: unidentified, David Hatcher, Ira Johnson, Charlie Brown, Tommy Watson. Child in front: Tyrone Carroll.

Box 1, Folder 28Baseball
3 photographs

Rocky and Little League team, 1969
Baseball team sponsored by Arthur J. Robinson, candidate for County Legislature. Coach Rocky Simmons at left.

Box 1, Folder 28Little League team - sponsored by Judge Caroline Branch
Other Sports
Box 1, Folder 31Boxer Joe Lewis
Box 1, Folder 32Unidentified athletes
Series III: Musicians and the club scene
From the online exhibit: "Rocky Simmons was a professional photographer. He and George Mitchell had a studio on Scio Street. They worked the nightclubs, dances, and took pictures of families in their homes and churches. Many people have told me the first photo they had was taken by my father. What is so amazing is that they still have these pictures that were taken 50 and 60 years ago." -Roxie Simmons Sinkler

Box 1, Folder 33Female singing group
Box 1, Folder 34Singing group with Wade Davis
Box 1, Folder 35Two musicians performing at Mr. Wonderful Lounge, 1969
Box 1, Folder 36Unidentified musician
Box 1, Folder 37Three musicians –Sonny in middle, 1970
Box 1, Folder 38Cab Calloway and his Orchestra
Box 1, Folder 39Nat King Cole
Box 1, Folder 40Jimmie Steward performing
Box 1, Folder 41Frankie Kay and the Swinging Vee Jays, c. 1960
Frankie Kay and the Swinging Vee Jays, Frankie Kay on guitar, Mr. (William?) Graham on saxophone, Mr. White on bass and Mr. Cooke on drums.

Musicians posing around sign
Musicians standing behind sign
Box 1, Folder 42Rocky Simmons in the Club Scene
Box 1, Folder 43Rocky Simmons in New York City, 1939
Box 1, Folder 44-50Faces of the Times
Contains 20 photographs taken by Simmons featuring people and places from where he lived and worked.

Box 1, Folder 51Beauty Pageants
From the online exhibit: "For those who did not play sports, [Rocky] organized talent shows, beauty pageants." -Roxie Simmons Sinkler

Beauty Queen sponsored by the Sepia Club, 1962
Beauty Pageant contestants, May 1969
Series IV: Politics
From the online exhibit:

"Rocky became involved in politics as a Republican when he was living in Rochester's 7th Ward on the City's northeast side. He became a Ward Leader when he saw the need for the community to have a larger voice in the issues that affected them.

"As Ward leader, he helped many people get jobs, apartments, clothes, food and home heating oil. Rocky was a great organizer and knew many people in the community. His mission was to empower people with the right tools so they could improve their lives.

"He was very involved in voter registration going to black churches, the public market, and people's homes. He registered many African-Americans to vote. Rocky believed "do not complain if you are not voting."

"Politicians would ask him to help them campaign in the black community. They were amazed so many people of different races and ages knew Rocky. Rocky treated everyone with respect no matter their race or creed and they treated him with respect in return. He became so well known in the Republican Party he was introduced to Nelson Rockefeller who was running for governor and was asked to be on the campaign team. Rocky loved campaigning and he was very good at it." -Roxie Simmons Sinkler

Box 2, Folder 1SPAN Group
Box 2, Folder 2Political Campaigning with Kermit Hill, City Manager
Box 2, Folder 3Leo Oakes and William Dwyer with Rocky
Box 2, Folder 4Group of county legislature officials
Group of men listed left to right: Joe Ferrari (County legislature), Sherriff Shenner, Dom Di Guardi, Kermit Hill (City Manager), Mike Zeitter, William Dwyer, Rocky Simmons, John Parrinello, Councilman John DiCaesar, Frank Lawrence.

Box 2, Folder 5Campaigning for Nelson Rockefeller, 1970
Outside of campaign headquarters, from left to right: Republican Chairman William Dwyer, Jackie Robinson, community activist Mildred Johnson, and Rocky Simmons in hat.

Box 2, Folder 6Political banquet Wilson 131st
Box 2, Folder 7Judge Caroline Branch at podium
Caroline Branch, the first local female judge, was elected to Family Court soon after the court was created in 1962. With Rocky's help, she ran a successful primary against the Republican Party's designated candidate and defeated the Democratic candidate in the general election. Her husband John Branch was a local attorney. Judge Caroline Branch appointed Rocky to the position of Monroe County Family Court Attendant, the first African American to hold the position. Rocky was a lifelong friend of the Branches.

Box 2, Folder 8U.S. Congressman Frank Horton presenting Rocky with an American flag
Photo by Long's Photography Studio, 306 Joseph Avenue, Rochester, NY.

Box 2, Folder 9Mayor Stephen May presenting Rocky with Public Service plaque, June 1970
Rocky Simmons, at left, with Rochester Mayor Stephen May. As a boy, Steve May had been coached by Rocky. Professor Arthur J. May, Steve's father, taught history at the University for 39 years and wrote A History of the University of Rochester 1850-1962.

Box 2, Folder 10Rocky Simmons receives Public Service Award plaque from the Rochester Life Underwriters, June 19, 1970
Mr. Hills and Miss Rivers, both teachers in the Automotive Annex at Rochester School District Occupational High School, and their students look on. The Rochester Association of Minority Police created and continues to fund the Steven Wynder "Rocky" Simmons Scholarship Fund. Photo by Ernest Amato, originally from the Division Public Information, City of Rochester.

Box 2, Folder 11Rocky with Judge Reuben K. Davis
Rocky Simmons with Judge Reuben K. Davis, the first African-American Rochester City Court Judge. "He was appointed to the Judgeship in March 1967 and again in 1973. He was elected a NY Supreme Court Justice for the 7th Judicial District, in 1982." He retired from the bench in 1996.

Series V: Photographs by Rocky
From the online exhibit: "Rocky Simmons was a professional photographer. He and George Mitchell had a studio on Scio Street. They worked the nightclubs, dances, and took pictures of families in their homes and churches. Many people have told me the first photo they had was taken by my father. What is so amazing is that they still have these pictures that were taken 50 and 60 years ago." -Roxie Simmons Sinkler

Many of the photos in this collection were probably taken by Simmons, but attribution was not always noted in the online exhibit metadata.

Box 2, Folder 12Beatrice Simmons getting her hair done by Laura Walker, c. 1960
Box 2, Folder 13The Mr. Wonderful Lounge, West Main St., Rochester, 1969-1971
"Mr. Wonderful Lounge." Many musical groups got their start in this night club, which was located on West Main Street in Rochester from 1969-1971, and Rocky took many photographs here.

Series VI: Newspaper articles and memorabilia, 1945-1968
Box 2, Folder 14"Contact Shapes Understanding", May 29, 1968
Box 2, Folder 14"Fosters Baseball program", undated
Box 2, Folder 14"A look back at Satchel: Ex-teammate ads to the gaining legend." Democrat and Chronicle, June 10, 1982
Box 2, Folder 14"Rocky Simmons, a bedrock of Community involvement." About…Time, October 1983
Box 2, Folder 14"Contact Group Slates Fete." Democrat and Chronicle, Sept. 2, 1971
Box 2, Folder 14"He's One-Man Entertainment Bureau for 'Kids.'" Howard Paster, Democrat and Chronicle, Monday July 26, 1965
Box 2, Folder 14"But She'll Remain on the Bench." Times-Union, July 17, 1965
Box 2, Folder 14"Rocky, Mr. Wonderful." Times Union, Wednesday, June 11, 1969
Box 2, Folder 14"Mrs. Branch Appoints Court Staff", undated
Box 2, Folder 14Times Union Salutes Stephen "Rocky" Simmons, June 27, 1970
Box 2, Folder 14"What One Man Can Do", 1969
Box 2, Folder 14"Black Baseball Star 'played from the heart' on and off field." Jack Jones, Democrat & Chronicle, c. 1985
Box 2, Folder 15"Playing around with Masick", August 31, 1945
Box 2, Folder 15Republican State Convention Delegate Ribbon
Box 2, Folder 15A.F. A.M. Financial Book
Box 2, Folder 15Letter, April 7, 1983
Box 2, Folder 15Campaign flyer for 7th Ward Republican Club, Andy Frosini and Rocky Simmons, undated
Campaign flyer for 7th Ward Republican Club, Bill Buckler and Rocky Simmons, undated
Box 2, Folder 15Autograph card
Box 2, Folder 15Roster
Box 2, Folder 15Certificate of "Living Legend" presented to Rocky, August 13, 1980
Series VII: Additional materials, 2007-2008
These materials were added to the collection by Simmons' wife and children during the creation of the exhibit, to compliment the materials Simmons collected in his album.

Box 2, Folder 16Copies of articles and photographs provided by Roxie Simmons Sinkler, December 22, 2007
Box 2, Folder 17Article from Minority Reporter Newspaper, February 7, 2008
Box 2, Folder 18CD of Rocky Simmons exhibit - recorded by George Sinkler, February 1, 2008
Box 2, Folder 19CD of dedication of permanent exhibit at Rochester Hall of Justice, October 30, 2008
Box 2, Folder 20CD and postcards of Simmons exhibits, October 30, 2008


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