James Baskett

James Baskett (1904-1948)

Born in Indianapolis and trained as a pharmacist, Baskett turned his attention to acting and appeared in several movies in the 1930s and 1940s aimed at Black audiences, including Harlem is Heaven (1932), with the great tap dancer Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, The Policy Man (1938), Gone Harlem (1939), Straight to Heaven (1938), Comes Midnight (1940), and others.

He had also appeared on Broadway in 1929 with Louis Armstrong in the musical revue Hot Chocolates, and supplied the voice of Fats Crow in Dumbo. But he is best known for his 1946 role as Uncle Remus in Walt Disney’s live action/animation movie Song of the South, and especially for its beloved song, Zip-a-dee-do-dah, for which he was presented an Honorary Academy Award in 1948, the first Black Male actor to receive an Oscar. Yet due to segregation, he was unable to attend the movie’s premier in Atlanta.

Credit: Indianapolis Star

Baskett also appeared on the radio broadcast of Amos n’ Andy as the lawyer Gabby Gibson from 1944-1948 before succumbing to diabetes and a heart attack. He was survived by his wife and mother and is buried with his father, as noted on a simple headstone. Cemetery records indicate another Baskett family member, Susie, was buried on the lot in 1918, but she does not have a monument. The black granite monument picturing him as Uncle Remus was placed there in 1981 through the efforts of an admirer, Thomas Lyons.

See an Indy Star article on Baskett here.

Section 37, Lot 602; GPS (39.8229468, -86.1762391)