Eugene Sharpey was born March 30, 1945, in McRoberts, Kentucky to George Les and Daisey Louis Sharpey. He passed on Sunday, April 12, 2020 at his home in Akron, Ohio.
When Eugene Sharpey was born he lived in Kentucky where his parents belonged to the Church of God Militant Pillar and Ground of the Truth. The Church was starting a new location in Akron, Ohio so in 1952 his family moved to Akron to help get this location started. Here he took interest in music through watching his father play the drums for the Church. Being told that he looked so much like his father, he wanted to be like him at the age of 8 he started playing the drums. There was a guitarist at the Church by the name of Leon Brown who he would watched Sunday after Sunday. His interest turned from drums to the guitar. His father bought him a cheap mail order guitar for Christmas and said if he learned to play, he would buy him an electric guitar. He learned to play in 2 months by watching and getting pointers from Mr. Brown and that Christmas he received an electric guitar and amplifier.
Eugene began to play for the Church with his father on drums and grew in his musical talent. At the age of 14, he played for a young gospel group called “The Sons of Harmony”. During this period, he had the opportunity to play alongside some of the professional gospel groups of that era. His group was the opening act for many well-known gospel and rhythm and blues groups such as the “Staple Singers”. He participated in local talent shows at his junior high school (West), his high school (South), the Annual Easter Talent Show at community center and Urban League. Where his gospel group shared the stage with “Ruby and the Romantics” who wanted him to go to New York with them to record a record. But at this time he was only 14 and knew his parents wouldn’t allow it because they only wanted him to play for the Lord. As a teenager Eugene had the thrill of playing with the group, “The Heller Brothers” who opened for “James Brown”.
Eugene Sharpey continue to grow as a young man. His father always told him that his name is Sharpey; you should always be sharp and look sharp because your name is Sharpey. He always kept his father’s word close and Eugene was voted best dressed during his senior year at South High School. He also was one of the models for the West Akron Community Service’s Crazy Hat, Tea, & Style Show in 1983. Eugene also maintained a sharp look even into his adult life that carried on until the day he died. In 1964 Eugene graduated high school and started working for Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company.
He decided music would be a good way to supplement his income at Goodyear. In 1968 he started his own band by recruiting some of the musicians that he previously played with in gospel groups and talent shows. One of them was James Ingram. James didn’t do any singing then but was a very good organ and keyboard player. He needed Ingram to round out his band but there were two problems. First, he didn’t own an organ or keyboard. Second, he was only 17 years old.
Eugene Sharpey arranged a meeting with Ingram’s parents to ask if they would let him play in his band. After assuring them that he would take full responsibility for him, they agreed. Immediately heading to Hammond Organ Studio, Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. Eugene went and bought a brand new organ for James to play. This was the final piece he needed to start his band, “Sharpey and the G-Clef’s” later renamed, “Revelation Funk”. They became one of the better known bands of that time. So well-known that when nationally known artist would come to town, his band was often asked to open or back them up. Best remembered was when they were hired to back “Dee Dee Warrick (Sister of Dione Warrick), “Spyder Turner”, and “Delfonics” at the Akron Armory. Later his band opened for the O’ Jay’s at Reed’s Arena, Youngstown, Ohio. Well-known artist would come into town and perform at a club called the “Hi Hat” on North Howard Street. They would have jam sessions there every Saturday afternoon for musicians to come down and sit in. At this time, he sat in with “Bill Doggett” (Honey Tonka Fame) who wanted him to go on tour with him but he declined having a good job at Goodyear and a family. Eugene’s band wanted to go on the road and he stood firm on not going. His band members decided to go without him and he was happy for them. They went as far as California where most musicians went at that time to be discovered and this is where Quincy Jones discovered James Ingram. Even though Eugene never went on tour performing, he toured buying, selling, and collecting guitars. He became a guitar dealer for Heritage Guitars and traveled many parts of the country showing and selling his wares while still maintaining his job at Goodyear all the way through the early 1990’s until he retired and could travel and sale full time.In addition to music Eugene Sharpey got married a year later after graduating high school. Eugene reported in an article of his bio graph in the Beacon Journal in 1986 that he faced many challenges because of having an interracial marriage from those who couldn’t accept the union of a black man and white woman. He went on to say in the article, “I want things to be better for my children, and I figured the only way I can help is go out there and get involved”.
So at this time Eugene began getting involved with the political climate of his era. Being laid off of work in 1980 from Goodyear, in addition to his local musical career he started a real estate business and had some success. Also in 1980, the Akron Landlords Council was started with Eugene as the council trustee to challenge “Professional Tenants”. He followed in his father’s footsteps and became a member of Frontier’s International Club in Akron. Their mission was to serve others by harnessing the cooperative influence of community leaders and directing that influence towards solutions to major issues that are civic, social, and racial in nature where he was the secretary. Eugene was a member of The Distinguish Community Dedication Steering Committee for the Interval Brotherhood Home Alcohol Substance Abuse Recovery Rehabilitation Center in partnership with the Diocese of Cleveland.
As an Akron businessman at age 37 he was elected president of the newly organized West Akron Crime Prevention Assocation developed to fight the increase in crime that had been plaguing the Copley Road business district and surrounding areas. He also ran as the Democratic candidate for 4th Ward Councilman Seat where he was at the time an elected central committeeman for 4th Ward, treasurer of the NAACP, Vice President of Frontier’s International Club, and lead guitarist at the New Hope Baptist Church. At that time, he received state recognition for outstanding talents, leadership, and unwavering dedication to helping others and many other honors.
Eugene Sharpey was elected as the Akron NAACP president on 12/11/1984 where he served 2 terms (4 years). His focus was on economic development in the black community. He also joined other community leaders to raise funds for Ethiopia Famine Relief. As president of the NAACP Eugene took on specific challenges to make change. A few notable was the Akron Public School Systems; for insufficient number of black high school principals, insufficient set aside programs for minority businesses, and inadequate funding for Buchtel Urban High School programs. He also challenged the City of Akron for lack of minority and women being represented in city departments, law enforcement, and public schools. He challenged City Planners, Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity Division of the US Department, and the University of Akron’s hiring practices. Under his tenure as NAACP president there was several law suits against the aforementioned and he had many successes after hard battles. Eugene was presented the Mayorial Proclamation Award by Mayor Thomas C. Sawyer. In honor of his re-election to the NAACP presidency the Akron Jewish Community Federation submitted a certificate where a tree was planted in Israel, The Holy Land, in his honor in 1985. He also received a letter from Sherrod Brown, Secretary of State of Ohio commending him on his accomplishments as an activist and for an astonishing feet of personally getting 1400 people registered to vote.
After mainline involvement in politics and activism he continued his musical career, his real estate business, his job at Goodyear onto retirement, his guitar distribution business, and he took an interest in historical cars.
He was proceeded in death by his parents George Les and Daisey Louis Sharpey, many Aunts and Uncles, his sister Onetta (Bishop Rufus) Maze, and great grandson Tristian DiJon Brown.
He is survived by daughters Deonna Michelle Sharpey and Dianna Rachelle (Jeremy) Shaw of Akron, Ohio. Mother of his children; Vivian J. (William) Alexander of Crescent City, Florida. Grandsons; Dominic James Brown and Travis Dijon (Shawntae’) Brown of Columbus, Ohio. Grandaughters; Teonna Marie Sharpey, Breanna Rachelle Shaw, Vivian Rose Sharpey, and Julianna Michelle Shaw of Akron, Ohio. Great grandchildren: Jordan Dixon, Dominique Brown, and Tavyne Brown. One niece ManaLisa Maze-Williamson. Nephews; LaRufus (Tonya) Maze and Bishop Andrae Deon (Tonia) Maze and a host of great nieces and great nephews.