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Jabez T. Austin Jr., 73, postal supervisor and Air Force veteran

A man of many opinions, he wrote his thoughts and ideas in a journal he hoped would make a book.

Jabez T. Austin Jr.
Jabez T. Austin Jr.Read more

JABEZ AUSTIN wrote everything down.

A thought or idea or opinion didn't pop into his head without his writing it in his journal. He also recorded the everyday doings of his life.

He even had a title for the book he hoped his musings would someday create: The Tale that Wags the Dog: An Essay of Black Influence in America.

Jabez Thomas Austin Jr., son of a Southern Baptist preacher, 33-year employee of the Postal Service, Air Force veteran and devoted family man, died May 5 of heart failure. He was 73 and was living in Upper Darby. He had lived most of his life in West Philadelphia.

Jay, as he was known to family and friends, was a man of many talents. In his youth, he was part of a doo-wop singing group for which he wrote songs. One of them, "Daisy," was recorded and got some local airtime.

In the turbulent '60s, he was arrested while demonstrating for racial justice. He was always passionate about civil rights and black history.

When his daughter, Mary T. Austin, was threatened with expulsion from Columbia University for participating in a sit-in to protest the school's investments in apartheid South Africa, he was so proud.

Jay was known in his family as a man of little patience. "He had no time for excuses and would never accept the notion of 'can't,' " his family said.

"He was a stickler for education and never accepted 'no' for an answer."

Jay was born in Philadelphia to Maybelle and Jabez Thomas Austin Sr. He attended Barry Elementary School, Sayre Middle School and graduated from West Philadelphia High School.

In 1957, he enlisted in the Air Force and served as a military police officer. He was discharged in December 1959.

He went to work for the Postal Service at the main office at 30th and Market. He eventually became a supervisor before his retirement in 1999.

In 1962, Jay married Ethelyne Vaughn, the sister of one of his friends. "This man of little patience wed a woman who had it to spare," his family said.

Jay liked to spend summers in Riverside, N.J., where family members had a store.

One special guest was famed opera singer Grace Bumbry, a cousin of his wife's.

"Any time spent with Jabez was a time spent watching movies, listening to doo-wop, eating good food and a discussion of the ways of the world," his family said.

As a mark of his inherent impatience, Jay taught himself to speed read, and he could knock off a fair-sized novel in a day.

"Jabez will go home knowing that he has successfully instilled his legacy of education, hard work, creativity and love into his children and they will carry his strong legacy with them always," his family said.

His wife died in 2001. Besides his daughter, he is survived by three sons, Jabez T. Austin III, Jerome D. Austin and Joel B. Austin; two brothers, Jotham and Calvin Austin; eight grandchildren and one great-granddaughter.

Services: Memorial service 11 a.m. tomorrow at Wood Funeral Home, 5537 W. Girard Ave. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Jabez T. Austin Jr. Legacy Fund, c/o AH Consulting Co., P.O. Box 1084, Media, Pa., 19063.