Thelma Newsome to speak at 84th commemoration of Rhythm Night Club fire

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Monroe Sago is pictured with the historical marker that tells the story of the Rhythm Night

JANS – Thelma Newsome, a retired educator and former member of the Natchez-Adams School District Board of Education, will be the guest speaker for the 84th commemoration of the Rhythm Night Club fire of April 23, 1940.

This year’s event will be held at 12 p.m., Saturday, April 27, at the Rhythm Night Club (on site) Memorial Museum at #5 St. Catherine Street, Natchez. It is free and open to the public.

Monroe and Betty Sago, the museum’s owners, have been holding the annual ceremony for the past 16 years. The theme this year is “Your Journey, Your Success.”

According to Betty Sago, the commemorative event honors the 209-plus victims that died in the club fire in 1940, as well those who survived that “went on with their lives and made a life for themselves, even though they carried a burden for a number of years.”

The victims of the fire included Walter Barnes and members of his band. Woodrick McGuire, band director of Brumfield School, also died in the fire.

In addition to Newsome and the Sagos, this year’s program will feature soloists Janice Bernard Sago and Tonie Hunt, who will join others in providing music. Roscoe Barnes III will serve as master of ceremonies.

Monroe Sago said they are delighted to have Newsome as the guest speaker. Newsome is one of the managers of the Dr. John Bowman Banks Museum and the project director for the recently published booklet, “St. Catherine Street, Natchez, MS: Yesteryear through Today.”

During the ceremony, a $500 scholarship will be presented to a student who crafted a winning essay on the museum.

“We present a scholarship every year,” said Monroe Sago. “Last year the scholarship was matched by a donation of $500 from Magnolia Bluff Casino and Hotel. So we awarded the student a $1,000 scholarship.”

Last year’s winner was Charnecia Green, a student of Natchez Early College at Co-Lin, who plans to attend Alcorn State University School of Nursing in Natchez.

The ceremony will open with the siren blast of a fire engine from the Natchez Fire Department. As in previous years, door prizes will be given away, and refreshments will be provided.

At the end of the program, visitors are encouraged to tour the museum, which has acquired several new items in its collection. Those items include an Acrosonic piano, telephone, a Coca-Cola sign, a vintage tin Coca-Cola lunch box that advertises a six bottle carton for 25 cents, and a “Rhythm Nite Club” sign.

For more information, call 601-597-0557 or send an email to

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Thelma Newsome to speak at 84th commemoration of Rhythm Night Club fire

By Jackson Advocate News Service
April 22, 2024