February 14, 1916.
Layton, a composer, was one of the driving forces behind the hymnal of the African Methodist Episcopal Church issued in the late 19th Century. Most of the work compiling that hymnal was done at Layton’s home in Washington, DC, with the help of his wife and Bishop James C. Embry.
Layton was born to free parents in 1849, and received his musical training at Round Lake, New York; Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois; and under a Dr. Kimball and Ernest Lent of Washington, DC.
He served on the Washington, DC, police force for a few years, then began teaching music in the public schools. He became the first male music director in the Washington colored schools, a position he held until his death. He also sang and directed the choir at the Metropolitan Methodist Episcopal Church for 43 years, and conducted the Samuel Coleridge-Taylor Choral Society.
Layton’s son, John Jr., became a successful song writer under the name Turner Layton.