Born: 1847, Upper Freehold Township, New Jersey.
Died: February 15, 1916, Washington, DC.
Buried: Originally in Columbian Harmony Cemetery, Washington, DC. The cemetery later closed, and 37,000 graves were moved to National Harmony Memorial Park, Landover, Maryland, in 1960.
John was the son of Henry P. and Hannah Layton. He married twice, to Mary, and to Julia W. Mason (1893). His son, John Jr., became a successful song writer under the name Turner Layton.
During the American civil war, he served in the U.S. Navy (enlisted August 25, 1864, Jersey City, New Jersey). He worked as a Landsman on the tugboats Larkspur and O. M. Pettit in the South Atlantic Blocking Squadron.
He received his musical training at the Cardiff and Collins Institute; Round Lake Conservatory, Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts; Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois; the New England Conservatory; and under a Dr. Kimball and Ernest Lent of Washington, DC. In 1906, he received a Doctor of Music degree from Wilberforce University, Wilberforce, Ohio.
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 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 Embry.
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