Born Umberto Alexander Valentino on September 24, 1913 in Detroit, Michigan, he was an African-American actor and music and jazz singer-songwriter best known as Herb Jeffries. He was also known as the first singing black cowboy because he was of African descent. It was Louis Armstrong who urged him to move to Chicago to perform in various clubs and he was 19 years old when he signed his first contract with Erskine Tate’s Orchestra at the Savoy Ballroom in Chicago.
He went on to star in different films such as Harlem on the Prairie in 1937, Two-Gun Man from Harlem in 1938, Harlem Rides the Range in 1939, The Bronze Buckaroo in 1939 and Portrait of a Hitman in 1977. He died of heart failure on May 25, 2014 at the age of 100 at West Hills Hospital and Medical Center.