Hazel Shanks Hynson
Pianist | Class of 2004
Hazel Shanks Hynson was a classically trained pianist who served as the choir director at Arkansas Baptist College in Little Rock, Arkansas, and in her studio taught many students who went on to become well-known musicians.
Hazel Shanks was born on August 8, 1903, in Atlanta, Georgia, to Christopher Columbus Shanks, who worked as an insurance auditor, and Luna Craig Shanks; she had one younger brother. She attended private schools and studied music. Shanks received a Bachelor of Arts degree in music with a major in piano from Atlanta University. She later traveled to England to pursue further musical studies at the University of London and back in the United States at Oberlin College in Ohio. She also studied at the renowned Juilliard School in New York.
In 1940, Shanks married William Edward Hynson, and the couple moved to Little Rock. They had no children, and he died in 1968.
After moving to Little Rock, Hynson joined Mount Zion Baptist Church and served as pianist there for more than a quarter century. She also founded the Hazel Shanks Hynson Music Studio and trained many accomplished musicians, including jazz and classical musician Art Porter, Sr., of Little Rock. She served as pianist for the Arkansas State Baptist Convention for twenty-six years, as pianist for the National Baptist Convention for twenty-seven years, and as director of the Arkansas Baptist College Choir. The college later named its multipurpose center in her honor.
In 1990 in recognition of her service, Hynson received an honorary doctorate degree from Arkansas Baptist College. When she was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame, the program described Hynson as “a grand lady of grace and elegance, a superb teacher and pianist, arranger, composer, and musician’s musician.” She was a charter member in 1956 of the Little Rock Chapter of The Links, Incorporated, an international volunteer group. She was also a charter member of the Little Rock Alumnae Chapter of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.
Hynson remained active into her later years, maintaining a driver’s license until 1999. In the spring of 2005, she broke her hip for the second time in four years and never recovered. She died on May 22, 2005, and is buried at Miller Cemetery in Pine Bluff, Arkansas.