By Brandon Wallace
In 1917, Cora Calhoun secured a scholarship that allowed a young Paul Robeson to attend Rutgers University. This legacy inspired an intense friendship between Lena Horne and Paul Robeson in later years.
Horne's uncle, Frank S. Horne, was an advisor in the Roosevelt administration. Her maternal grandfather was the inventor, Samuel R. Scottron. At fifteen, Horne left her grandparent's home in order to live with her mother, Edna, an aspiring actress and former debutante. At sixteen, in an effort to support herself and contribute to the family income, she took a job performing in the chorus at the Cotton Club in Harlem. At the Cotton Club, Horne was influenced by such major figures as Cab Calloway and Duke Ellington.
After a while, she joined the orchestra of famed band leader Noble Sissle and toured the country. Horne firste earned fame and recognition with his orchestra. She has credited Sissle's mentorship as the bedrock on which she built her future career. In 1941, Lena Horne signed a contract with MGM Studios.
Stormy Weather gave Lena her signature song. Since that time, the song "Stormy Weather," has been identified with Horne and has been a hallmark of her long, illustrious career.
Lena Horne was married twice, once to Louis Jordan Jones and later to MGM band director, Lennie Hayton. She bore two children with Jones, a son Edwin, who died in 1970, and a daughter, the writer and journalist Gail Buckley Lumet. Her granddaughter is the screenwriter Jenny Lumet.