Leland Fox, 87, of Natchez, Oxford, Miss., and New York City died on Feb. 20, 2018, in Natchez where he retired in 2015.
Born in Worcester, Mass., he was Professor of Music, Director of Opera and Associate Dean at the University of Mississippi. He had two degrees from Baylor University and a Ph.D. from Florida State University. He started his career as a chorister in the St. James Boys Choir in NYC. He sang from the time he was nine years old until he was 16, after winning a city-wide singing contest promoting war bonds.
Orphaned at 16, he charted his own course. He was a singing waiter and auditioned for the original cast of “South Pacific.” After working for Good Housekeeping, he was drafted and stationed in Texas, where he lived for 10 years.
He met his wife of 53 years, Wanda Nelson at Baylor. They first sang together in “Madame Butterfly.” He was a tenor. He sang and conducted music across the country. His favorites included Handel’s “Messiah,” Gilbert and Sullivan operas and “Danny Boy.” He was the choir director at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Oxford for 20 years. He completed his 75th year of singing in choirs at Trinity Episcopal Church in Natchez.
He was President of the National Opera Association and founding editor of the Opera Journal. At Ole Miss, he started Summer Showcase, directing musicals for the community. He directed and sang in many operas and was true to his calling as a singer, conductor and educator.
He also taught music at Baylor, the University of Oklahoma and Pensacola Junior College, where he discovered his love of the beach. He was an avid reader, a gentleman and an example to many. He often led sing-alongs, especially on St. Patrick’s Day.
He is survived by his second wife of nine years, Emily Crews Fox, his children Megan Knox (Gina Ardoin) of Lake Charles, La., and Kevin Fox (Margo) of Austin, Texas, and his beloved grandchildren, Noah and Kyra.
A memorial service will be held at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Oxford on Friday, March 16 at 1 p.m. Visitation will begin at 11 a.m. prior to the service at the church. There will be a Choral Evensong service at Trinity Natchez on Sunday, March 18 at 5:30 p.m.
Local arrangements are under the direction of Laird Funeral Home.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be given to St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, 113 South 9th St., Oxford, MS 38655 or the Trinity Episcopal Church Choral Scholarship Fund, 305 South Commerce St., Natchez, MS 39120.