Iola May (Jordan) Acton (1903-1953) was born on February 19, 1903 to W. Clarence and Lenora (Robinson) Jordan in Bardstown. Not much is known about Clarence. By 1910, Nora and Iola were living on 36th Street in Louisville with Nora’s parents. The Census listed Nora as a widow, and she later became a teacher. Iola was the protégé of Miss Caroline Bourgard, renowned music educator. She gave Iola piano lessons as a child and told Iola many times that she had “great plans” for her. Iola completed college and became a music teacher. She was then head of the music department at Kentucky State College. At the time of the 1930 Census, she was living with her aunt Virginia and uncle John Smith at 2502 W. Walnut Street in the Russell Neighborhood. On December 26, 1930, Iola married William L. Harbut in Franklin County, OH. William was a teacher. The couple was living with Virginia and John when tragedy struck in August 1931. William injured his kidney while playing football and died on November 22, 1931 at the age of 23.
Around 1935, Iola was the director of the Bourgard College of Music and Art, the school endowed for African Americans by the late Bourgard. In 1940, Iola married Randall E. Acton. The year 1941 was very busy for Iola. She was training her Jordanaires, a small chorus at the College. Iola was also giving 54 piano lessons a week! Then on April 17, 1941, Iola gave birth to son Iran. Iola continued to play organ for Louisville churches and led multiple choirs, including Quinn Chapel AME Church, Church of our Merciful Savior, Fifth Street Baptist Church, Asbury Chapel, Broadway Temple AME Church, and the Community Choir in Owensboro. According to the 1952 city directory, Randall was the manager of the Sheppard Square Housing Project, and the couple was living at 2 College Court. Iola died from a heart attack on July 27, 1953. She was buried in Section 3AD, Lot 36, Grave 6 of Eastern Cemetery. She shares a headstone with her husband who died in 1987. Headshot of Iola is from “Messenger-Inquirer” August 22, 1943, and photo of her at piano is from “Courier-Journal” April 27, 1941.