From NKAA, Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (main entry)

Rhea, La Julia Ray

(born: 1908  -  died: 1992) 

La Julia Ray Rhea was born in Louisville, KY, the daughter of Sally and William Ray. She opened in the role of "Aida" in the Chicago Civic Opera Company during the regular season, the first African American to do so. Rhea studied at the National University of Music in Chicago. The National Negro Opera Company Collection is at the Library of Congress (see the Finding Aid [pdf]) and contains biographical material on La Julia Rhea. She married Henry J. Rhea (1896-1976) from Henderson, KY; the family lived in Chicago in 1930, where Henry was a letter carrier, according to the 1930 U.S. Federal Census. La Julia Ray Rhea died in Chicago in 1992. For more see Blacks in Opera. An encyclopedia of people and companies, 1873-1993, by E. L. Smith; Biography Index. A cumulative index to biographical material in books and magazines, vol. 16 (Sept. 1988-Aug. 1990); and the La Julia Rhea entry in The Black Women in the Middle West Project, by D. C. Hine, et al.

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Cited in this Entry

NKAA Source: Blacks in opera : an encyclopedia of people and companies, 1873-1993
NKAA Source: Biography index; a cumulative index to biographical material in books and magazines (periodical)
NKAA Source: The Black women in the Middle West Project : a comprehensive resource guide, Illinois and Indiana : historical essays, oral histories, biographical profiles, and document collections

Cite This NKAA Entry:

“Rhea, La Julia Ray,” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed May 21, 2022,

Last modified: 2017-09-11 15:54:52