Stevie Wonder celebrates Houston matriarch who died at 103

Miola Donahue Laws is famously known as the matriarch of the musically talented Laws family.

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Stevie Wonder was among those who paid their respects on Friday at the homegoing service of Miola Donahue Laws, famously known as the matriarch of the uber-talented Laws family of Houston. 

The Houston Chronicle reports that Laws passed away on Jan. 14 at 103, leaving behind an internationally known musical family legacy.

Wonder, who collaborated with some of the Laws children over the years, performed at Miola’s funeral service at Houston’s Pilgrim Rest Missionary Baptist Church. 

Mary Wilson Tribute At The GRAMMY Museum
Stevie Wonder speaks on March 4, 2022, at the Mary Wilson tribute at The GRAMMY Museum in Los Angeles. Recently, the legend spoke and performed at the funeral service of Miola Donahue Laws, the matriarch of a Houston musical family. (Photo by Emma McIntyre/Getty Images)

“I love you, Momma Laws,” the global superstar said after a brief speech about her impact on the community and the plight of Black Americans. Wonder performed a musical rendition of the Lord’s Prayer and sang “If It’s Magic” from “Songs in the Key of Life.”

“She was a light in her community, this city, and, most of all, to her family,” Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said Sunday, according to the Chronicle.

Laws, a Houston native, attended the segregated Blackshear Elementary School as a child. At the time, it was one of only three elementary schools for Black children in the area. She graduated from Jack Yates High School and was honored recently as one of the matriarchs of her class of 1937, the Chronicle reports. 

Throughout her life, Laws was passionate about music and the arts. She even dabbled in fashion design, crafting bridesmaid dresses, bridal gowns, and stage attire for famous musicians. 

Laws was the backbone of the Conrad O. Johnson Music and Fine Arts Foundation, co-founder Artie Onayemi told the Defender. She was also an active chairperson of the C.G. Wilkins Scholarship Fund aimed at high school graduates.

“She was a dedicated supporter of our youth musicians, and not just by her monetary donations alone,” Onayemi said. “She regularly volunteered her time and even her children’s time.”

Continued Onayemi, “Even when she couldn’t physically attend the events, she supported the organization in countless ways. That’s why we named a scholarship after her, the Miola Laws Scholarship for Academic Achievement, which has been around for at least 10 years.”

Onayemi also noted that almost up to her death Laws was willing to help. “And even during my last conversation with her earlier this month, she was still asking what could she do to support the children.” 

The Red Cat Jazz Foundation awarded Laws the Mother of Jazz Award and the Pilgrim Rest Missionary Baptist Church recently announced the Miola Laws Second Chance Scholarship, which aims to support college-bound students, according to the Chronicle.

Last summer, U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee declared Aug. 27 “Miola D. Laws Day” when Laws turned 103. Her church marked the milestone with a car parade. 

“The Laws family represents music royalty in the city of Houston and worldwide,” Turner said. “Houston is forever grateful that Miola Donahue Laws shared her life and her talented children with us.”

Laws and her late husband Hubert Laws were parents to eight children: renowned flutist and saxophonist Hubert Laws Jr.; Eloise, an author, actor and vocalist; Ronnie, a jazz musician; Johnny, a vocalist and veteran; Debra, a vocalist and Broadway actor as well as Donna Y. Laws, a classically trained dancer, professor, author and inspirational speaker. Charlotte, who died in 2000 at age 48, was an “Ikette” with Ike & Tina Turner. Blanche served as a minister of music at a church in Los Angeles. She passed away in 2017. 

The Lawses also had 15 grandchildren, 21 great-grandchildren and a great-great-grandchild.

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