St. Louis Legend, Leroy Muhammad (1948-2013)


The Chess Drum was informed that St. Louis chess master Leroy Muhammad has passed away. Living in Gary, Indiana, his daughter Sophia Muhammad came to the St. Louis Chess Club and informed an employee that Leroy had passed in October of 2013. IM Elliott Winslow, a contemporary of Muhammad and fellow St. Louis native, relayed the news to The Chess Drum.

Born Leroy Jackson November 30, 1948 in Little Rock, Arkansas, he discovered a talent for chess in the 60s and proceeded to take the city and state by storm. As reported in “Leroy Muhammad: A Forgotten Star

The year 1966 was magical for Muhammad. He won the St. Louis city championship four consecutive years from 1966-1969 and the Missouri State Championship three consecutive years from 1966-1968. Muhammad also tied for 1st place in the 1966 Eastern Open defeated Orest Popovych in the process. He then won 1st junior in the 1966 U.S. Open with 8½-4½ beating future legend Walter Browne (New York) and Salvatore Matera (New York).

Leroy Muhammad
Photo by Neil Brennan.

In that U.S. Open, Jackson came in 19th overall and later in the year was awarded the title of U.S. National Master! Having attended Sumner High School, Jackson also played in the 1967 U.S. Junior Invitational in New York scoring 2.5/7 (Salvatore Matera winning). Jackson discovered the nationalistic self-help teachings of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad and joined the Nation of Islam from 1972-1975. During this time, he moved to New York and adopted the surname of “Muhammad”. Despite being in the hotbed of chess, he faded from the chess tournament scene.

After Elijah Muhammad’s death in 1975, he joined Elijah Muhammad’s son, Wallace Muhammad in building a new Muslim community. He ended up settling in Gary, Indiana and made a brief comeback competing in a few tournaments in the late 70s. While he never fully came back to chess, at times he would attend small chess tournaments at the Gary Public Library.


Muhammad (right) playing Aleksandr Stamnov at the Gary Public Library.

The St. Louis chess scene was vibrant in the 60s and there were several players who knew Muhammad and witness his feats. IM Elliott Winslow expressed great memories of him from their days in St. Louis. Muhammad and his wife Annesah raised a family of six children and he was active in the Gary Islamic community for more than 30 years until his death.


Peace and Blessings.
May Allah be pleased with your good deeds. Amin.


  1. My condolences and best wishes to the family of Brother Leroy (Jackson) Muhammad. This brother is a chess gem that I had never heard of until this piece. I will begin to look for his games.

    Kimani A. Stancil

      1. Thanks Daaim, I must be slipping…a little too much work, and no chess. :=)
        Kimani A. Stancil

  2. Pingback: Daily Chess News Links March 13, 2014 |
  3. Condolences from the Jamaican Chess fraternity to the family and friends of the late Leroy Muhammad who blessed us with his life and left his entertaining and instructive games as an immortal legacy.

  4. Leroy Jackson, a 17-year old junior at Sumner High School in St. Louis, Missouri, was the big surprise of the 1966 Eastern Open and promises to reach greater heights in the future. Players at the Eastern watched with increasing amazement as the young man with the 1964 rating on the wallboard chalked up one point after another, capped by victories over Radojcic and Popovych. Actually, that rating was based on just one tournament played last year; Jackson has been very active recently and should now be close to the Master level. This year he won the St. Louis High School Championship 6-0, the St. Louis District Qualifier 4-0, and in rated events swept the St. Louis District Championship 5-0 and the Missouri Open Championship 6-0, including a win over USCF Master John Ragan. Touring the East he was undefeated in two New England tournaments in June before scoring in his biggest triumph yet in the Easter. Here is his crucial last-round win over Popovych.

    Chess Life, “Leroy Jackson,” August 1966, 180.

  5. 17-year old Leroy Jackson of St. Louis, who tied for first in the 1966 Eastern Open, made another fine showing, scoring 8½-4½ and winning the Junior prize on tiebreak over U.S. Junior Champion Walter Browne. Third was New York High School and Under-16 Champion Sal Matera, who scored 6-5.

    Chess Life, “U.S. Open Highlights,” October 1966, 231.

  6. Hello Daaim! This little box doesn’t allow the key, so I’ll have to make a mess. I hadn’t seen much of that above information regarding Leroy, specifically his time in New York before heading to Gary. And those great pictures! But let me note, after looking at the actual issue of Chess Life: That game was Popovych vs Jackson 0:1, not the way you have it. I’d use a hyphen but for some reason it doesn’t work. Regards, Elliott

    1. Hi Elliott!

      I appreciate your input. I have made the correction. It’s interesting as I look at the names on the above list. While the actual issue was a bit before my time, I remember many of the legendary players as they progressed through their careers. These lists look totally different today!! They are not as NY-centric. I have memories of Richard Verber while growing up in Chicago. I even played in tournaments with William Martz and Curt Brasket. This was a time when making 2300 really meant something.

  7. I remember Leroy well and was saddened to hear of his death. His nickname was “Black Magic “ because he actually preferred to play Black. In addition to founding the Kennedy-King(Chicago) and Chicago State University chess clubs I was very active at the Gary Public Library. I’d take my kids to the library, teach reading and playing chess. Those were very good memories for me.

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