Sharon Preston Folta: Who is she? This question is one that begs an answer. 

by Michelle Inherst

sharon preston folta

Sharon Preston Folta, an advertising executive, was born June 24, 1955 in Harlem, New York City, to Vaudeville dancer Lucille ‘Sweets’ Preston. Sharon’s mother was part of a dance team that opened for more famous performers in the 1930’s and 40’s. One musician Lucille Preston was fortunate to open for was jazz singer and trumpeter Louis Armstrong.  Lucille Preston and Louis Armstrong had an affair for many years. During this time, Preston became pregnant with her daughter Sharon in 1954. She and Armstrong believed him to be Sharon’s father although he was previously believed to be unable to conceive any children. The affair and Preston’s pregnancy were kept secret because Armstrong was married to his fourth wife, Lucille Armstrong.

      Armstrong tried to keep Sharon Preston Folta’s existence a secret and at times even denied it. He did promise to care for Sharon and her mother after the death of her mother’s husband and dance partner, Slim Preston. Armstrong followed through on his promise. He sent checks to the Preston family every month, bought them a house to live in and saved a total of $25,000 for Sharon to go to college. His financial support continued the rest of his life and even several years after his death in 1971. The financial support after Armstrong’s death came in the form of U. S. savings bonds. Sharon and her mother had the privilege of travelling at different times with Armstrong to some of his performances. This gave Sharon the chance to know the man she believed to be her father. Although there was never a paternity test given to provide proof the Armstrong was, in fact, Sharon’s father, he wrote letters to her mother frequently. These letters provide evidence that Louis Armstrong firmly believed Sharon to be his daughter. He even affectionately referred to Sharon as “Little Satchmo”. According to the New York Times, the letters Armstrong wrote to Lucille Preston went to auction in December 2012. They were estimated to be worth approximately $80,000.

     The issue of who Sharon Preston Folta’s father really was did not prevent Sharon from getting her education. At the age of 7, Sharon started attended a mostly white Catholic school. It was at this school, the family secrets began to resurface, for a time. Undaunted, Sharon continued her education until she herself became pregnant at the age of sixteen. Sharon gave birth to a son. She eventually dropped out of school to care for her son because she became too overwhelmed attending school and being a mother at the same time. At some point, Sharon did show a strong desire for the Culinary Arts and received some formal education in that area. Eventually Sharon finished her education. She went on to graduate from college with her Bachelor Degree in Communication Arts and began working in media sales. Sharon eventually married a drummer who was Jewish and came from a similar background.

     Sharon Preston Folta and her mother were heartbroken to learn about Armstrong’s death in 1971 over the television. They were asked to not attend his funeral and did not receive anything from his estate. After all this happened, Sharon was driven to meet with a lawyer, an estate attorney, and a retired judge. They gathered together to look at Armstrong’s will. Sharon wanted to research her background and learn about her past. She had the desire to show others that she does exist and her existence does matter. Even more than that, Sharon wanted to learn about who her father really was so she could pass her legacy on to her children and grandchildren. She also wanted to inspire other children from similar backgrounds to learn about their legacy as well.

Sharon Preston Biography. No Author Noted. www.famousbiographies.org. Famous Biographies. Access date 17 July 2018. Copyright 2018.

Louis Armstrong’s Secret Daughter, Sharon Preston-Folta owns her roots at last. Suzy Farbman. www.readthespirit.com. Read the Spirit.com. Published 15 May 2017. Access Date 17 July 2018.

Woman Declares Louis Armstrong was her Father. James C. McKinley Jr. www.nytimes.com. The New York Times. Publication Date 12 December 2012. Access Date 17 July 2018. Copyright 2018.