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Dollis was a giant among Indian chiefs

NEW ORLEANS -- By definition, Mardi Gras Indian chiefs are leaders.  All are important to the folks in their communities, but few made the world their community like Theodore "Bo" Dollis, Sr.

Big Chief Theodore "Bo" Dollis (Jazz and Heritage Archive)

In addition to adhering to the customs of sewing beautifully made costumes annually, Dollis was the first to make the leap and bring the music of that tradition to the forefront with the groundbreaking recordings he made with the Wild Magnolias.

Big Chief Theodore "Bo" Dollis (Historic New Orleans Collection)

Jazz Fest producer Quint Davis says, "He was like the B.B. King of Mardi Gras Indians. A great person, a great ambassador, and a really big chief in the streets. He was important like B.B. as great a chief as he was and gifted singer as he was, he was that great a person."

Growing up in Central City put Dollis at ground zero of the Mardi Gras Indian community, and he, like the late Allison "Tootie" Montana, was among the generation of Indian chiefs that opposed violence among the gangs and chose to promote the culture --  its beauty and the music.

Big Chief Theodore "Bo" Dollis (Historic New Orleans Collection)

"Just him making these Mardi Gras Indian suits and traveling all over the world bringing Mardi Gras Indians to places where people couldn't come to New Orleans," said Bo Dollis Jr.

We lost Chief Bo Dollis in 2015, and he was true to his culture to the end, but of all the beautiful costumes her husband made, Queen Laurita Dollis has a favorite.

She told us, "When he did the white, and he did the wings, and his stick was phenomenal. He always did big suits. That's what he was known for. His headpiece was tremendous. Up until he got sick, he still was making Indian suits. He never stopped."