Cast: Esther Mae Porteur

1936 - 2003
Esther Mae Porteur, vocalist, “I Heard You Say”

Esther Mae Porteur was a talented young girl when she sang “I Heard You Say,” which was written by William Lord. “I used to sing at school,” she said, “at talent shows there.” She said that John Warner contacted her mother about the movie and got her okay.

Porteur’s backup group, the Three Melodiers, were also locals.

She was born July 7, 1936 in Pitt County and earned B.S. (1957) and M.S. (1961) degrees from North Carolina Central University. She was a master teacher in both Edgecombe and Pitt Counties, retiring in 1996.

She was an active member of Mount Calvary Free Will Baptist Church in Greenville, which she served as church secretary, president of the senior usher board, member of the pastor’s aid club, and organist for the senior and junior choirs.

She and her mother, Estella Cox White Porteur (1910-1990), were pillars of their church. Warner’s use of Porteur and her song was no doubt troubling to Mrs. Porteur: her daughter’s physical presence is minimal, her voice dubbed over a Brownskin Models pose and striptease performance.

After an initial interview, Porteur chose not to speak further about her role in “Pitch”: “I don’t want to have those memories anymore,” she said through a friend.

She died on November 1, 2003.

• • • 


“Esther Porteur.” Daily Reflector. Greenville NC: 7 Nov. 2003: B-4.

Porteur, Esther. Telephone interview. 4 Sept. 1984.

[name with held]. Telephone interview. 24 Sept. 1985.

–3 Feb. 2024