PORTLAND, Ore. -- James DePreist, one of the first African-American conductors and a National Medal of Arts winner, died Friday at his home in Scottsdale, Ariz., his manager Jason Bagdade said.Mr. DePreist, who was 76, had been in and out of the hospital since a massive heart attack last March that was followed by open-heart surgery, his wife, Ginette DePreist, told The Oregonian newspaper.Mr. DePreist was director emeritus of The Juilliard School's conducting program in New York. He was the Oregon Symphony's music director from 1980 until 2003, transforming it from a small, part-time group into a full-time, nationally recognized orchestra with 17 recordings. Mr. DePreist also led orchestras in Quebec, Monte Carlo, Tokyo and Malmo, Sweden.The Oregon Symphony will dedicate its weekend performances to the charismatic conductor known as "Jimmy."Mr. DePreist was the nephew of Marian Anderson, a celebrated contralto whose 1939 concert on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial was a landmark moment in civil-rights history. He told National Public Radio in 2005 that that his aunt "was simultaneously the most humble person I ever met in my life and the most powerful."Though Mr. DePreist was a pioneer in terms of African-American conductors, he downplayed that aspect of his career."He never seemed to bring that to the foreground," Frajola said. "It was always more important to him to play the music well, to be thinking artistically and to take care of his orchestra."