Jefferson Memorial Summary

Bruce Roberts BRUCE@TSBME.STATE.TX.US
Mon Feb 3 14:09:10 EST 1997


                 "Blind" Lemon Jefferson Memorial


  Since the headstone for "Blind" Lemon Jefferson is due to be set on Feb. 6,
I thought it would be appropriate to give a history of the project.  It all
started with an e-mail message from Terry Sikes to Jeff Seale on July 9.
Terry told Jeff that he had just visited the gravesite of BLJ and he was
appalled.  He stated that the Cemetery was hard to find, it was unkept, and
the Historical Marker was in bad shape.  Jeff forwarded this message to
Blues-L.  I forwarded the message to Casey Monahan, director of the Texas
Music Office run out of the Governor's office.  Casey immediately contacted
the State Historical Commission to check on the marker and the Highway Dept.
to see if a sign could be placed in front of the cemetery.  Meanwhile back
on Blues-L many people were discussing the state of BLJ's final resting
place.  Some people were upset that there was no headstone for one of the
founding fathers of the Blues.  It was proposed that Blues-L raise the money
for a headstone.  So Don Ottensman and myself realized that being the closest
active Blues-L members to Wortham, we were best suited to coordinate this
project.
  The rest of July and August were busy for Don and I.  I opened an account
called the "Jefferson Memorial Fund" to collect donations.  Casey helped me
contact J.R. Sessions, the head of the Freestone County Historical Commission.
He was very excited about our project.  He told me that Wortham was planning
a celebration of BLJ's 100th Birthday and that this would tie in nicely.  Don
made a trip down to Wortham to look at the cemetery and see what kind of
headstone would fit in best with the ones already there.  He reported that
although the cemetery was hard to find, the marker and the cemetery itself were
in good shape.  Jeff Seale started a website for the project and posted photos
from Don's trip.  When Don got back to Dallas, he contacted Robert Morgan
(father of Mike Morgan, of the band "Mike Morgan and the Crawl") who has been
an engraver for over 30 years.  Robert put Don in touch with the Hillsboro
Monument Works.  Don also contacted Skip Henderson (who runs the Mount Zion
Memorial Fund) who gave us some tips and advice.  I contacted Matt Miller of
the Wortham Chamber of Commerce.  Matt and his wife Amy had just formed the COC
a few months earlier and in one of their first meetings they had decided to do
something to honor the memory of BLJ, so needless to say they were very
receptive to our offer to place a headstone.  Don then made a trip down to
Hillsboro to visit the Hillsboro Monument Works.  He met with Sandra McCown who
showed Don the different types of headstones and offered to sell us the
monument at cost.  Jeff posted photos of several styles of headstones on his
website for group discussion.  At the same time, Anton Glovsky of Tradition
Records/Rykodisc started a fundraising effort at Rykodisc.  Later in August Don
and I made a trip to Wortham where we met with Matt & Amy Miller of the Chamber
of Commerce and Joe Butcher of the Wortham Black Cemetery Association.  This
was a very productive meeting and a good chance to meet face to face with
everyone.
  The next few months we collected donations, waiting to reach the magic $850
limit (the cost of the headstone and setting fee).  In late October John Doukas
posted an excerpt from an article he read in Acoustic Guitar, by Steve James,
that stated that BLJ's first name was "Lemmon" and not "Lemon".  To make sure
we had the most accurate spelling of his name, as well as an accurate birth
and death date, I decided to do some research.  First I got a copy of the
Historical Marker Application from the State Historical Commission.  This had
an article from the Wortham Journal dated Jan. 3, 1930 that talked about BLJ's
body arriving in Wortham on Christmas Eve.  Next I went to the State Archives
and looked up the census information for Freestone county for 1900, 1910, and
1920.  This information placed his birth in Sept. 1893.  Even though his name
was spelled "Lemmon" on the 1900 and 1910 census, his mother's name was spelled
differently on all three censuses and his father's name was spelled different
on two.  We decided to stay with "Lemon" and use the birth date of Sept. 1893
and death date of Dec. 1929.
  On Nov. 4 we received a large check from the Scandinavian Blues Association.
This pushed us over the $850 mark and enabled us to go ahead and order the
headstone.  After some discussion it was decided that the headstone would have
the following engraved on it:

                           Lemon Jefferson
                  September, 1893 - December, 1929

             "Lord, it's one kind favor I'll ask of you.
                 See that my grave is kept clean."

After that we received a large check from Anton at Rykodisc.  It had been
decided a while back that any excess money would go to the Wortham Black
Cemetery Association for upkeep; so now we had enough to buy the headstone
and give the Cemetery Association a decent donation.  In mid-December the
headstone was ordered from the Hillsboro Monument Works.  In mid-January,
after approval of the full-scale layout, the engraving was completed.  On
Feb. 1 the Jefferson Memorial Fund was closed and the remaining money was
put into a cashier's check, made out to the Wortham Black Cemetery Association.
And if all goes well the headstone will be set on Feb. 6.  A formal dedication
of the monument is planned for September 13 to coincide with an acoustic
blues festival to be held in Wortham.


Bruce Roberts
Austin, TX





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