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Author Topic: Blind Lemon's grave site  (Read 1536 times)

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Offline misterjones

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Blind Lemon's grave site
« on: January 15, 2013, 06:17:48 PM »
I thought this might be a film of Robert Johnson until it turned out that it wasn't.



I hate the fact that we have to grasp at straws for the most basic information about these blues greats.  Personally, I'd like to see a full scale effort made to find out precisely where Blind Lemon's body is, even if it means digging it up and inspecting it.  Sorry Lemon, but my selfishness of wanting to at least be able to stand over your body and pay my respects has the better of me.
« Last Edit: January 15, 2013, 06:19:12 PM by misterjones »

Offline Rivers

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Re: Blind Lemon's grave site
« Reply #1 on: January 15, 2013, 07:37:19 PM »

Offline Randy Meadows

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Re: Blind Lemon's grave site
« Reply #2 on: January 15, 2013, 10:25:48 PM »
I have his Death certificate...

His name is listed as George and "Divorced" from a Robert Jefferson"


They lost his grave location in Wortham, until 1967 I guess..
« Last Edit: January 16, 2013, 01:33:59 AM by RSKKZ- Randy Meadows »
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Offline wreid75

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Re: Blind Lemon's grave site
« Reply #3 on: January 16, 2013, 05:33:10 AM »
divorced from a Robert or Roberta?  I didn't know his first name was George :o.  I haven't researched him as much as other singers.

Offline wreid75

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Re: Blind Lemon's grave site
« Reply #4 on: January 16, 2013, 12:04:17 PM »
Not this George Jefferson O0

Offline Randy Meadows

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Re: Blind Lemon's grave site
« Reply #5 on: January 16, 2013, 01:44:02 PM »
It definitely says "Robert"
Maybe that was his brother, or care giver.
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Offline bnemerov

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Re: Blind Lemon's grave site
« Reply #6 on: January 16, 2013, 03:01:36 PM »
Randy,

I'm curious about the death certificate you've posted pieces of.

Jefferson's given name was Lemon (or Lemmon on some documents) and his birth year was 1893. (It was originally thought to be 1897, but it was Alan Grovenar, I think, who turned up the correct year---Alan's done some superb work in Texas history, see Black Music Research Journal; Vol 20 #1 for more on Jefferson.
 

Anyway, I'm wondering how George Jefferson, b. about 1883, becomes Blind Lemon?; Jefferson being very common surname.

best,
Bruce
« Last Edit: January 16, 2013, 03:52:21 PM by bnemerov »

Offline Randy Meadows

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Re: Blind Lemon's grave site
« Reply #7 on: January 16, 2013, 04:19:54 PM »
Blind Lemon's death Certificate
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Offline misterjones

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Re: Blind Lemon's grave site
« Reply #8 on: January 16, 2013, 05:56:54 PM »
Wortham, TX, I believe. http://www.death2ur.com/blind_lemon_jefferson_gravesite.htm

No.  I mean exactly.  Not somewhere in the vicinity.  I understand the exact location has not been determined.
« Last Edit: January 16, 2013, 06:18:24 PM by Rivers »

Offline Rivers

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Re: Blind Lemon's grave site
« Reply #9 on: January 16, 2013, 06:08:31 PM »
OK, ball in your court, can you post some proof of that? Best of luck driving a ditch digger through the Blind Lemon Memorial Cemetery gate to prove your thesis!  :P

Having said that, maybe you know something I don't. It happens a lot.

Cheers Randy for the BLJ DC image.

[I've split this off into its own topic, obviously]
« Last Edit: January 16, 2013, 06:33:29 PM by Rivers »

Offline Randy Meadows

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Re: Blind Lemon's grave site
« Reply #10 on: January 16, 2013, 06:35:59 PM »
Wiki says: it's in the "General Vicinity"...

MSN says:
Regardless, the influential bluesman was still in his thirties when he died, and no death certificate was issued, so the date of his passing is only known to be toward the end of December. Pianist and labelmate Will Ezell escorted Jefferson's body back to Wortham, TX, where Blind Lemon Jefferson was laid to rest, purportedly on New Year's Day, 1930. Unfortunately for the author of the pleading "See That My Grave Is Kept Clean," the grave itself went unmarked. This was finally remedied in 1967 when a metal Texas Historical Marker was placed on the approximate spot. By the 1990s, however, Jefferson's grave was discovered to be in disrepair. A fundraiser was organized and, thanks to the efforts and donations of blues fans around the world, a granite headstone was finally placed upon Jefferson's grave, inscribed with his lyric, "Lord, it's one kind favor I'll ask of you. See that my grave is kept clean." It was also discovered during the preparation of the headstone that there is no support for the date widely believed to be that of Jefferson's birth -- July 1897 (which even appeared on the original grave marker) -- while the census documents in the State Archives listed Lemon Jefferson's birth to be in September of 1893. Thus, the new date was put on the gravestone.
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Offline Rivers

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Re: Blind Lemon's grave site
« Reply #11 on: January 16, 2013, 06:39:03 PM »
OK, so the obvious question is if 'they' didn't know where it was how did they determine it was in disrepair?  :P

Use of the passive voice throughout that wikipedia quote noted, by me. Whoever wrote it had not a lot to go on obviously.
« Last Edit: January 16, 2013, 06:43:32 PM by Rivers »

Offline Randy Meadows

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Re: Blind Lemon's grave site
« Reply #12 on: January 16, 2013, 06:41:24 PM »
 "This was finally remedied in 1967 when a metal Texas Historical Marker was placed on the approximate spot. By the 1990s, however, Jefferson's grave was discovered to be in disrepair
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Offline Rivers

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Re: Blind Lemon's grave site
« Reply #13 on: January 16, 2013, 06:42:57 PM »
Was placed by whom? Was discovered to be in disrepair by whom? See this is the whole problem with this stuff. No attribution, just hearsay, written in a style that's designed to hide the fact that the writer didn't know very much at all, really. Probably did their research on a forum pretty much like this one!  :P

Facts please. Names, dates, places. Everything else is pure speculation.
« Last Edit: January 16, 2013, 06:56:31 PM by Rivers »

Offline Randy Meadows

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Re: Blind Lemon's grave site
« Reply #14 on: January 16, 2013, 08:13:53 PM »
The Wortham [Texas] Journal of January 3, 1930, reported: "Lemon
Jefferson Dies in Chicago. Lemon Jefferson, 45, a blind Negro who was
reared in Wortham and the community, died of heart failure in Chicago
and was shipped to Wortham for burial arriving here on Christmas Eve."
When asked about the funeral in 1996, Quince Cox (1987), then working
as Wortham cemetery caretaker, was quick to reply: "Anyone over the
age of 60 remembers that day well. They brought his body back to Texas
by train. People said he died in the snow after a recording session in
Chicago, that he was lost, couldn't find his way. Some thought it was foul
play. Two or three hundred people came to the funeral, black and white,
to watch his coffin lowered into the ground." Hobart Carter (1999b) adds
that when the body arrived from Chicago, it was picked up at the station
by somebody with a wagon and a team. "Then they went straight to the
funeral. The preacher was Uncle Warren Smith. Old Man Warren Smith.
He was a Baptist. It was cold. Coldest weather we had. Zero."
Carter recalls that Blind Lemon's parents did not attend their son's
funeral and that there were only "three or four" Jeffersons in attendance.
Many of the people were strangers, and because of the cold temperatures,
the funeral service was relatively brief. When asked about his understanding
of the circumstances of Jefferson's death, Carter said, "He died
in Chicago on the coldest night they had up there. He wanted to run
around with some folks up there, and got amongst the wrong bunch."
Six months after Jefferson's death, Paramount attempted to capitalize
on the tragedy by issuing six tribute records. Allegedly, Paramount postponed
announcing the death for as long as possible. The last record
released as a tribute to Jefferson was a sermon by the Reverend Emmitt
Dickinson called "Death of Blind Lemon," which compares the singer to
Jesus Christ. The sermon does little to explain the reality of Jefferson's life
and death, but it is testimony to the magnitude of his career and its
importance in African-American culture.
Today, more than a century after his birth, Blind Lemon Jefferson lies
buried in the black section of the small Wortham cemetery. A state historical
plaque erected in 1965 marks the burial place,

BLIND LEMON JEFFERSON:
THE MYTH AND THE MAN
ALAN GOVENAR
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Offline Rivers

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Re: Blind Lemon's grave site
« Reply #15 on: January 17, 2013, 05:17:47 AM »
Now That's what I'm talkin' about. Thank you Randy.

Offline jpeters609

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Re: Blind Lemon's grave site
« Reply #16 on: January 17, 2013, 07:11:13 AM »
I recall first seeing Jefferson's death certificate in the Frog Blues and Jazz Annual, No. 1, from a few years ago. The Frog Annuals have been discussed elsewhere and are well worth a purchase and a perusing, but they can also be frustratingly vague. In this issue there appeared a short, unattributed article called "The Death of Blind Lemon," which offered little more of real substance than a reproduction of Blind Lemon Jefferson's death certificate. The article also mentioned that Jefferson had married a woman named Roberta Ransom in Dallas, but where that information came from is not mentioned. There is also an old black-and-white photo of a grave being dug, surrounded by a fairly large crowd of African Americans, but there is no caption to the photo. One is led to infer that it is Jefferson's burial, but it may simply be an evocative image of an African American funeral meant to evoke Jefferson's burial. There is no explanation (and thus the frustration). Such unsubstantiated photos can wreak all kinds of havoc in the circles of blues scholarship, as we have witnessed here and there on this very site.
Jeff

Offline dj

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Re: Blind Lemon's grave site
« Reply #17 on: January 17, 2013, 07:27:01 AM »
Quote
There is also an old black-and-white photo of a grave being dug, surrounded by a fairly large crowd of African Americans, but there is no caption to the photo. One is led to infer that it is Jefferson's burial, but it may simply be an evocative image of an African American funeral meant to evoke Jefferson's burial.

It's definitely NOT Jefferson's funeral.  That occurred on or about January 1, and by all accounts the weather was unusually cold.  In the Frog Annual photo, people are lightly dressed and there are leaves on the trees.  You're right, an accurate caption of the picture would have prevented confusion and misinterpretation.

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Blind Lemon's grave site
« Reply #18 on: January 17, 2013, 07:38:16 AM »
The article also mentioned that Jefferson had married a woman named Roberta Ransom in Dallas, but where that information came from is not mentioned.
In 1958 Sam Charters spent a longtime in Wortham (and other known Jefferson locations) interviewing remaining Jefferson relatives and acquaintances. This was published in chapter 4 of his book The Country Blues and, for a decade, was the primary source for Jefferson knowledge. On page 30 (1959 edition) Sam was told of a 'Roberta'  whom Jefferson married in 1922 or 23, they had a son.

But to more contemporary times, when I first met Paul Swinton in 1973 he had already began researching the life and times of BLJ and, as far as I know, he's still at it. One day he may get to publish his findings.  ;)

Offline misterjones

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Re: Blind Lemon's grave site
« Reply #19 on: January 17, 2013, 06:56:25 PM »
OK, ball in your court, can you post some proof of that? Best of luck driving a ditch digger through the Blind Lemon Memorial Cemetery gate to prove your thesis!

I think there might be a way to investigate without random digging.  I recall reading an account or two of his funeral and I think it was mentioned that the coffin was was of high quality.  Perhaps higher quality means more detectible metal.  I'm certainly no expert, but there might be ways to narrow down the search.  Of course, one would start where the approximate marker is.

Offline Rivers

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Re: Blind Lemon's grave site
« Reply #20 on: January 18, 2013, 05:08:41 PM »
I received this from Mick Knight, you may find it interesting. He and Fi made a field trip to Wortham, as you will read:

Quote
I was on Weenie and reading the conversation about Lemmon's gravesite.
My understanding about the confusion as to where he is buried was caused by the moving of the entrance to the cemetery. It was originally on the side where the grave is and he was buried just inside the old gate to the left. That was how they determined where to place the marker ...I don't remember there being other gravestones or markers around his in 89'... i have photos taken by Fi. This may not help.......Also nobody we talked to ever said anything about his given name being George!!!  and neither did Robert Ussel and he surely knew many people who were well acquainted with Lemmon (Bates) Jefferson...Oh well, there is my 2p worth.

Offline RB

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Re: Blind Lemon's grave site
« Reply #21 on: January 19, 2013, 11:40:52 AM »
I was there--at the Wortham cemetery--in early September (or perhaps very late August) 1971.  I wrote about this in 1995.  Though I've read throughout the years that Jefferson's grave had some kind of Texas state  historical marker placed on it earlier than that date I can tell you with not perfect but with pretty sure accuracy that none was there at the time I went.

I believe we did see graves marked Jefferson (and I thought one was his mother's) but there was none marked for him that I could find (and it's a small cemetery).

The writng up I did of this in 1995 was for a memoir, and I suspect would not be of much interest to many here.  It does include some details about a second visit that day, to the church grave yard that Huddie Ledbetter was buried in.  At that point there was no monument for him, either,m at least that I could find.  I did share this memoir once with Sean Killeen, now dead himself, who edited the newsletter on Ledbetter.

Offline Randy Meadows

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Re: Blind Lemon's grave site
« Reply #22 on: January 30, 2013, 05:11:35 PM »
A little more information about the Texas State Marker initiation.
Express San Antonio, Tx- Oct 1, 1967

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