Along with everything else, Hurricane Harvey took with it decades worth of files, maps, notes, coordinates, names and research I had on my external hard drive; so for the time being, this site will be on hiatus until I finish republishing. I will upload as I go, so each post will reappear on its original date and can be found in the Archive section in the right sidebar. If you need to contact me for any reason in the duration, my contact info is found in my profile. Wish me luck, guys. - JES

October 18, 2011

Paul Francis Buskirk

   Paul Francis Buskirk, mandolin player and multi-instrumentalist, was born in Parkersburg, West Virginia, on April 8, 1923, the son of Lottie Mamel and John Everett Buskirk. He lived much of his life in the Houston area. Paul Buskirk was a popular multi-instrumentalist who appeared on the Grand Ole Opry and at many other venues throughout the United States and around the world. Buskirk performed with a number of prominent musicians, including Chet Atkins, Tex Ritter, Roy Acuff, Lefty Frizzell, Ray Price, Eddy Arnold, and Rex Allen. However, he is perhaps best-known for his close personal and professional relationship with singer-songwriter Willie Nelson.

   Paul Buskirk began playing music at the age of eleven and performed with his parent’s family band. He learned violin and applied those lessons to learning the mandolin. He became an accomplished guitarist and later worked for Gene Austin. He also mastered the banjo and dobro. However, it was his skill on the mandolin that garnered Buskirk the greatest fame. He has been described by country music historian Bill Malone as a “superb mandolin player…who was one of the first ‘modern’ exponents of that instrument (that is, jazz-influenced) in country music….” Fellow mandolinist Red Rictor recalled “that during an era when bluegrass king Bill Monroe totally dominated the instrument, Buskirk had a reputation for actually having figured out a different way of playing on mandolin.”

   He was a member of the Blue Ridge Mountain Folk (in Texas), which included the Callahan Brothers (Joe and Bill), and toured the Southwest. The group recorded for Decca in 1941. During World War II Buskirk served in the United States Army. Back in Texas, reportedly while operating a music store in Pasadena, Buskirk gave a young Willie Nelson guitar lessons and later gave him a job teaching music lessons. Thus began a longtime musical association between Nelson and Buskirk, who is credited as having helped give Nelson his start in the music business. Buskirk purchased the rights to Nelson’s gospel song Family Bible for fifty dollars. They co-wrote the song Night Life. Originally recorded in Houston with Nelson and the band Paul Buskirk and His Little Men, the song went on to be a country hit for Faron Young and was covered by numerous other artists. At a number of his state fair performances, Buskirk's opening act was a young Elvis Presley.

   Buskirk helped produce and he performed on Nelson’s Somewhere Over the Rainbow album in 1981. In 1992 Nelson helped produce Buskirk’s record Nacogdoches Waltz. Later in life and after retirement, Buskirk lived in Nacogdoches. He was a Mason as well as a Shriner.

   Paul Buskirk died of cancer in Nacogdoches on March 16, 2002, at the age of seventy-eight. He was preceded in death by his wife Mary Francis Buskirk and his two daughters Dorothy Kathleen and Paula Gail. He was survived by his brothers Wilbert and Harold. Paul Buskirk is memorialized with a music scholarship established in his name at Stephen F. Austin University. Source

31° 33.913, -094° 28.933

Lower Melrose Cemetery

May 31, 2011

Seth Ingram

   Seth Ingram, surveyor, merchant, and public official, was born in Vermont on June 19, 1790. During the War of 1812 he served as a sergeant in the Eleventh Regiment, United States Infantry. On April 26, 1822, he and his brother Ira Ingram, a Nashville, Tennessee, bookstore proprietor, became co-owners of a single share of stock in the newly organized Texas Association. That same year Seth arrived in Texas with letters of introduction and recommendation as a surveyor from Joseph H. Hawkins of New Orleans. He was engaged by Stephen F. Austin as a surveyor for his colony in August 1823 and platted the town of San Felipe de Austin in late 1823 and early 1824. For such work he was paid at the rate of five dollars a mile in property or three dollars a mile in cash. Ingram took part in colony elections in August and December of 1823 and April of 1824. In the summer of 1824 he served as first lieutenant in the colonial militia. As one of Austin's Old Three Hundred colonists, on July 29, 1824, he received title to two leagues and one labor of land that later became part of Wharton and Austin counties; six years later he obtained an additional league near Matagorda Bay in what became southwestern Matagorda County. By 1827 Seth and Ira had formed a partnership with Hosea H. League to operate a general store in San Felipe. This establishment stood near Stephen F. Austin's cabin on the banks of Bullinger's Creek a half mile west of the Brazos River.

   Late in the summer of 1830 Ira Ingram quarreled with John G. Holtham, a lawyer of unsavory reputation, over Holtham's drunken intrusion into Ingram's yard. Holtham demanded an apology for being expelled from the premises. When Ira ignored him, he circulated handbills defaming Ira as a "coward, a rogue, and a man without honor." On September 2, 1830, Seth Ingram confronted Holtham as he was posting one such notice in the streets of San Felipe and ordered him to remove it. When Holtham refused, pistols were drawn, and Ingram killed Holtham. Ingram was arrested along with Hosea League, who had been a bystander during the incident, and both were confined almost incommunicado for sixteen months, much of the time in heavy irons. As the municipality had no jail, the two were chained to the walls of the half-completed meetinghouse of the San Felipe ayuntamiento. With the colony's inherently cumbersome legal machinery moving at a suspiciously lethargic pace, frustrating the adjudication of their case indefinitely, the pair were finally released on bond in January 1832 but were arrested again a short time later after a murder in the colony.

   Although in the estimation of Stephen F. Austin, Ingram was as fine a citizen as could be found in the colony, League was reportedly a very unpopular man with few friends and many influential enemies. In the fall of 1831, however, more than 700 signatures were obtained on a petition for the prisoners' release. During his confinement Ingram wrote to Austin requesting additional grants of land to alleviate his financial distress, pointing out that his work as a surveyor had profited the colony, while he himself had been forced into poverty through long imprisonment. At last, sometime in late 1832, the pair were tried, acquitted, and released. In December of that year Austin directed Ingram to survey a league on Karankawa Bay for Sam Houston.

   By 1834 the Ingram brothers had moved to Matagorda, where both were members of the Committee of Safety and Vigilance in September 1835. Seth served as one of the executors of his brother's estate in October 1837. As a justice of the peace he appears to have officiated at his own marriage to Susanna Rice on December 5, 1837. He was one of the trustees of Matagorda University upon its incorporation in February 1845. According to Matagorda County marriage records, Ingram took Sarah M. Davis as his second wife on February 9, 1846, and less than four years later, on December 24, 1849, he wed Mary E. Carter. The census of 1850 described Ingram as a notary public owning $2,000 in real property, while his wife Mary held an estate worth $10,000. Ingram died on May 12, 1857, and was buried at Matagorda. Source

28° 42.029, -095° 57.282

Section E
Matagorda Cemetery

April 26, 2011

Lester B. Williams

   Lester Williams, blues guitarist and vocalist, was born in Groveton, Texas, on June 24, 1920. He was little-known outside of the Houston blues scene. He had moved with his family to Houston when he was a boy.

   Williams grew up singing in church choirs and in school; he later also sang in college. In Houston, he became familiar with the recordings of Blind Lemon Jefferson and Lonnie Johnson. After serving in the military in World War II, he came home to Houston and formed his own band. At this time he heard T-Bone Walker, who became a major influence on Williams’s style. Williams sang with Ike Smalley’s band at the famous Eldorado Ballroom in Houston, but he left the Smalley band and applied to the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston and was accepted. In an interview in Texas Blues: The Rise of a Contemporary Sound, Williams recalled his formal studies there: “Blues guitar was not in vogue, so I studied piano and voice.”

   He returned to Houston, bought a guitar, and spent about six months polishing his blues playing. He began performing at Don Robey’s Bronze Peacock Club. He made tapes of his song, Winter Time Blues, which he wrote after his wife and daughter had gone to Los Angeles for the summer. At this time, Williams was attending Texas Southern University. Winter Time Blues was eventually released in 1949 on the Houston-based Macy’s label and became a regional hit. Other Macy’s recordings include Answer to Wintertime Blues, Dowling Street Hop, Texas Town, Mary Lou, Hey Jack, and The Folks Around The Corner.

   Williams joined the Specialty label, which resulted in his biggest hit in 1952 - I Can’t Lose with the Stuff I Use. The song was later covered by B.B. King. Steve Poncio, who had produced Williams's debut single Winter Time Blues, also produced I Can't Lose with the Stuff I Use. The record achieved national popularity, and Lester Williams joined a February 1953 Carnegie Hall bill, which included Billy Eckstine, Dinah Washington, and Nat King Cole. His other recordings with Specialty included Trying to Forget, Lost Gal, and If You Knew How Much I Love You.

   Williams’s later recordings were not successful; however by 1954 he was regularly performing on Houston radio station KLVL. He was also touring and playing on blues circuits throughout the South. In 1954 he recorded some sessions for Robey’s Duke label, including Let’s Do It and Crazy ‘Bout You Baby.

   Williams’s recordings have been released on various reissue CDs. The Godfather of Blues (Collectables 1993) includes his Macey’s sides - Dowling Street Hop, Winter Time Blues, Answer to Wintertime Blues, Texas Town, Hey Jack, Folks Around the Corner, and Mary Lou. Other CD releases include I Can't Lose with the Stuff I Use (Ace, 1993), Texas Troubadour (Ace, 1995), and Goree Carter: The Complete Recordings Volume 2 - 1950–1954/The Remaining Lester Williams 1949–1956 (Blue Moon, 2004).

   Williams continued playing the Houston club circuit for many years, and in 1986 he toured in Europe. He died on November 13, 1990, in Houston. Source

29° 55.742, -095° 26.976

Section J
Houston National Cemetery

April 5, 2011

Maud Cuney-Hare

   Maud Cuney-Hare, African-American musician and writer, was born in Galveston on February 16, 1874, to Adelina (Dowdy) and Norris Wright Cuney. After graduating from Central High School in Galveston in 1890, she studied piano at the New England Conservatory of Music, where she successfully resisted the pressure that white students exerted on the school's administrators to have her barred from living in the dormitory. She graduated in 1895. She also studied privately with biographer Emil Ludwig and Edwin Klare and attended Lowell Institute at Harvard University. She taught music at the Texas Deaf, Dumb, and Blind Institute for Colored Youths in 1897 and 1898; at the settlement program of the Institutional Church of Chicago during 1900 and 1901; and at Prairie View State College (now Prairie View A&M University), Texas, in 1903 and 1904. In 1898 she married J. Frank McKinley, and they had a daughter. The marriage was short-lived and ended in divorce; their daughter died in childhood. She married William P. Hare on August 10, 1904.

   As a folklorist and music historian she was especially interested in African and early American music. She collected songs in Mexico, the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and Cuba, and was the first music scholar to direct public attention to Creole music. She contributed to Musical Quarterly, Musical Observer, Musical America, and Christian Science Monitor and for years edited a column on music and the arts for The Crisis, the journal of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

   After her marriage, she made her home in Boston and traveled in the East to give recitals and lectures. She participated in the artistic life of Boston and founded the Musical Art Studio to promote concerts and a little-theater movement in the black community. Antar, her play about an Arabian Negro poet, was staged in Boston under her direction in 1926. In 1927 she established the Allied Arts Center in Boston to nurture musically-inclined and artistically-inclined African American children. She was the author of Creole Songs (1921); The Message of the Trees (1918), a collection of poetry; and Norris Wright Cuney: A Tribune of the Black People (1913), a biography of her father. She is best remembered for the highly regarded Negro Musicians and Their Music (1936). She died in Boston on February 13, 1936, and was buried beside her parents in Lake View Cemetery, Galveston. Source

Note: Maud Cuney-Hare's grave is unmarked. She lies to the right of her father Norris Wright Cuney in the photo below.

29° 16.366, -094° 49.609

Section B
Lake View Cemetery

March 22, 2011

Hiram George Runnels

   Hiram George Runnels, planter and representative at the Convention of 1845, was born on December 17, 1796, in Hancock County, Georgia. At an early age he moved with his parents to Mississippi. During the Indian wars he served for a short time in the United States Army. From 1822 to 1830 he was state auditor of Mississippi. In 1829 he was elected to represent Hinds County in the Mississippi legislature. He was defeated in the race for the office of governor of Mississippi in 1831, was elected in 1833, and ran unsuccessfully again in 1835. Runnels's service as president of the Union Bank in 1838 led to a dispute wherein he caned Mississippi governor McNutt in the streets of Jackson and dueled with Mississippian editor Volney E. Howard in 1840. In 1841 he again represented Hinds County in the legislature. Runnels moved to Texas in 1842 and became a planter on the Brazos River. He represented Brazoria County in the Convention of 1845. He died in Houston on December 17, 1857, and was buried in Glenwood Cemetery. On February 1, 1858, Runnels County was named in his honor. H. G. Runnels was the uncle of Texas governor Hardin R. Runnels. Source

29° 45.974, -095° 23.215 

Section C3
Glenwood Cemetery

March 1, 2011

Margo Jones

   Margaret Virginia (Margo) Jones, theater director-producer and pioneer of the American resident theater movement, was born on December 12, 1911, in Livingston, Texas, the second child of Richard Harper and Martha Pearl (Collins) Jones. After graduating from Livingston High School at the age of fifteen, she entered the Girls' Industrial College of Texas in Denton (now Texas Woman's University), where she earned a bachelor of arts degree in speech in 1932 and a master of arts in psychology and education in 1933. Her thesis was about Henrik Ibsen. In 1933 and 1934 she worked and studied at the Southwestern School of the Theatre in Dallas with John William Rogers, Frank Harting, and Louis Veda Quince. In the summer of 1934 she enrolled at the Pasadena Playhouse Summer School to study with the director and founder, Gilmor Brown.

   After a directing stint at the Ojai Community Theatre, in 1935 Margo Jones traveled around the world seeing theater in Japan, China, India, Africa, England, France, and New York. She returned to Texas and became assistant director of the Houston Federal Theatre Project. In 1936 she attended the Moscow Art Theatre Festival, and on the boat home she met Brooks Atkinson, an influential New York Times theater critic, who championed her work throughout her career. Margo Jones founded the Houston Community Players in 1936 and directed the theater until 1942; during this time she discovered such talent as actors Ray Walston and Larry Blyden and writers Charles William Goyen and Cy Howard. She earned national attention as a member of the National Theatre Conference and in 1939 was named by Stage magazine as one of twelve outstanding theater directors outside of New York, the only woman selected.

   From 1942 until 1944 Jones taught theater and directed plays at the University of Texas. In early 1942 she met playwright Tennessee Williams, and they began their personal and professional association. She directed his play You Touched Me (cowritten with Donald Windham) at the Pasadena Playhouse and at the Cleveland Playhouse in 1943, thus bringing Williams to the attention of national theater critics. In 1944 she directed Williams's The Purification at the Pasadena Playhouse. During this time she had been formulating an idea that would change the shape of theater in America. She wanted to establish a network of nonprofit professional resident theaters outside of New York-theaters presenting new plays and the classics. In early 1944 she met with John Rosenfield, Jr., Dallas theater critic and arts maven, who encouraged her to apply for a Rockefeller fellowship and establish her prototype theater in Dallas. She began her fellowship in 1944 studying theater around the country, but interrupted it to codirect Tennessee Williams's The Glass Menagerie. With the commercial success of this play Jones and Rosenfield had the impetus they needed to found the first nonprofit resident theater supported by the Dallas community and such wealthy and prominent Dallasites as board members Eugene B. McDermott (who later founded Texas Instruments) and oil geologist Everett L. DeGolyer (later the publisher of Saturday Review), as well as board members Tennessee Williams and noted theatrical designer Jo Mielziner.

   The theater, incorporated in 1945 as Dallas Civic Theatre, did not open until the summer of 1947. In the interim Margo Jones raised money, looked for a suitable theater space, and directed Maxine Wood's On Whitman Avenue and Maxwell Anderson's Joan of Lorraine, staring Ingrid Bergman, on Broadway. In June 1947 the theater opened under the name Theatre '47 (the name to change with the year), and was housed in the Gulf Oil Building, a sleek stucco-and-glass-block building designed in the International style by Swiss-born architect William Lescaze, on the grounds of Fair Park in Dallas. The theater was the first professional arena theater (theater-in-the-round) in the country and was the first modern nonprofit professional resident theater. From the beginning the resident company performed new plays and classics of world theater. The inaugural season introduced the first play of William Inge, Farther Off from Heaven, later revised as The Dark at the Top of the Stairs, and Summer and Smoke by Tennessee Williams. Later seasons included classics by Shakespeare, Ibsen, and Chekhov and new works by Dorothy Parker, Sean O'Casey, George Sessions Perry, and Joseph Hayes.

   With her personal and professional partner, Manning Gurian, Margo took new plays from her Dallas season, including Williams's Summer and Smoke, and produced them with varying degrees of success on Broadway and on tour. While running the Dallas theater, she continued to work "to create the theatre of tomorrow today" and establish resident theaters like hers around the country. She lectured widely and in 1951 published Theatre-in-the Round, which inspired other theater leaders like Zelda Fichandler and Nina Vance to follow in her path.

   In 1955, after it had been turned down by Broadway producers as too controversial, Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee's play Inherit the Wind was produced by Theatre '55 in Dallas, then moved to Broadway. During Margo Jones's management of the theater, from 1947 to 1955, 70 percent of the plays she produced were world premieres. Many actors, among them Jack Warden, Larry Hagman, Brenda Vaccaro, and Louise Latham, got their start at the Dallas theater. The theater closed in 1959.

   Margo Jones died in Dallas on July 24, 1955, accidentally poisoned by carbon tetrachloride that had been used to clean the carpet in her apartment. She is buried in Forest Hills Cemetery in Livingston, Texas. The Texas Historical Commission has declared her birthplace a state landmark. After her death Eugene and Margaret McDermott donated $200,000 for the founding of the Margo Jones Theatre at Southern Methodist University. In 1961 playwrights Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee established the Margo Jones Award, given annually to a producing manager whose policy of presenting new work continues in the tradition of Margo Jones. After twenty-five years the award was changed and now goes to a "theatre statesperson." Today, the commercial theater of Broadway depends on and showcases the work of more than 300 nonprofit resident theaters across the country, which constitute the national theater for America that Margo Jones envisioned and pioneered. Source

30° 41.686, -094° 55.930

Division 7
Forest Hill Cemetery

January 18, 2011

Katie Webster

   Katie Webster, known as the "Swamp Boogie Queen," pianist, organist, "electric blues" vocalist, and harmonica player, was born Kathryn Jewel Thorne in Houston on January 11, 1936. She was the daughter of Cyrus and Myrtle Thorne. Her father was a ragtime pianist before becoming a Pentecostal preacher, and her mother played classical piano. The Thornes attempted to shield their young daughter from the evils of rhythm-and-blues music by locking up their piano when Katie was not taking her classical piano lessons. The girl, however, sneaked an old radio into her bedroom to listen to her favorite blues artists, Fats Domino, Little Richard, and Sam Cooke, on WLAC Radio, Nashville.

   In the early 1950s she moved to Beaumont to live with more open-minded relatives. Her new-found freedom allowed her to pursue a boogie-woogie musical career in Lake Charles, Louisiana, while she finished high school. Within a couple of years, she had married Earl Webster. The union lasted only five years; after it, she never remarried.

   Katie Webster had a long and very productive musical career, beginning with considerable popularity as a session pianist around Lake Charles. She blended a traditional boogie-woogie beat with barrelhouse rhythms to create her own style of "swamp blues." She played the piano on more than 500 recordings, primarily for Excello and Eddie Shuler's Goldband Records. She worked with such influential musicians as Guitar Jr., Lightnin' Slim, Lazy Lester, Lonesome Sundown, Juke Boy Bonner, Hop Wilson, and Ashton Savoy.

In 1964, while Otis Redding was playing at the Bamboo Club in Lake Charles, he asked the Swamp Boogie Queen to sit in with his band. Redding was so impressed by her talent that he asked her to join his tour. Katie Webster subsequently toured with Redding's band until he was killed in a plane crash in Lake Michigan in 1967. Webster, who was eight months pregnant, had overslept and missed the flight. She was so devastated by Redding's death that she gave up touring. In 1974 she moved to Oakland, California, to care for her ailing parents. Although she played at a few local venues, she was not very musically active during the 1970s.

   In the late 1970s, her old friend Eddie Shuler re-released two of her albums, thus helping to launch her comeback. Katie made the first of sixteen European tours in 1982, wowing the audiences with her boogie-woogie piano. She played at numerous prestigious jazz and blues festivals during the 1980s and 1990s. She did not have any significant solo recording success, however, until the late 1980s, when she signed with Alligator Records. With guest appearances by Robert Cray, Kim Wilson, and Bonnie Raitt, she cut three well-received albums: The Swamp Boogie Queen (1988), Two Fisted Mama (1990), and No Foolin! (1991). In the acclaimed No Foolin! she displayed her powerful blues vocals and her skillful two-handed piano solos.

   In 1993 Webster suffered a stroke, which hindered the use of her left hand and damaged her eyesight. Although she regained some use of her hand and played at a few festivals and other gigs, her musical career was essentially over. She moved back to Texas in the mid-1990s to live with two of her daughters. She died of a heart attack at her daughter's home in League City, Texas, on September 5, 1999. She left behind two sisters, three brothers, two daughters, eight grandchildren, and 12 great-grandchildren. Source

29° 30.918, -095° 07.466

Section 211
Forest Park East Cemetery