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Ben Gray Lumpkin

Ben Gray Lumpkin, 1961
Ben Gray Lumpkin, 1961

Ben Gray Lumpkin was born between Holly Springs and Hudsonville, Marshall County, Mississippi, December 25, 1901, to John Moorman and Harriet Gray Lumpkin. The farm he was born on was owned by his grandfather, Ben Cottrell Gray, who was a Methodist circuit rider. Because he lived too far from the Hudsonville schools to walk, he was home-schooled until the age of 8 when he could ride a gentle mare and care for it at school. After his father bought a farm in Lowndes County, Mississippi, his brother, Joe, and sister, Martha, went to Penn Station and Crawford elementary schools. Since Ben had finished ninth grade, he went to live with his Aunt Olena Ford, and graduated from Tupelo High School in 1921.

Mr. Lumpkin received his from the University of Mississippi in 1925. He then worked as secretary and clerk in the Mississippi State Department of Archives and History from September 1925 to March 1929, and in the Mississippi Division office of Southern Bell Telephone Company from March 1929 to August 1930. He then taught English and other subjects in Vina, Alabama, High School from August 1930 through January 1932. He began graduate work and taught part time at the University of Mississippi from January 1932 to June 1935, when he received his M.A. degree. He continued to teach English at the University of Mississippi until 1937. In 1937, Prof. Lumpkin began graduate studies again and part-time teaching at the University of North Carolina, where he received his Ph.D. degree in English in 1944.

During World War II, Lumpkin wrote technical manuals for the U. S. Quartermaster Generals office at Camp Lee, Virginia, from 1944 to 1946. In 1946, he came to the University of Colorado to teach English and folksongs until his retirement in 1969. In addition to teaching, Prof. Lumpkin collected Colorado folksongs every summer as a hobby which was shared by his first wife, Helen Patricia Maltby, whom he married in 1936. Helen died in 1969.

Professor Lumpkin said he first heard folksongs sung by Fletcher Simms, a Negro wage hand on his father's farm in Lowndes County while they worked in the corn and hay fields. He first heard folksongs called folksongs in 1922, when his English teacher at the University of Mississippi invited the class to hear John A. Lomax sing western cowboy songs in the Old Miss Chapel. At the University of North Carolina, Prof. Lumpkin took Professor Arthur Palmer Hudson's course in American folksongs. This interest naturally led him to establish a folksong course in the English Department at the University of Colorado during the spring of 1947, a course he continued to teach until his retirement in 1969. Professor Lumpkin began and published the Colorado Folksong Bulletin, sharing much of his field work on Colorado folksongs.

After his retirement in 1969, Prof. Lumpkin moved to Clarksville, Tennessee, where he met and married, Marion Cordelia Taylor Page on September 1, 1971. They lived on her family farm, the Old Dudley Taylor Farm, where they gardened and raised chickens. Marion Page Lumpkin also was interested in folksongs and collected and sang many from the Montgomery County, Tennessee, area. Professor Ben Gray Lumpkin died in Clarksville, Tennessee, January 31, 1982.

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