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John Avery Lomax Literary Landmark

John A. Lomax Amphitheater

Meridian, Texas

Black and white portrait of John Avery Lomax

John A. Lomax (1867 - 1948) was born in Mississippi. When he was two, his family resettled on the Texas frontier in rural Bosque County just north of the town of Meridian. The Chisholm Trail was nearby, and John grew up listening to cowboys sing their soothing songs to the herds and croon other frontier ballads. He was also exposed in his youth to African American songs through his boyhood friend Nat Blythe, who worked for the Lomax family. From these early experiences his life’s work of capturing the lyrics and music of American folklore began.

He graduated from Granbury College at the age of 22, taught in rural schools for a few years, and then entered the University of Texas in 1895, where his interest in cowboy songs was scoffed at as unworthy. In 1903 he took a teaching position at Texas A&M University, but by 1907 was at Harvard University as a graduate student studying under two renowned scholars of American folklore, Barrett Wendell and George Lyman Kittredge. These two mentors would encourage his interest in cowboy songs and continued encouraging and guiding Lomax for many years.

Lomax published his first anthology, Cowboy Songs and Other Frontier Ballads in November 1910. Its success transformed him into a nationally known figure. Thus began his life’s work of collecting and recording songs and ballads. This hard work also involved his entire family, particularly his oldest son, John A. Lomax Jr., who in the early years served as his manager and personal assistant; in later years, that role was taken up by his son Alan. Lomax’s greatest achievement was the collection of more than 10,000 recordings of American folk songs and ballads for the Library of Congress. He authored 10 books related to his preservation of American folk music, with his 1947 autobiographical Adventures of a Ballad Hunter receiving the Carr P. Collins Prize for best Texas book of the year by the Texas Institute of Letters.

About the John A. Lomax Amphitheater

As a teen living in Meridian, Lomax enjoyed the cowboy songs and frontier ballads sung by the cowboys working on the nearby Chisholm Trail. From these early experiences his life’s work of capturing the lyrics and music of American folklore began. The City of Meridian proudly claims Lomax and dedicated the John A. Lomax Amphitheater located at 305 W. Morgan Street in the center of Meridian, adjacent to Meridian Park. The amphitheater keeps a full calendar of events and draws people from the community and beyond. Just blocks away, the Meridian Public Library proudly holds a collection of John A. Lomax writings and music and takes great care in preserving these materials. 

Page last modified: September 2, 2021