"Lord, it's one kind favor I'll ask of you . . . .

Blind Lemon Jefferson See that my grave is kept clean." Blind Lemon Jefferson sang those words just a year before his tragic death in 1929. Nearly 70 years later, they were inscribed on his headstone -- his new gray granite headstone -- at the old Wortham Negro Cemetery in Wortham, Texas.

The blues books you purchase here from amazon.com generate some pretty nice referral fees for me. Specifically, for each book you buy at a discount of 10, 20, or 30 percent, I receive 15 percent of the discounted price. So if you buy a book listed at $16.50 and it's discounted 20 percent to $13.20, first, you save $3.30. Then I get 15 percent of $13.20, or $1.98. And for most other books, including those discounted to 40 percent off, I get 5 percent of your purchase price. Yes, you can buy your blues books from amazon.com, save yourself some good money, and every three months they send me a check!

Now, this doesn't amount to a huge fortune, and with so many deserving blues causes out there, I'm not about to keep it. Therefore, I'm sending every penny you generate here to the Wortham Black Cemetery Association, which is newly entrusted with maintaining Lemon's grave. So, you buy your blues books here, and you'll also see that his grave is kept clean.

So far in 2004, your contribution is $42.65.

In 2003, your contribution was 68.28.
In 2002, your contribution was 79.23.
In 2001, your contribution was 139.77.
In 2000, your contribution was 208.74.
In 1999, your contribution was 204.01.
In 1998, your contribution was 251.71.
In 1997, your contribution was 197.90.

For a 6-year grand total of ... $1,149.64!

If you don't need a book but still want to contribute, here's the address.

Return to amazon.com or read Bruce Roberts'
account of the Blind Lemon Jefferson Memorial project.

Date: Mon, 3 Feb 1997 13:09:10 -0600

"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 Department to see if a sign could be placed in front of the cemetery. Meanwhile, back on Blues-L, many were discussing the state of BLJ's final resting place. Some 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 I 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 me. 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 web site 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 web site 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 and 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 mentioned 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 differently 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

The Jefferson Memorial Fund is offically closed. Here is a breakdown of the deposits and withdrawals:

$ 490.00  Donations from Blues-L members
  150.00  Donations from outside Blues-L
  500.00  Donation from the Scandinavian Blues Association
  500.00  Donation from Rykodisc (Anton)
    4.83  Interest
$1644.83  Total
$ 846.58  Cost of headstone and setup fee
$ 798.25  Donation to Wortham Black Cemetery Association

Thanks to all those who felt this project worthy enough to make a donation. This would not have been possible without you. If you want to make further donations for the upkeep of the memorial, you can send a check to:

Wortham Black Cemetery Association
P.O. Box 845
Wortham, TX 76693

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